Oh man. So like, aren’t CB radios way overdue for a comeback? Ditto for the lingo. I don’t fare too well with Tweet-speak. SMS shorthand like 2moro and ROTFLMFAO are efficient but lack poetry. And I have never in my life typed the abbreviation for laughing out loud. (If you’re determined to chuckle in three characters, what’s wrong with heh?)
CB culture came with a far richer patois. It combined outlaw slang with the rhythmic patter of an auctioneer. You might tune in a channel and hear some jibber jabber like, “We got smokies wall to wall and ten feet tall. I’m gonna hit the pickle park.” (Translation: The police are everywhere. I’m pulling over at the next rest stop.)
The physical CB console was a miracle of mounted mobile circuitry. It had switches, dials and meters that invited continuous calibration. The microphone was holstered on the side and tethered by a rubber coil that jangled with the motion of your truck.
While the CB radio has mostly died off, it’s survived by its cousin, the walkie-talkie. As a kid my favorite toy was a pair of walkie-talkies, each one the size of a loaf of bread. They had a range of maybe 20 feet, and mostly just emitted crackly bursts of static. In fact, it would have been more effective to just shout, but that’s not the point.
Just holding them made me and my best friend feel tough and important, which is what a boy craves most. People with walkie-talkies only have important stuff to say, or else they wouldn’t have been issued walkie-talkies in the first place.
Despite the gadget’s name, we didn’t do a lot of walking, because of the range thing. We’d mostly crouch in ditches or behind trees, like we were taking cover. And we’d shout urgent commands into our radios. Stuff like, “Cover me! Are you covering me? Okay! I’m going in! Okay here I go!” Or maybe “What’s your twenty? Do you copy?! Roger that! Over and out!”
We would never, under any circumstances, waste our batteries saying stupid things into our walkie-talkies. Like, “Time out! I have a pebble in my shoe!” No way.
The walkie-talkies were clunky, boxy appliances. They had telescoping antennas that were ridiculously satisfying to extend or collapse. Maybe if one hand was busy lobbing a dirt-bomb, you’d use your teeth to extract the antenna. To a seven year-old, this was the height of grit and tenacity. The only cooler feeling would’ve been the sudden ability to grow a beard.
Incredibly, walkie-talkies are now reliable and affordable. You can pick up a cheap pair for $20 and not see your kid for the rest of the day – maybe even the weekend. (Just be sure and give him spare batteries.) There are Lego branded sets, and also Hello Kitty. Do not get those. Your kid does not want to feel like a Gymboree refugee. He wants to feel like a first responder.
If you want to spend a little more, the range on some of these sets is measured in miles. Motorola and Midland make dependable handsets. They’re great for family hikes, skiing, canoeing, or anytime you’re off the grid.
Threes and eights. Now keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down. (Translation: Best wishes and have a safe trip.)