Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Here in my car I feel safest of all


I was a car kid.

It was hard not to be. I grew up in the prime of the muscle car era. I knew my Mongoose from my Snake. I liked Andretti, my brother liked Foyt. I don't remember Tom Potter's older brother's name, but I do remember he drove a Red 1971 Boss 351 Fastback Mustang. My brother and I thought we had convinced our dad to buy a Road Runner as our family car, but he broke our hearts and got an Impala instead. Man, I wanted to ride in a Superbird. He did make it up to us by getting us the cool blue windbreakers with the patches for Christmas. Which may have been a mistake, since we put up a fight every time we couldn't wear them to school after Christmas vacation--when the temperature was 20 degrees and there was 8 inches of snow on the ground.

Through the teens and early twenties, my fascination with cars grew, but my car-care ability did not. I come from a family of engineers. My dad, my brother, my uncles on both sides--engineers, the lot of them. Even my mother is more mechanically adept than me. So, purchasing that VW Scirocco was, in hindsight, a mistake.

As the years went on, my priorities changed. Now, what I want in a car is simple: good mileage, safe, dependable, comfortable for my kids. I noticed the new cars, but I didn't really pay attention to them, since I'm still about a year away from getting a new car.

Until a few weeks ago.

I was the passenger in someone else's car for a four-hour cross-state trip. Passenger is not a position I'm accustomed to anymore. In fact, since 1985, I have been in a car and NOT driven probably seven times.

Eight, including a few weeks ago.

So, as I sat not driving, I returned to what I did when I was a kid.

No, not constantly asking 'Are we there yet?'

Okay, I did that a bit.

Looking at cars. And as I looked, I noticed something about them. I know that there has been a rebirth, of sorts, of the muscle cars of my youth. But these were different.

Lots of right angles.

Lots of vertical planes

Windows much smaller than they really need to be.

And this is on a station wagon.

Lots of the other vehicles were similarly styled.

High doors, big monster grills, blunt rear ends. Lots and lots of metal showing.

This isn't style.

It's armor.

I went back and looked at the cars that gave me prepubescent boners, and compared them to todays vehicles.

"I will blow you away," said the cars of my youth. "You will be passed like you're standing still, and I won't even be out of third gear. No, don't try to fight it...just eat my dust and be glad for the meal."

Then I looked at today's vehicles.

"Get the fuck out of the way," they said, "or I will run you over."

Aggressive, yes, but defensive too. Big, squared-off bricks of vehicles, carrying out pre-emptive strikes on the nation's roadways.


These aren't muscle cars.

They're bully cars.

Not just cars, either. Actually, the cars are almost secondary. In fact, for the first time that I can remember, cars are styled to look more like trucks and SUV's. That's a Pontiac Vibe. A friendly little car. Yet it still looks up-armored. It's styled like a truck or an SUV. And the trucks and SUV's are designed to intimidate.

This is not an idle conjecture. The first vehicle to capture what has become the current mindset in vehicle styling was the 1994 Dodge Ram, which was designed specifically to be intimidating in the rear-view mirror. Kudos for that design/marketing team. They managed to get ahead of the trend curve by 5 to 10 years.

Because what's driving the market in driving these days, at least stylistically, is:

Terror.

It started with Y2K, and ramped up to code red with 9/11. Now, we all want to be safe.

And what's safer, o soccer mom in the Hummer, than a bunch of rivets and big metal tubes?

How about this--instead of insulating yourself from your neighbor, getting to know your neighbor? It's hard to blindly fear someone you know.

For me, this is what it all boils down to. We live in a very insular society. From our vehicles, to our houses, to our communication styles, we are getting more and more isolated from our neighbors.

Not me.

I'm going to go out and sit on my porch and greet my neighbors as they walk their dogs. Hell, if it's a nice enough night, maybe the kids and I will walk too. I'm going to smile and say hello. I'm going to ask 'how are you?' and listen to the reply.

How about you?

Say hello to someone you don't know.

And if you don't know what else to say, do what I used to do:

Talk about cars.

Yeharr

3 Comments:

Blogger mal said...

I have a Pacifica. It is a great driving car, but I notice the same thing about the windows. I think the car companies are trying to revive the "muscle car" mindset with a car that is more reminisicent of a chopped and channeled street rod. Personally? I like big windows, lets everyone know who has the cool wheels!!!

7:02 PM  
Blogger Rowena said...

you quote Gary Numan in the title: thus, you rule.

7:15 AM  
Blogger sdRay said...

Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a low rider site/blog. It pretty much covers ##KEYWORD## related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)

See Ya There!!!

6:07 AM  

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