Cars have, since their very inception and notwithstanding either the futurists’ fanciful flights nor a few ill-advised and poorly conceived attempts at producing an amphibious vehicle, been designed and engineered for movement on and across one specific medium: the skin of the earth. Flying cars, diving cars, burrowing cars, and so on, would just be the combination of two half-assed versions of things already perfectly suited to their respective environments via the same pseudo-evolutionary path as all great technological ideas—one jamoke gets the initial flash and then the improvers immediately step in to point out what’s wrong and how it can be remedied, and by-and-by a kite with a lawnmower engine becomes a jumbo jet—and daring to circumvent the process by slapping together two elegantly functional products of decades of refinement is not only hubristic but plain stupid. I’ll do the math for you because it’s the non-traditional variety I use to impress children and dogs, and taking the half-assed versions of two already functional things and slapping them together equals one quarter-assed piece of shit waste of time.
How much trouble could it be, really, to get out of your car and into a boat or plane or submarine? Just because things share a roughly analogous purpose doesn’t mean we should Frankenstein them together. Fireplaces are excellent at keeping people warm, as are parkas, but you wouldn’t want a jacket with a fireplace in it, not if you were thinking clearly. I blame (yet again) Capitalism for all this pointless grafting, what with so many positive-thinking would-be entrepreneurs all hopped up on Tony Robbins videos trying to Shark Tank their way into the 1%. They need a new product, something sexy, shiny, and superfluous, because let’s face it: the last time anyone invented something we really needed was oh, I don’t know, I suppose a case could be made for cutting it off anywhere between the wheel and the polio vaccine. Depends on your definition of necessary. Computers and all that has derived from their development are a wonderful thing, but they are necessary only because we have made them so, and therein lies a whole ‘nother can of worms.
Poll any gang of eggheads whose job it is to sit around compiling data and periodically poke their heads out the window to tell us we’re all fucked and they’ll all tell you the same thing. The #1 cause for concern is currently not weather nor warming nor war, but the collapse of the digital infrastructure. It is going to happen, and when it does shit is going to go so far south so damn fast it’ll make the blackouts of the 70s and the attendant chaos seem positively quaint by comparison.
It goes, as the saying goes, without saying and yet the good folks over at Toyota have mystifyingly been saying it for years by appending the qualifier “land” to one of their vehicles—the Land Cruiser—lest someone think he might buy one and go a-cruising up in United’s friendly skies or skipping along out there on the bounding main. Doesn’t wash. We know where to drive. On the land. Once it stops we park and get into a vehicle more appropriate to our needs, a dirigible or bathyscaphe or whatever.
The “cruiser” part I get. It cruises, and while an argument could be made for the superfluity of that term too, it’s simple, direct, and speaks to the potential of the thing not sitting idly by like a house or a refrigerator; this thing is going to cruise. Only on land, though. Don’t try to take it into outer space.
So I find myself in front of one the other day, and if you’re wondering why I’m noticing the particulars of the cars behind me rather than paying attention to what’s in front of me, it’s because this carload of man-boys and their incessantly Instagramming bimbos on their way to the lake are riding my ass like Don Quixote on Rocinante and I am nervous and uncomfortable about it. I get that they’re young and horny and eager to dive into all that tri-tip and Bud Lite, but I will not be bullied, not by someone whose haste is to get wasted.
In between my worrisome glances into the rear-view and Marge Simpsonish grunts of disapproval I get to ruminating over the Land Cruiser absurdity, not with the intent of writing about it—while I have certainly plumbed the depths of insignificance over the years in search of material, this curiosity of nomenclature might merit a comment to someone else in the car and deserve no more than a polite chuckle. Asking you, the reader, to invest your time and energy into an investigation of something so patently stupid would be disrespectful, but as you will see, the story didn’t end with that.
A bit about the sort of person I am, by way of explication: I am a fellow who likes, indeed seeks, the opportunity to do small kindnesses for people in the course of my day, mainly because I know how it feels to have them done unto me. The effect goes far beyond whatever aid or assistance one has received; for awhile, you have reason to believe that the world may not be inhabited solely by rude, self-absorbed meanies, and although we may know it, it’s nice to be reminded every once in a while. The meanies, after all, do make their presence so insistently known.
