Jelly Beans and Tennis Shoes

imageI had to buy a new car recently and I was dismayed at having to choose one from a set of moderately priced vehicles that all looked like tennis shoes. Not that long ago they all looked like jelly beans. That was bad enough but this is worse. This unrelenting drive towards aerodynamics has sucked all the cool from the American roadway. This compels me to beseech the American Car Industry (and I do not beseech lightly, but then who does?) to start using the other side of their brain. If you, The American Car Industry, no longer have the other side of your brain, then I will be more than happy with a complete lack of originality. Ford Motor Company, how about starting production on the 2017 Shelby Cobra? General Motors, let’s get cracking on the 2017 1969 Pontiac Firebird. Hey, the Arabs are flooding the market with cheap oil. Go nuts. Nobody cares if you can build an aerodynamic car so perfect that it has less drag than a moray eel and can go from here to Germany on a single tank of gas. We just want our American mojo back.

This lot we have to choose from is especially woeful for men. Women can look stylish driving tennis shoes, and fetching in jelly beans. They can also look stylish and fetching with their toenails painted aquamarine. Men not so much, on either account. This is why many men today are forced to buy the most impractical vehicle imaginable in order to maintain their ego: a pickup truck. A pickup truck is a great thing if you’re a farmer. Ninety-nine percent of all men who own pickup trucks are not farmers, however. This is why every time you see a pickup truck in the city there is never anything in the bed. If pickup truck manufacturers had any consideration they would put bushel baskets of fake lima beans in the bed so when we buy the truck it looks like we bought the truck for some reason other than to give the impression that when we were younger we might have been involved in Desert Storm. Nothing city people own or use, which would require a pickup truck to move, ever needs to be moved. Like your office desk. Beyond that, anything you might have to transport to be repaired in a remote location—but won’t fit in a car or the trunk of a car—won’t fit in the bed of a pickup truck either. Like your wife’s car. Or a gazebo. I suppose if your refrigerator was on the fritz then a pickup truck would come in real handy except that (a) you have to hire six guys and a crane in order to get the refrigerator from the house to the truck, in which case you might as well just buy a new refrigerator from Sears and have it delivered, and (b) do you actually know anybody whose refrigerator ever went on the fritz? The only way a refrigerator can go on the fritz if it’s pushed over the edge of the Grand Canyon.

The truth is, the only thing that fits into the bed of a pickup truck is other people’s furniture. And the fact that you own a pickup truck automatically nominates you to help everyone you’ve ever friended on Face Book move. The upside of this is that you’ll be very popular. The downside is that this is one of the few upsides in life that is not a positive.

Just for the sake of clarity, I’ve composed a list of all the things you can do with a pickup truck that you can’t do with a car:

1) Play an upright piano in the Memorial Day parade.
2) Haul your fresh vegetables to sell at the farmer’s market.

Outside of using it to play piano in the Memorial Day parade the only practical thing you can do with a pickup truck is fill the bed up with water and use it as a moving toddler pool.

There’s also no back seat. Of course, if you want you can order one with back seats so it’s just like a car as well as a truck, which is doable, but now leaves you with the problem of parallel parking a locomotive. Good luck. Also, and I’m sure many people have noticed this particular negative as well: most pickup trucks don’t come equipped with turn signals. I don’t know why, I’m just noting it.

Assuming you wanted to pass on an SUV behemoth because it won’t fit in your garage or your neighborhood isn’t zoned for it, traditionally the most practical vehicle to go with in order to occasionally go on vacation with your whole family while at the same time maintaining the image of a woodsy Republican while being able to parallel park in under five minutes, is the Jeep Grand Cherokee (so named in honor of the Native Americans who invented four-wheel drive). The great thing about a Jeep is that it will go anywhere. You could drive up the side of Mount McKinley in a Jeep, except for the fact that Mount McKinley doesn’t exist anymore, so forget I mentioned it. On the negative side, though, it should be noted that Consumer Reports lists the steering on a Jeep as “vague.” This is not a word I would normally associate with Consumer Reports, but I am quoting (they also referred to the windshield wipers as “too swishy”).

But as of just recently the real problem with the Jeep Grand Cherokee—as well as the lower priced Baby Grand Cherokee, which is shorter but comes with the same number of keys—is that they don’t look like Jeeps anymore. Yes, even these rugged, beloved progeny from the battlefields of World War II have succumbed to the modern aerodynamic form of the tennis shoe, kind of an annoyed looking tennis shoe but a tennis shoe all the same. Sad to say. But they’re still sturdy buggers. So if you want to buy a brand new Jeep Cherokee and use it to go up the side of Mount Denali, which is where Mount McKinley used to be, this is the vehicle for you. Just let your wife drive.

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