Out of the blue, my longest term old friend asked for advice in regards to buying a “new” car. She’s moving on from her 2003 Honda Accord. An urban dwelling badass that has worked on both sides of the tech and non-profit divide, she’s looking to reward herself with a new ride, to spoil herself with the latest and greatest of luxuries. She’s also expecting her first child.
Both of us, in our Mid 30’s, were born into California car culture. We were blessed with rolling not-so-relics from the 1950’s and 60’s splicing through our upbringings as malaise machines were in retreat, giving way to modern masterpieces of the 1990s and Y2K years.
One of our greatest bonds is over the Piano (forgive me General Motors Paint Code Nerds) Black 1962 Cadillac Coupe DeVille her Grandmother with perfectly coiffed hair would drop her and her brothers off at Catholic School in. 25 years later I can still here in my mind the subtle silence of the so-called Standard of The World gliding into view, a sea of white leather opening, and proud grandchildren exiting as a startling contrast to Minivans of the era.
The implication, in the exchange, about what to get, what to land. With both of our refined vehicular palates, she’d be wisely choosing a model above the normative fray. Perhaps a queer choice.
“For the life of me, don’t buy a damn Prius” I shot back in iMessage.
I’ve long held a grudge against the Prius. It’s immensely popular in that conformist, Everyday-American-Appliance way that a long legion of cars before it are.
From cars as disparate as the Chevrolet Impala of the 1960’s, The Ford Tauruses of the 1980’s and Toyota’s own Camry at the turn of the Century, there’s seemingly one car that becomes a paragon and a parody of their maximum moment in the marketplace.
She assured me her choice wasn’t a Prius, long before I could detail my reasons of why I loathe the pioneering hybrid so much. Every 4th peer I know it seems has succumbed to the Prius pilgrimage to gas mileage mecca. Every time I have to spend an extended amount of time on the Freeway in one, or drive one I can’t get over the conflicting emotions I have about them.
The Prius experience seems so virtual-reality to me. From the lack of mechanical engagement between the shifter, throttle and steering to the weird, almost Facebook gaming nature of trying to eek out as much economy mode versus over-the-road performance possible. I got a recent refresh in the reality of driving the reality video game this past Thanksgiving week as I was dog/car sitting for friends with a Prius V.
Each time I put myself in the driver’s seat, I’m befuddled about the how to even start the thing. Do I put my foot on the brake? Do I press the Power Button or the Gas Pedal or…push the power button again? Nevermind that I always confuse the wiper stalk for the column shifter on my departed 280 SE 4.5 and wonder why the wipers are moving and not the actual car.
It’s all encapsulated in styling that reminds one of a suppository, something practical for your health, rather than something you’d insert for joy. The cheap, rough grades of plastic doesn’t help much either.
I wouldn’t want to play with a cheap dildo, so why would I wanna frolic wherever the road takes me with the automotive equivalent of a K-Mart Blue Light Special?
It all speaks to an undertow I feel about cars, and American Society in general. Our cars, one by one are reflecting a restricted, fearful, coddled society that doesn’t allow for risk or action. Awash in bland colors, devoid of sensation and passion, the modern car is yet another sensory deprivation tank.
The more gadgetry that surrounds us in our cars and distracts us from the art of driving, the less reason there seems to be involved. For us stuck in the weird nether region between vehicular appreciation and practical need, to truly crave cars that stir our passions like those wild beasts of yore, we seem to be acclimating ourselves to inevitable futures devoid of fun.
This extends to the small runts that were our fuel economy champs 3 decades ago. Tercels, Civics and Excels gave us very little in the pursuit of excellent fuel economy. They were willing to give their heart and souls. Manual transmissions and rev-happy engines begged you to play with them long into the night.
Some of us might just stick a Subaru WRX, Camaro SS Mustang GT under our butts like a Hitachi Magic Wand and get our needed thrills these days. However, each season that passes, the fewer it seems those thrill seekers are out there.
I awash in thought that the more evolution happens in our society resembles the peace of death. I really do hope our enthusiasm hasn’t completely vanished, for fun cars, or the joy of life in general. Hopefully, a few more of us will choose to make our pilgrimages elsewhere rather than a default corner of Toyota showrooms.