I drove my first bona fide SUV this week. I've driven a pickup truck or two over the years, but, these were generally vehicles that met a definition laid down by cartoonist Jeff MacNelly in his strip Shoe: a truck is vehicle that can be cleaned with a hose, on the inside and the outside. Yes, there have been a few rentals in the group that did have certain amenities like air conditioning, but, they were nothing like the grade A, super-luxury land barge I drove the other night.
Let me begin at the beginning. I finally did decide to use some of my income tax refund to buy a TV and a new stereo receiver. I did a little comparative shopping online over the weekend, visited a local store or two on Monday, and read some product manuals online during spare moments on Tuesday. By Tuesday night, I was ready to overcome any sense of consumer guilt I might have felt. I was ready to buy big, shiny TOYS with lots of pretty lights and buttons!
So, Fiancee S. and I agreed to meet at Local Electronics Emporium #24936 and get a TV. I was so mesmerized by the prospect of FINALLY getting some new electronic entertainment gear in the house that I convince myself that Fiancee S. drives a hatchback car that we can use to get the TV home (she drives a small 4 door sedan.) I purchase the TV, and Slick Salesdrone #786A from Local Electronics Emporium #24936 loads the box onto a hand truck. The box is BIG... a couple St. Bernard dogs would have no trouble bedding down in this thing.
Needless to say, there was no way in hell that the box would fit in either of the cars we own.
So, how to get the TV home? Having them deliver the thing seemed eminently unsatisfactory at that point -- I wanted my shiny new TOY with lots of buttons in our apartment tonight! So, we turned to Fiancee S.'s cousin K. K. has a Chevy Suburban, a mighty behemoth of the American highway that will be able to carry this box in its belly no problem.
K. lives about 15-20 miles away from the store. After some quick negotiations and a couple stops on my part, we are at K.'s house and she is handing me the keys. I come to find that the Suburban is no sparse workhorse. It's got plush seats, two zone climate control adjustable to specific temperatures, a pop down flat panel TV in the compartment roof, wireless headphone sound system... heck, it's even got a switch that lets you retract the driver and passenger side mirrors so you can get this oh-so-stylish SUV into tighter spaces than usual.
It's a trip driving this thing down the highway, too. The dashboard has an airplane cockpit's worth of controls, it's dark, and we were in kind of a hurry to get back to the store before closing. So, I didn't bother to mess much with radio. I therefore got to spend an hour or so listening to the local "Disney Radio Network" AM radio affiliate while trying to deal with soft, mushy steering, long braking distances, a drivers seat felt like it was a good 4-5' up off the road surface, and obnoxious fellow drivers who seemed to want to pass me on the right.
(I'll bet most of you without sisters, cousins, nieces, or daughters of a certain age and inclination didn't know that things such as the "Disney Radio Network" even existed. I think I had heard about such a thing on a VH-1 documentary about bubble gum pop music. Based on what I could gather from the calls the DJ got while we listened, the entire listening demographic is 8-13 year old girls, but I digress.)
Plus, the vehicle needed gas. K., being the generous soul that she is, gave us a debit card to fill the tank. I'm glad she did, becuase filling the tank of a Chevy Suburban costs about $50, gas prices being as bloated as they are where we live. Fiancee S. and I talked about taking bets about how much it would cost when I started the pump going but decided against it. We both guessed too low.
So, we got the TV delivered and somehow muscled it into our apartment building. I drove the land barge back to K.'s place. I got home at about 9:45pm. I was watching the new TV by 10:45pm.
Driving an SUV does leave an impression. It took me about 24 hours to fully get used to the fact that I don't have to step up into a vehicle... or that I sit much lower on the road... or that cars can have a real sense of road feel. I don't think I'll be getting my own SUV any time soon, but, I will say this: they are useful at those odd times when you need to say... move a major appliance or seat six for dinner in the back seat of a vehicle.
We Americans love our big cars... yes, sir. Part of me wishes that we would just go back to making big, land barge station wagons for Soccer Moms to haul 3 kids from point A to point B. At least a station wagon can get over 20mpg highway. Given the small number of people who ever actually take their SUV "off road", that wouldn't be so bad, would it?
on 2004-02-05 at 5:18 p.m.
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