The tyranny of choice.

The other day I was listening to a story on NPR, about people stuck driving the guzzliest gas guzzlers, and what they were doing about it. I was struck by one man’s interview. He drove a Ford Excursion, the biggest SUV evahr, the station-wagon equivalent of an F-350 SuperDuty pickup truck. The man explained that he needed an extra-large vehicle; he and his wife had five children between them, “so we had no choice” but to buy the Excursion.

Five plus two is seven. That’s how many seats he needed. By my reckoning, that means he could have chosen just about any minivan, and a large number of other SUVs with third-row seating, nearly all of which get better gas mileage than the Excursion. But he had no choice.

Of course, as all adults know, there’s always a choice. It’s just difficult to make sometimes. For instance, yesterday I could have chosen to have something lean and protein-y and vegetable-heavy for lunch, but instead I had a cheese quesadilla. Then I had two Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux cookies for dessert. If only it had been mandatory, but it was a choice. Some of you are feeling smug and superior, the same way I felt about Mr. Excursion. If it makes you feel any better, I went fiber-heavy for dinner (black beans) and took a long bike ride in penance. That was a choice, too.

I hate choices. I especially hate the way they’ve become the behavioral equipment of fiber. Been in an elementary school lately? “Make good choices” is the new “eat from all four food groups.” Earlier this year Kate was scolded by a teacher for the following: A boy threw down a book, and it took a funny bounce and hit a girl in the leg. She gave out a loud, cartoon-y howl of pain, hopping around on one foot, and Kate laughed. Laughing, the teacher said, was “a poor choice.” I wonder what George Carlin would do with that one.

We rail about wanting more control over our world, which means more choices. And then the vacuum cleaner dies, and we go to Sears. First we choose a price range, then we choose a brand, then we choose bagless or not, onboard tools or not, upright or canister, until our heads spin and we howl with pain and go eeny-meeny-miney-moe. There have been times, while buying a household appliance, that I wished I lived in the old Soviet Union. I would have happily gotten on a list and stood in line for five hours if, at the other end of the line, there was one vacuum cleaner, and the choice was: Take it or leave it.

Grumble, grumble.

OK, bloggage:

A particularly smelly Metro Mayhem today: Boy, 1, shot during fight over glasses. Eyeglasses, that is. (Huge, heavy sigh.) And they were probably knockoffs.

Christopher Hitchens speaks ill of the dead, and boy did they deserve it. Jesse Helms, of course.

Oh, and if you have time, prepare to waste it now: Look at what everyone’s uploading to Flickr, in real time, on a rotating globe. Don’t blame me when nothing gets done. (HT: Vince.)

Now, I choose to go to work and write more mediocre prose. Leave a better comment. (It shouldn’t be hard.)

Posted at 10:43 am in Current events, Metro mayhem, Same ol' same ol' |
 

49 responses to “The tyranny of choice.”

  1. john c said on July 8, 2008 at 11:07 am

    The idea of choice is fascinating because it is very difficvult to argue against. I recall an interview a while back (on NPR, of course) with the author of one of those wonkish books. Essentially what he said was that giving people too many choices when it came to health care and retirement planning was a disaster in the making. The ramifications are huge. And the options are simply too complicated for a great many people – not all, mind you, but a great many – to handle. The result is millions upon millions of very bad choices that the government must then try and sort out. But just try and be the politician who stands up and says: I’m for reducing your choice on these important matters. The solution, of course, is to have government we can trust to give us good choices. I’m not there yet. And I trust the government a lot more than most folks.
    As for Excursion-guy: My Buick Enclave easily seats seven and is a lot more fun to drive. And it’s generally been giving me about 20 mpg. As Nancy said, there are a ton of vehicles that seat seven.

  2. john c said on July 8, 2008 at 11:09 am

    By the way, I’m surprised Nancy didn’t mention a classic “only in Detroit” quote in today’s Freep. You know you are a mayor in trouble when this phrase appears in a page one story, reporting on a court hearing, about you: “…the mayor denied having sex with an unidentified Jamaican woman in a barbarshop.”

  3. Sue said on July 8, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Not that I’m defending gas-guzzler owners, but “seating seven” is not the same as “seating seven with all their crap and assorted friends too”.

