Odometer Follies


Back in the day, the point just short of this mileage saw everyone piling into the car to drive that last little bit, hanging over the back seat to get a good view as all the nines rolled upwards with a series of soft clicks (Did we really hear them, or just imagine them?), to be replaced by all-zeroes on the odometer. I mean, how satisfying was that?


What a moment! It wasn’t like we were going to see it happen again anytime soon. And woe to the driver who missed the great rollover. Imagine glancing at the speedometer and catching sight of this in passing.



Ah, the good old days. Or were they? Modern youth may find these stories pathetic. Surely only a complete lack of access to real entertainment could explain such hokey behaviour. Yikes!

This past weekend our KIA’s odometer–now displaying puny kilometres and integers only–slid silently to this.


Nice. Not, you know, spectacular, but nice. At highway speeds a kilometre doesn’t last long, so I scrambled to take a picture. But just a hair slow to decide to do it, slower to disentangle my purse from my feet, and slowest still to extricate my phone from my purse: I was just too slow all around. By the time I was ready to take the photo, the moving odometer, having written, moved on.


It wasn’t a moment that demanded an Argh, I guess, but it was a moment that warranted a Sigh. But wait! Given the afore-dissed puniness of those kilometres, something even better was in reach.


Now it was a the-Lord-giveth moment. Maintaining my focus for all of 130km was the biggest challenge: the only challenge, really. And so it came to be that I didn’t just see the transition, I captured it.

What a moment! The lack of any sense of motion in the numbers downgraded the thrill a little bit. It was one number–131130–and then it was another number–131131. Just like that. So, not exactly the thrill I remember. I guess the “good old days” is right.

But wait! Six decades ago I wasn’t capturing the moment on video to share online or even just to relive when I’m feeling down. Modern youth may find this even more pathetic, but here’s the thing.

Like the inexhaustible odometer the moving finger writes and, having written, moves on. Things that thrilled me as a child can’t be replicated: the thing is not the same, and I am not the same. But even though the finger never writes in exactly the same way twice, it always writes the same thing about these moments of, well, innocent enjoyment.

It’s all good.

And anything good is not pathetic. So there.

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8 Responses to Odometer Follies

  1. Tom Watson says:

    Mine will soon read 88888.
    Does that count?

  2. Judith Umbach says:

    I trust you were not driving!? If a number is magic to us, it is worth savouring the moment. Like you, I get a kick out of numbers that exist beyond mere counting. Always appreciated your 2000 series.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Your trust is well founded. 🙂 I had my best man behind the wheel. I suspect that magic numbers increase proportionately with one’s knowledge of mathematics. I can enjoy the ones with simple patterns (& do) but I expect I miss ones with higher-order significance.

  3. barbara carlson says:

    WE MADE OUR OWN FUN. tee-tee

    And as for 8s — there is MUCH goodness attached to 8s (in China). Put one* in your wallet and your wealth will increase. (It works in Canada, too!)

    In my wallet have a peel&stick 8 that had fallen off a mailbox — bad luck for the box, good luck for me.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – Better to entertain ourselves than to wait for someone else to do it. Who knows? We might even entertain someone else in the process.

  4. Isabel Gibson says:

    Barbara – 🙂 Indeed.

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