Everyday, normal things that mystified you as a kid.

When I was growing up as a child and would be in the car on the expressway with my parents, I would always be confused and mystified by car-pool parking lots. Since I had no concept of car-pooling, all I saw was random parking lots, in the middle of nowhere, full of cars.

Now I never asked about these lots, I guess I felt like I should have known so i never asked. But for years they mystified me. What were these strange parking lots in the middle of nowhere? And why were there so many cars parked in them?

It wasn’t until i was 13 years old that i found out what they were, and i found out only because they were mentioned by a friend’s mother. I acted like i already knew but inside i was like, “OHHHHHHHH! THAT’S it!”

So what about you? Anything just confuse the hell out of you as a child that was actually a very mundane part of everyday life?

There are two idioms I can remember being confused by.

If my dad was watering the lawn, or washing the car, he’d send me to the faucet the hose was connected to and ask me to turn off the water. I’d ask “which way is off?” and he’d say “to the right”. I’d look at the knob on the faucet and think “if the top goes to the right, then the bottom is going to the left”, and so I still didn’t know which was to turn it.

And the phrase “every other”, meaning alternating. Like, if there were ten light switches in a row, and someone said “turn every other switch on”, I’d think that one switch should be off and every other switch should be on, but I didn’t know which one was supposed to be off.

Not far from my house was a small cinder-block building that I know now was a dive bar. Painted on the side of the building was “POOL - NO MINORS.” I got the idea somewhere that minors were lifeguards, and that this building which was about the size of a garage had a swimming pool without lifeguards.

As a child, I didn’t know about real estate and ownership, stuff like that. I thought an “abandoned” house or building meant it no longer belonged to anybody, and it was fair for anybody to go in and wander around, taking anything left behind. That got me in some trouble a few times, as you might imagine.

I was a kid in the 1950s. I don’t remember doing duck and cover drills in school, but I remember seeing scary announcements on TV about what to do if you saw a bright flash of light. I saw what was probably a reflection of the sun on a passing car window, and I tried to talk the babysitter into taking cover.

There were also TV spots about aliens having to register at the Post Office, and I had no idea what that was about.

There are still lots of people who, as adults, think this way. :wink:

My father’s car had the headlight high beam switch on the floor (maybe all cars did in those days) I couldn’t see how the high beams went off whenever a car was approaching and back on after it had passed us. Quite a mystery, for years. I thought maybe the car had some sort of sensor that did it automatically (which might be feasible now, but probably wasn’t in 1966).

Actually, the autronic eye was introduced in 1952.

Holy crap, that’s interesting. Not what my father had in his car though. I eventually discovered the foot switch.

In church when I heard “only say the word and I shall be healed” I always wondered what the word was, like that must be one seriously magical word.

I think lots of kids wondered about “every other.” Another puzzler was how many of my friends’ parents had “hard attacks.” That sort of made sense due to the hardening of the arteries connection.

I knew that gasoline was liquid. However I was mystified that it would burn and make the car go. I could not understand how a liquid could burn - I mean, wouldn’t it put out the fire (like water)?

And, why did we have to keep putting gas in the car every so often - where did it all go?

Posted before: when I was a kid we called short ankle socks with pom-poms attached to the heel “peds.”

Highway on-ramp signs reading NO PEDS ON HIGHWAY confused me for years. For some reason I never asked my parents why short socks were illegal on the freeway.

And this is still a bit mysterious: we called the car’s glove compartment the “jockey box.” For most of my life I assumed it was something to do with horse racing and stabling – as in, it’s the car’s tack storage box. Rather recently, though, it occurred to me that a passenger seat is sometimes called the “jockey seat” (I think) and the compartment is in front of the passenger. Can anyone throw some light on this?

Why, I was under the impression everyone had heard about the word…

As for me, I still can’t figure out how Todd got to smooch Kelly AND Rae in 6th grade, but they would never give me the time of day. Bitches.

Google, duh! I think I’ve solved the jockey box mystery:


I thought that “every other week” meant every subsequent week, i.e., all weeks except this one. A very patient teacher explained that it meant every two weeks.

I also had trouble with the idea that numbers went on forever. And a little later, that space did. And how two interlocked gears turned in opposite directions.

Regarding “minors” buying cigarettes: I’m from West Virginia, and grew up hearing about coal miners suffering from lung ailments. It made perfect sense that they shouldn’t be smoking cigarettes.

Like a lot of people in a not-so-long-ago era, my parents wrote checks for everything. Everything. Grocery store, gas, etc. If they needed cash, they’d write a check for “cash” and cash it at the grocery store. So of course to my young mind, checks=money. I had no idea how the system actually worked, with the checks being tied to, you know, an actual bank account at a bank.

One day when I was about probably 6 or 7, I asked my dad, who worked in a small office, if one could make a xerox copy of a check. He said yes. I thought I was brilliant and no one had ever thought of this before… if one could photocopy a check, one could have, in theory, a limitless supply of checks, which equals a limitless supply of money. Using my scheme, we’d be rich! I told my theory to my older brother, who shook his head and tried to patiently explain to me why that wouldn’t work. I don’t think I understood it all until a few years later.

I can’t think of anything straight away, but it was cute when my friend’s little boy asked us whether we were going to have a “cup of chino”.

I’d see a Hidden Driveway sign and start looking for something like the entrance to the Bat Cave. I didn’t realize it just meant there was a tree blocking a full view.

I understood the mechanics of how sperm got to the ovum, but until I was 10 or 11, I didn’t know this was something people did on purpose.

We had a beagle named Lucky. A neighbor had a beagle named Snoopy. They were very much alike. Size and markings, both male. Us kids and the neighbors kids confused them around the block. I could not understand how they were not twins or how they knew which kids they belonged to. I used to check Lucky’s collar before I would let him in the house, just to make sure. Lucky had his tail broken by mysterious circumstances. After the vet work was done, it came back crooked and with a bald place. So, no more worries about letting the wrong beagle in.