Nick Kepler has a real problem with SUV’s, particularly the huge ones. They’re road hogs. They suck more fuel than the space shuttle just going around the block. They’re pretentious as hell. To him, they symbolize waste and conspicuous consumption.
Why is this so unusual? Don’t we live in an era where people are expected to be more frugal? Tea Partiers wanting less taxes? Occupiers going after the One Percent?
All this is true, but that was now, this is then. Then happens to be 2002, when America still basked in the afterglow of the dotcom era and gas cost less than a large coffee from Starbucks. And back then, before SUV’s came down in size and up in gas mileage, most of them were huge. I recently saw a series of parodies of Ford pickup ads that showed how denizens of the more affluent neighborhoods and suburbs needed the F150 Hyde Park and Mason editions for picking up Thai food and hauling brats to the zoo. So the aversion to large vehicles for no really good reason has become societal.
But even so, why should Nick give a damn? He drives a boring and practical 1996 Honda Accord that sips gas and has a nice stereo.
Well, Nick is a working class PI, as some people often point out to me. He grew up with his father driving used cars for years before scrapping them, and he’s never really been one to show off by conspicuously consuming. Oh, he grudgingly has a cell phone. In fact, he had one before his creator did. But to Nick, the SUV became a symbol of greed and waste to him. In one sequence, to hide his car from the bad guys, he stakes out a nightclub sitting in a GMC Yukon, which is roughly the size of a Sherman tank. He reasons no one would expect him to drive one. In another scene, a driver in a Lincoln Navigator almost hits him. Nick understandably flips him the bird, to which a friend points out that he’s just flipped a county commissioner the bird. Nick says he’ll vote for his opponent. (Never mind that his opponent probably drove an SUV, too.
Is it neurotic or petty? Yes. It’s irrational, actually. It has its roots in my own aversion to SUV’s, however. I got tired of listening to coworkers talking ad nauseam about their oversized behemoths and their off-road capabilities. I asked, “So when do you take it off road?” They looked at me like I’d just asked them to enter a Roll Royce in a demolition derby. I gave the aversion to Nick and amplified it a bit.
Today, one of the family cars is a Hyundai Santa Fe, and the Neon’s likely replacement will be either a Toyota RAV4 or a Ford Flex, both of which would disappoint Nick.
But Nick, if only you made money for me, I’d be choosing between a new Charger, Camaro, or Mustang.
Naw! I’m pretty boring in my car choices. Just give me something practical with a big ass stereo in it.