For strangers only, not my friends or family; fuck them. I do like the idea of a Lone Ranger-ish appearance from seemingly nowhere and equally mysterious exit, leaving people wondering, “Who was that nattily clad, malnourished saint?” People who know me don’t expect much from me and that’s exactly what they’ll get, but I will leap at any chance to acquire a quick and superficial buff-up of my brand.
The situation most rife with opportunities to be helpful is behind the wheel, where, like on the Internet, some people feel invincible and therefore free to let their inner asshole out. I am amazed, daily, by the number of people who, given an opening to be courteous, opt instead to show their asses by prioritizing their trip over not only everyone else’s but over pedestrians and animals too. Adding ten seconds to wherever you’re going is not going to kill you, and who knows? Being nice for once in your life may lead to you actually becoming a tolerable human being.
Incidentally, consider this. Every time you encounter a dead animal in the road within the city limits, in speed zones of 35 or less, there’s a 99% chance someone took aim and with malice aforethought murdered someone’s beloved pet. Or a squirrel or opossum, though they could be pets too. There’s assholery, and then there’s psychopathy. It’s more common than most people know and disregard for animal life is just as clear an indicator of it as is one for humans.
Personally, I consider the lives of animals and people to be of equal value, though if you were to present me with a Sophie’s Choice regarding an animal and any random person, the furry one is probably going to get the nod. No offense, humanity, but there really is a lot to dislike about you.
Naturally, I have to draw the line somewhere—I’m not about to walk around avoiding ants and beetles—so I’ll say mammals, birds and fish. And trees.
In the driver’s manual, in the section concerning animals in the road, one is instructed to, unless one can be absolutely certain he won’t cause an accident, go ahead and run it over. I don’t think so. I will stop at your signs and lights, I will merge and yield when instructed to, and I will respect the inviolable nature of the double yellow line, but I will kill everyone in my lane before I’ll run over a dog, which is why, as I crested the hill and began my descent running east on 20 headed toward the lake, Potter Valley and etc, and saw, maybe 200 feet in front of me, in the middle of my lane and charging forward determinedly, a border collie, I locked up the binders and came to a screeching, sliding, rocking halt. Remember, the douche buggy behind me was on me like Ronnie Lott on a fourth-round rookie wideout, and I’ll have to give it to either the driver’s superior reflexes or the Toyota engineers and the maneuverability of their product for avoiding a crash, but avoid it they did, albeit accompanied by an improbably sustained honk, probably of a purely punitive nature. Once the battery began to weaken they started yelling at me, then throwing their Monster cans at me, and finally two of the males stuck their bare butts out the window at me.
I ignored it all and concentrated on the dog, coaxing it out of the road as Dickhead & Co. Limited finally tired of their juvenile remonstrations and squealed on outtathere for an afternoon of public lewdness and drunken shenanigans. “Fuck you very much,” I said, waving derisively at their rapidly receding rear end. I have very expressive waves.
I was comforting and questioning the dog, who seemed to have no idea of the peril he’d so recently been nuts-deep in but eager to get back to whatever mission he was on, when a car came over the hill and, seeing us, basically repeated my own peremptory halt, though a little less dramatically. Flinging their doors open and themselves toward the little roadside tableau, a young couple descended on us and I put two and two together, correctly perceiving the problem as ready for the Solved file.
Indeed, these were the lucky animal’s custodians, who’d pulled over after exiting 101 for something and failed to notice their pooch had absquatulated. The assumption was made, after we hashed out the particulars of the episode, that his homing instincts had kicked in and he was headed for Upper Lake. He, not being conversant with the rules of the road, simply chose the wrong lane.
As good deeds go, this one was a real corker in terms of customer satisfaction, and you’d have thought I’d saved their farm from foreclosure what with all the gratitude fizzing and foaming about. They hugged me, they offered me money, and when I said that helping to reunite the three of them was quite reward enough it was without the barest hint of falsity or pride. After more thank-yous than a roomful of customer service representatives gacked on espresso could generate we parted ways and I climbed back into my vehicle, glowing like a post-coital newlywed and thoroughly scrubbed of any remnants of the recent unpleasantness. The power of good. Let it work through you.
Speaking of unpleasantness, the quartet of muttonheaded junior Republicans all a-zest about a day of aquatic revelry met their doom in pursuit of that questionable goal as their party boat capsized and they all drowned, finally becoming of some use to the universe as catfish chow. Here endeth the lesson.