One of the biggest joys of the open road is its pure democracy. Bentleys and Pintos idling side by side at the same red light. Limos, BMWs, Fords and those little enh cars that look like they've been squashed between two big-rigs, all subject to the same speed traps, congestion and potholes big enough to swallow locomotive engines. Valet attendants who can be reliably counted on to scrounge around gloveboxes for loose change while burning an eighth of an inch of rubber off of high-end Pirellis and cheap Chinese retreads with total egalitarianism.
That is not to say that all cars are created equal. With the license comes the knowledge of which ones to avoid getting stuck behind driving uphill, cross-town in traffic. Elderly drivers wearing hats rank high on the list. Tinted glass is right up there, as well as any ride sporting bass vibrations rippling the back windows. Hummers most especially, but any gas-guzzling SUV with their thick-headed, tank-like attitude clogging our paved arterials like permanent transfusions of liquid pork fat on wheels.
Then there's the Toyota Prius. It's not the automobile that rankles. A sensible car. The car of tomorrow. Today! No, not the vehicle, rather the people in the drivers' seats that make you want to drag a body out from behind the wheel and knock it in the head with giant plastic inflatable cartoon hammers and make "thunk, thunk, thunk" noises till the tolls come down. Political correctness and piloting a one and-a-half ton piece of sculpted steel traveling 88 feet per second go together like Little League practice and freeway median strips.
These are the same people who 30 years ago drove VW Vans, and though they now wallow in luxury options such as antennas and floorboards, their former tenuous command of the road has disintegrated badly and they appear flummoxed by this new horsepower dealie thing. Not to mention the quietude, which has to be unnerving. And isn't it a shame these beautifully designed $25,000 MSRP Japanese machines arrived on our shores sans turn signals?
In addition, the Prius operator's manual apparently comes folded inside some sort of secret deed granting sole possession of the entire road to the bearer. Fifty-seven percent of Prius drivers say they bought the car because "it makes a statement about me." It's all about them. Just like D.C. politicians, they exist in a special world where everyone else is invisible. A sentiment subtly reinforced by the way they misoperate the machinery.
But we cannot in good conscious anoint the Priutics with the imprimatur of Worst Drivers on the Road. That recognition has been meritoriously earned by the countless screeching veers caused by a vast fleet of clueless Minivan drivers shifting aimlessly across our byways. Prius drivers think they ARE the Messiah, but Minivan drivers know they have been charged with the greater responsibility of shepherding many tiny, snot-nosed Messiahs to and from band practice. Talk about mobile germ labs.
While Prius drivers make sane folk honk and curse and pound dashes in frustration due to turning left from the center lane and stopping for no apparent reason and refusing to turn right on red, minivan drivers will do all this, only slower AND you can't see around them. What I'm saying is, if Toyota ever makes a Prius Minivan, do not even think of leaving your driveway. And if you live near D.C., when that happens, you best remain parked safely in bed.
Will Durst is a San Francisco-based political comic who writes sometimes. This is one of them.
Durst, a political comedian who has performed around the world, is a familiar pundit on television and radio. E-mail Will at firstname.lastname@example.org.