Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Velvet SUVs

Where does a 400-lb gorilla sit?

Anywhere it wants to, goes the joke. Where does a 6000 lb SUV stop to pick up kids? Same answer, it seems. Watching an SUV stop in the middle of a traffic lane on a major road to pick up kids today got me to thinking about why people drive these infernal machines. (Full disclosure: I drive a MINI and ride a bike, which makes SUVs look seriously big to me.)

Parking is tight near where I live, and watching an SUV do a 10-pt turn to get out of a parking lot can be diverting, but it makes me wonder why people who live here buy these enormous vehicles. Unlike the ranch country where my dad lives, there is rarely a need to go off road here to pick up your mail or take the trash out. They use more gas, make more pollution, dump more greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, require larger parking spaces and increase congestion (because of their height, cars tend to "hang back", so fewer cars can move through an intersection at a time - watch the next time you're behind one!). They're bigger, dirtier and scream, I've got lots of money!

In Victorian times, velvet drapes that were so long that they pooled on the floor were all the rage. They, too, took up more space than was needed for their function, and were "dirtier". And of course, the reason for having them was to subtly advertise your wealth. I can afford something that is way bigger than it needs to be, and the staff to maintain it. And we all know what happened to the British Empire, eh?

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