Looking down on other motorists

If you’ve ever wondered who all those half-wit groseros are, the galoots you see obliviously driving their Hummers past the Greenpeace protest demonstration on Earth Day, let me just raise my hand and say: c’est moi.

Just like the governor of California, and the trophy-wives of investment bankers, and a pack of other environmentally insensitive louts, there’s a mud-streaked Hummer parked in my driveway — or there would be if the thing would fit in the shared driveway of my inner-city shack. As it is, I leave it parked overnight on the street, and when I squeezed defiantly past a schoolteacher in a Smart car this morning I’d swear that she glowered at me. Probably a vegetarian, I’m guessing, skedaddling to work, where she’ll force her joyless students to watch that Al Gore movie one more time.

Listen to me, will you? Forty-eight hours driving a Hummer, and I’ve turned into Rush freaking Limbaugh.

You may ask, as my sainted mother did yesterday, what a fine and sensitive young fellow such as myself is doing behind the wheel of a totemic affront to all forms of decency. As I have remarked repeatedly since Saturday, “It’s an insurance rental. It’s mine for a week.”

Somewhere a dozen blog-posts back, I described for the amusement of those who seek skillful and inspiring tale-telling on the Internets, a yarn involving my discomfort at being driven around New Jersey by an infirm 83-year-old woman. As is the case with so many web-related developments, it took some time for the implications of this post to be felt.

img00022-20090126-1425Felt they were. Last week I was stopped in my Saab at an intersection a couple of blocks from my office, where I was rear-ended by an 81-year-old woman who was returning home from a doctor’s appointment. A different octogenarian, I hasten to add. This one drove (note use of past tense) a rather cherry ’99 Mustang, which looked mighty sportin’ until the moment of impact, at which point the entire front end sang its closing roulade. Quite a wallop, as the body-shop dude described the collision, using a technical term. The other driver was shaken, but not hurt. I, however, was plenty freaked out, wondering if the occurrence was karmic payback for having so callously used a senior-citizen as a prop in my despicable act of electronic raconteurship.

But you get past these introspective moments. The insurance company claims-adjuster graciously waived my deductible, absolving me of blame or shame. The kid at the car rental place drove right to my door and delivered a Dodge Magnum, the worst vehicle I’ve ever encountered, and I’m someone who drove a lopsided Hillman Avenger from Dorking to Bognor Regis and back, in the ’80s. After one evening of spinning the Dodge’s tires through the deep snow on my neighborhood streets, I contacted the car-rental lad the moment he opened his shop.

Chrysler engineers the numb into every Dodge Magnum
Chrysler engineers the "numb" into every Dodge Magnum

“This Magnum,” I began.

“Yes?,” he said.

“I hate it.”

He likely figured, well, if Mr. Discerning Motorist can’t stand one ungainly North American slab o’ crud, perhaps he’d care for another. Out came the Hummer H3.

I began to protest, but quickly dropped my objections. Hummer? Hmm.

Here is my rationale for undertaking a week-long relationship with this petro-swilling memento of the Age of Dick Cheney: Who’s gonna stop me? You? How about you? Or maybe that pencil-neck over there?

Didn’t think so.

Georgie-boy, patron saint of Humvee owners

I’d vouch that either as a sophisticated driving experience, or as an automotive engineering marvel, the Hummer is neither, but it’s highly efficacious as a testosterone supplement. Other than which, it won’t fit down the ramp into the parking garage of my office building, and it requires some careful advance planning to maneuver through the Tim Horton’s drive-through. I can also report that decent people avoid me now, probably sensing that the Hummer is an accoutrement to some unexpected lifestyle-change that they’ll want no part of. They’re guessing that the severe new hair-do will follow, and then the new wardrobe designed around those khaki pants with the pockets on the sides. Cargo pants, I believe they’re called. The ensemble may be referred to as the Full George Peppard.

Right now I’d swear several oaths that these things will never happen. I’m still a Saab kind of guy trapped in the pressed-tin body of a Hummer H3. But we’ve seen how the unexpected can pop out of nowhere, and suddenly everything is different. That’s how the fist of fate seems to move, and it packs — what did the body-shop guy call it? — quite a wallop.

That’s enough talk. Now you can all get the hell out of my way.

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