Saturday, March 27, 2010

My bad driving is okay

You’ve heard me complain about people who drive the Toyota Prius. It’s that somewhat uglyish-funkyish car that looks like a wedge of cheese-something on wheels. It’s typically driven by an incompetent foolishly bad driver. In the olden days, Volvo drivers were the bad ones, but then they all moved on to the Prius, which allowed me to buy a Volvo. And to knock people who drive the Prius.

That car. The car that is driving in two lanes 25 mph below the speed limit? Yes, it’s a Prius. The car that pulls into the intersection in front of you causing you to slam on your breaks? It’s a Prius. The car that stops at every intersection, even if no stop sign exists? A Prius, of course. Of course, on the bright side, these bad drivers are saving gasoline and generating their own energy.

And what about that car driving 35 mph over the lane markings, making a U-turn on a residential street and slowing down traffic in front of Rayzor Ranch in Denton, Texas? Ummm, well, that would be me, in a Prius. Indeed, on my last trip to Texas, my rental car was a Toyota Prius. And I took advantage of my ability to be a bad Prius driver while I was doing fieldwork.

I ran a stop sign, drove as slow as a refugee boat on the freeway, and pulled across three lanes of traffic to make a left turn. “Ha ha!” I yelled out. “I’m driving like shit but it’s okay because I’m driving a Prius! You know you’d better stay away from me!” I accidentally missed a turn and backed up in the lane of traffic. I pulled over on a dirt bank. I sat in the middle of the road trying to get over into the right lane. But, again, as I proudly told my coworker, “I’m driving a Prius, so it doesn’t matter how well I drive,”

I’m usually a good driver. I’m fairly assertive, stay in my lane, pay attention to what’s going on around me, stop at crosswalks for pedestrians, parallel park quickly, etc. But I’ve realized if you put me behind the wheel of a Prius, you’ll turn me instantly into a bad driver. Cruising around in a weird sloping donut-shaped car makes Joey’s driving as bad as all of those drivers I berate, not because of their ethnicities or age, but because their brain cells are zapped when they are behind the wheel of a Toyota Prius.

The shape of the car. Is it the weird maneuvering of the incompetent driver or the shape of the car that renders a driver useless? I confess, the Prius has some serious blindspots. Even the rear window has some sort of big slat of car-colored plastic keeping the top part of the glass from being connected to the bottom part of the window.

There’s also a big television-like screen on the dashboard that is addictive to watch. I mean, come on, we all like to stare at televisions or computer screens when we see them. We think we’ll see and awesome touchdown or some shitty Fox “News” story or a crappy You Tube video of the Grape Lady falling in front of the Georgia’s chateau-esque winery. I’m sitting on an airplane right now (on my fourth glass of wine) and there are videos of Japanese art flashing across the screen that I don’t really care to watch, but because it’s all on a screen in the vicinity of where my eyes are generally directed, of course I’m going to look at it. Anyway, that screen on the Prius shows you anything you want to see, from a rear view of your car (“wow, a car cam!”) to little icons of automobiles stacked upon each other generating energy and showing you who much energy is created each time you do something or other that I don’t understand. Or if you touch the screen, you can look at all of the radio stations programmed into the car’s memory and each rectangle on the screen lists the name of the songs currently being played on my “favorite” radio stations. Lady Gaga’s Poker Face is on 99.3, while Lady Gaga’s “Just Dance” is on 98.7 and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” is on 104.2. With all of these choices on a giant touch-screen in front of my face, no wonder I’m swerving off the road at 15 mph in my weird sloping car singing Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” lyrics at the top of my lungs: “Ra ra aha ah ah rama ramama gaga ooh-la-la…”

I got home and drove my little Volvo. I could see out the windows and had a good sense of the size of the car. I stayed within the lanes and drive above the speed limit. I parked it in a snap and saw that my mpg was approximately 19. And I was fine with that.

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