May 2022


Poor Amusing Idiots

I have to confess that I’m kind of a harsh guy when it comes to other people’s stupidity.

I’m not really sympathetic.

Like the guys who own gigantic SUVs in America who are just now discovering that not only are the vehicles expensive to purchase, they’re expensive to keep running. With fuel just now approaching $4.00 a gallon for regular unleaded, these objects that get 10 to 15 miles to the gallon aren’t inexpensive to run.

Back when I had a car—a 1999 Purple/Black Saturn SL1—I thought of it as a luxury waste item. Right after I bought the car, I’d moved across town and had gone from driving daily to driving once or twice a week. I could actually go two months without buying gas, since I basically walked everywhere, except the grocery store. The car got somewhere around 30-35 miles to the gallon, which was pretty good. Except in comparison to my Dad’s mid-80s Toyota Corolla, which did better than 40 miles per gallon with city driving, never mind cross country adventures.

The fact that anybody would be willing to drive an SUV, even in the best of economic times, disturbed me. It seemed like such a waste to drive these hulking machines that did so poorly in comparison.

Of course, whenever I talked to the owners, they informed me that they needed their SUVs.

For what, I often wondered. Whenever I drove across Bloomington or across Denver, I never could figure out where I needed such a car—not even in the winter. Back when I was delivering newspapers in Denver, I managed to deliver all my newspapers using a Toyota Corolla—with dry streets or 6 inches of snow on the ground.

I would drive cautiously around and get the job done while watching out for the SUV drivers. A lot of them seemed to think that they were invincible—driving down slushy streets as if they were dry, only to be surprised when they couldn’t stop or would spin their wheels. For all the money these people spent on enormous SUVs, they didn’t seem willing to learn how to drive them.

Meanwhile these people are now discovering more fuel efficient vehicles and public transportation.

Today’s New York Times had a fascinating article about how major public transit systems in the States are seeing surges in ridership—in some cases increases of over 15% since the same time last year. Cities, like my native Denver, that had the foresight to build out light rail, or invest in other forms of transit, are finding new riders.

Meanwhile the resale prospects for SUVs are dismal and getting worse.

It brings out my inner-schadenfreude: People who were environmentally and economically reckless are just now starting to pay the price for their ego-centric idiotic decisions. I don’t feel sorry for people who are spending $75, three times a week, to fill their tanks (which raises the questions, where are they driving and why are they driving so much; few people can legitimately justify this amount of driving, even in fuel efficient cars). It actually, I have to say, makes me feel just a little bit giddy.

I also realize that the gas prices in America are probably still artificially low, and that the owners of SUVs are going to pay even more.

My inner-schadenfreude is bad. Very bad.

5 comments to Poor Amusing Idiots

  • My inner-schadenfreude is bad. Very bad.

    I’m right there with you. My inner-schadenfreude is pointing and laughing at all those people who shook their heads in disbelief when Sarah and I told them we’d try to live over here without owning a car — because we can and do just fine, thanks — or who rolled their eyes at us when we questioned the need for an SUV at the time of most recent purchase.

    It shouldn’t have to be that way: that the average American needs a car for daily life is something we can’t change now, but we could have changed it back then, when auto companies were buying up rail-based public transportation systems and quietly dismantling them in favor of setting up bus lines. What the average consumer could have changed — and still could, if he wanted to — is the choice of vehicle, given the necessity for any vehicle.

  • I’m with Cliff. Americans, at least with the system that is in place now, need a car. Now, how much they drive it is another matter. I managed to put 11,500 miles on my new car last year, and that included many trips to Civil War Starter state and Capitol City – or put another way, I’m not driving all over creation on a daily basis. I pretty much limit my trips from my home to the office and back. When I need to shop, I try to organize those trips into one long errand instead of many short trips.

    Theoretically, I could get to the office using the buses or to my shopping doing the same, but frankly I could make my way to both locations on foot faster with how horrible the bus schedule is.

    My monthly fuel bill is running about $75 right now, and that includes my trips to Capitol City about 90 minutes away.

  • koko

    It really bothered me the other day when I saw a large hummer with the environmental plates. Now that’s really lame.

  • disenchanted

    We don’t spend that much a tank because the Coach is getting around 30 mpg. But, we have to have a car because he drives 100 miles for work. And, unlike Europe, we don’t have public transportation.

  • @cliff: It is awful that a lot of Americans need cars–and man I wish we could go back and change history… however we can’t. But while a lot of Americans need cars, they should have made greener choices. I’ll be in the States in July and whilst I will shutter when filling up the gas tank, I will be spending less than my German friend when they fill up their gas tanks.

    @CQ: managing travel is good. Forcing cities to improve public transportation is also good, but you live in a rather low density area that discourages public transit.

    @koko: yuck. He should be sent to the high court of irony.

    @disenchanted: Coach’s commute would be impossible with public transit in Germany; especially given the hours that he comes and goes. 30mpg isn’t bad… it’s pretty darned good.