Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Eco-Wars

I live in a village that many consider to be “crunchy”—a term that encompasses our liberal leanings, our “green” ways, the number of writers and artists who dwell here. We got this way after being the settling place for many a communist in the 1920s, and a summer vacation spot for actors and actresses over the years, including—according to local legend—Jackie Gleason. These days, we’re a mix of the old and the new, but the leftover hippy vibe that permeated the village for so many years still resonates with many of us.

To wit: my friend, Eileen, who I met as a gawky nine-year-old in Mrs. Darken’s Fourth Grade class, visited one Fall Saturday to see her son’s high school football team taken on our team. As we sat in the sun-drenched stands, she looked around, surveyed the crowd, and asked, “Does anybody dye their hair in this town?” I reached up self-consciously to my own grey-streaked mop and stammered, “well…yes…no…some do…” She looked down at my feet, shod in Dansko clogs. “And what’s with the clogs? Do you have to wear them in order to buy a house in this town?” Again, I was dumbfounded. “Uh, no,” I said, this time a little more defiantly. But looking around, I couldn’t dispute that we Village denizens embrace a vibe not found in the neighboring towns of Westchester County.

Which leads me to my new car. I had been driving a station wagon for the last several years and got nauseous every time I went to fill it up with gas. Because, as time went on, I realized I was getting a mere seventeen miles to the gallon. It wasn’t the amount of money I was spending that bothered me, it was the amount of environment I was abusing that was the crux of the problem. And I knew it was just a matter of time before the thousands of Prius-driving Villagers began pelting me with stones. Because they take their grey hair, their clogs, and their green-ness very seriously. So I started thinking about buying a new car. Five years or so ago, I noticed a man in town driving an adorable little car; he had whizzed by me in what I later found out was a Mini Cooper. I did a little research and found out that yes, four people could fit comfortably in one of these; they got more than thirty miles to the gallon; they had a good safety record; and I could fit several bags of groceries in the almost non-existent trunk. I thought about this car as my station wagon up and died a few months ago, leaving a plume of white smoke in its wake.

Let me, at this juncture, tell you how flexible and reasonable I am. My conversation with my husband went as follows:

Me: “We need to buy a new car. I want something smaller that gets better gas mileage.”Him: “Let’s get something practical. How about a Honda Civic?”

Me: “Absolutely not.”Him: “How about a Toyota Camry.”Me: “What? Are you kidding?”

Him: (getting exasperated) “How about a Prius?”

Me: “We’re getting a Mini Cooper.”

He was slightly flabbergasted, a tad reluctant. But I won him over with my impassioned arguments about the environment, our carbon footprint, our commitment to the earth. (And the fact that I told him that at my age, there was no way I was putting my flabby middle-aged behind in anything but a fun, little sports car. Grey hair? Yes. Practicality? No way.)

Suffice it to say that we have a brand-new, Mini Cooper Clubman (a new, slightly larger model than the traditional Mini) in our driveway. I can’t get the keys out of my husband’s hot little hands.

Now I’m feeling great about myself. If I drive correctly, I can get up to forty miles a gallon on the highway. The car is compact and easy to park—not to mention the most adorable car I’ve ever driven. I fill up at the gas station with far less regularity than before. I’m delighted with myself and honestly, feeling a bit smug when I pile my two kids, my dog, my daughter’s violin, my son’s lacrosse stick, and four bags of grocery into the car. Who needs a minivan or an SUV? Not me. I’m RESPONSIBLE. I CARE ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT. I don’t have to tell anyone. They can just tell. It’s the classic case of “show, don’t tell,” right?

I went to a small, local grocery store the other day, proud of myself and my commitment to the environment. I got out, took out my reusable grocery bags and looked around, wondering why nobody in the parking lot was giving me kudos for being so responsible. How about some props, people? As I slammed the trunk shut, a little, teenie-weenie car came motoring toward me, driven by the man who I had seen driving the original Mini Cooper lo those many years ago. But now?He was driving a SmartCar.

I slumped a bit against the Mini Cooper. “Foiled again,” I thought. What’s next? A bicycle built for two? There was no way I could keep up.

Nothing like a six-foot three man in a car with no back seat to ruin your feeling of bonhomie over your wonderfully green ways. I guess you could say that I had gotten my eco-comeuppance.

3 comments:

  1. Interesting car - don't think I've ever seen one. I bet I could even learn to parallel park in one of those.

    Evelyn

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  2. Come on get green. Drive a VW TDI on cooking oil, get 50 mpg, have almost no carbon foot print and be the envy of the town.

    The only problem is the constant smell of french fries and the weight gain from stopping at every McDonalds.

    BTW, the US version of the smart car only gets 30 miles per gallon local and under 40 for highway. You're ahead of the game.

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  3. Those are darling cars. My daughter and hubby have a Scion and love it. I've ridden in the backseat and it's quite comfortable. They use it all the time.

    However, besides that, the also have a huge motorhome and drag the Scion behind when they go on trips.

    Marilyn

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