Go figure - after years of wanting and waiting, I finally get the car I've always wanted and as soon as I do, it falls out of style. It's so un-fashionable, in fact, that sometimes I actually get kind of embarrassed when I'm driving it around. Well, maybe "unfashionable" is the wrong word. "Irresponsible" might be better. Here's the problem: it's a gas guzzler and everyone knows it. In a society where the car that gets 35+ mpg is king, my car - which gets 20 mpg on its best day - is a pariah. The company that makes my car doesn't even advertise it anymore. Oh, they still make it, sure enough. But now they're kept in the "back room" of the dealership, where only shifty, carbon footprint-stomping customers go to make their shady purchases.
And I think it's great (my personal shame aside). I love that the auto industry has quietly put its collective heads together and come up with a real, true, viable answer to exorbitant gas prices: fuel efficiency. Is it the perfect, end-all solution? Of course not. Is there an underlying financial motivator for them to develop cars that people can afford to buy and maintain? Uh...yeah. But so what? Big Auto lines its pockets - as well as the pockets of its workers - and responsible consumers get to keep some green of their own when cruising past the gas pumps. That sounds equitable to me. But more than that, it's great that the social standard for what to drive has taken a consciencious turn.
Not that there have been too many other options for gas expenditure relief. There have been lots of suggestions ranging from the mundane ("Make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended levels" and "Write your Congressman!") to the extreme ("Tap our domestic reserves and give Foreign Oil the bird!"). But nothing has produced as much of a measurable result - or allowed the average citizen some control over his own gas expense - as the availability of fuel-efficient vehicles.
The more I think and write about it, the more I want to put a bag over my car (or maybe over my head, instead) the next time I drive it. (continued in Part II)