Thursday, October 12, 2006

Three Whales Converge on a Single Beach

I really wanted to hear his big fat excuse for driving a vehicle that size. Since my curiosity was sincere, I was able to temporarily suspend my original assumption, which was “because he’s an idiot,” and eke out my question unencumbered by a hostile tone. Instead of asking How’s it feel to be the biggest damn hog on the road?-- an accusation only thinly disguised as a question, I asked, “How’s it feel to drive something that big?”

He answered in a friendly conversational voice. “Oh, it’s no big deal. I don’t feel like it’s any big advantage over other cars. In fact, the little cars can zip in and out in front of me a lot faster than I can move around.”

(Duh. Really?)

I wanted to ask, Anybody ever flip you off? or Can't you just feel the seething? but instead I asked, “You don’t feel like they’re unfriendly to you or anything?”

“Naah! Not a bit,” he jollied. “But I don’t really drive it much around town,” he added. “Too big. I just take it out for camping trips.”

“Do you find that it’s better for camping and stuff than a standard SUV?”

“No. I really don’t. I think any of those other four-wheel drive vehicles are probly just as good.”

Then why the hell did you buy the sucker, I wondered privately. He went on to say he’d bought his Hummer when they first came out, before they came out with the recent H2, the new "smaller" version.

I wanted to ask, How’s it feel to be polluting the air at three times the rate of any other vehicle on the planet? but instead I said, “I hear they churn out a lot more pollution than… most… other cars..”

“No more than the average truck,” he said, happy to relieve me of the nasty rumor.

Except that it’s not a truck, I wanted to point out. It’s a personal vehicle, typically used, in this country, for carrying ONE individual, or two. An individual who is neither hauling cargo nor in need of protection from explosive devices.

“Gas bill must be pretty hellacious, huh?” I continued.

“You’re not kidding!” he said laughing. "Other day I filled that thing, cost me $125.!!! Ha ha! That’s another reason I don’t drive it around town much.”

He pointed to a nearby SUV and asked if it was ours. I said “No, we walked over.” It occurred to me that he might offer us a ride back down the beach, and the mere thought of myself (Miss Car-Hating, Save-the-Planet, Exercise Zealot) climbing into a Hummer for a ride on a beach began convulsing my brain. I wrapped up with a few polite words, hooked on to Lindi, and hurried away.

He was a whale among men. In a vehicle that was a whale among cars. On a beach, where cars don’t belong. With a whale, where whales don’t belong either.

To someone a hundred pounds overweight a Hummer might not look unreasonably large. Maybe that was part of it. But there are plenty of other Hummer drivers of normal size. Like what about that petite woman I see climbing down from the Hummer she drives to the gym near where I live? What’s her excuse? Now that I’ve talked to one, I’m even more curious to talk to others.

Do you realize that he agreed with me on almost every point? Quietly and without first knowing my point of view? Did you notice how amiable and pleasant he was? He was not evil. He was simply oblivious. So now, my new question, the one that replaces “How can people be so evil?” is “How can people be so oblivious?”

I read somewhere that you never really find the answers, that the best you can do is come up with better questions.


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