  4. LAMary said on July 8, 2008 at 11:21 am

    The co-worker I mentioned quite a while ago, the woman who keeps her kid quiet by parking him in front of the TV with a plate of waffles and has TVs in every room so he’s always entertained, had another baby last fall which meant buying a new car to accomodate her two kids. So three months ago, when gas was already close to four bucks, she bought a Nissan Armada, one of the hugest, ugliest SUVs on the market. I figure the sales staff at the Nissan dealer were high fiving as she pulled off the lot. I found out this beast of a car was hers because I always park in the spot on the east side of this car so my car in in the shade in the afternoon. One day as I was leaving I saw her getting in. She said they had to get that car, no choice, since they had the other baby. I see. One preschooler, one baby, three tons of vehicle.
    Anyway, last week she mentioned that she wanted to get rid of the car because it gets bad mileage and gas is expensive. I managed to not look too shocked at this. Seems no one will buy it from her though, and the trade in offers she’s getting will not even cover the payoff on her car loan. She’s being offered less than half what she owes. If only she had a choice way back in April. She doesn’t know what other vehicle will handle kids and a stroller, though. My Beetle would hold that team. I suggested a Honda Odyssey, since a neighbor of mine fits her three kids, her six foot nine husband, and a full sized harp into hers, but the Armada owner said, no, too small.
    I have to say it. She’s stupid. And she votes.

  5. Kirk said on July 8, 2008 at 11:32 am

    The description of that kid hopping around and yowling after getting bopped by the bouncing book made me laugh before I even got to the part about Kate laughing. Guess I need to work on my choices.

  6. Peter said on July 8, 2008 at 11:40 am

    I’ll admit that I’m contributing more than my share to the gas crisis – I drive an Outback and I’m lucky to hit 20 mpg, but my inner Scarlett said back in 2000 – “fiddle dee dee – as God is my witness, I’ll NEVER get stuck in a snowstorm again!”

    I like choices as much as the next human, but some choices are done along the lines of planned obsolescence. And Nancy, my eastern european relatives wouldn’t quite agree with you – the problem wasn’t take it or leave it, it was that the thing was so crappy and defective that you didn’t want to take it – ain’t that right Yugo fans?

  7. john c said on July 8, 2008 at 11:52 am

    As for “seating seven with all their assorted crap too,” if I were as clever as Nancy I’d run out to the Enclave and snap a digital shot of the baseball gear I carry around this time of year, and I’d include it here. One bag has five batting helmets and is about the size of a 6-year-old. The other is a duffel with a few bats, a first aid kit and the catcher’s gear. It’s the size of a large suitcase. The third is a pretty small ball bag, about the size of a briefcase. This all fits without a care, even with the third row up. I’ll admit, a family vacation with seven people would be a challenge. That’s where roof racks come in handy.
    Mind you, I’m not against SUVs and big cars the way many people are. They are safer than small cars. (One fact about high gas prices that I haven’t seen talked about much is this: it will result in an increase in highway deaths as people move back to smaller cars.) I just never quite understood the behemoths, unless you pull a very large boat or haul tons of gear as well as people.

  8. nancy said on July 8, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    I’ve always thought safety in SUVs was oversold, perhaps as a justification for buying the things in the first place. I”m swamped at the moment, but a quick Google took me to this safety roundup, with helpful photo gallery. There is some size correlation, but it’s not absolute — one of the most-dangerous models was an SUV. It would appear the safest cars the the most expensive and the most German — trust Dieter to make the E-class Mercedes the safest cars on the market. But with airbags and halfway-decent engineering, I don’t think smaller cars have to be inherently unsafe. My Passat hardly feels like an orange-juice can. It’s not terribly small, either, but it seats five and gets 31 on the highway.

  9. Catherine said on July 8, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    My Odyssey with a roof rack holds five Brownies, 2 moms and everything you need to go camping. And it gets close to 20 MPG. Oh, and it’s paid for. It’s not that much fun to drive but it’s better than any other minivan. And the crap haulage is unrivaled.

  10. Catherine said on July 8, 2008 at 12:10 pm

    The ironic thing about a teacher urging a child to “make good choices,” is that there is less and less choice for children in most schools today. That goes for both “what” students work on and “how” they work on it. The one-size-fits-all thinking is more prevalent than ever. It’s one possible result of state standards and testing (which I’m not against). Charters are supposed to give families choices, but in many cases they offer very similar curriculum. This is because of the hurdles to getting a charter, put up by districts. I wonder what real choice would look like in an educational setting?

  11. moe99 said on July 8, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    In 1995, our office hosted a delegation from Belarus. We had sent one of our senior antitrust attorneys there for a year to teach them about free markets. This was a payback of sorts. There were 5 men in the delegation plus a political officer. When they got into SeaTac airport the dogs went wild. Seems that they had packed a bunch of fatty bacon in their suitcases along with their many, many bottles of vodka, because you ate the bacon first to absorb the vodka so you could drink that much more. (It was very good vodka, btw)

    As part of our hosting duties, we took them to Costco to see how folks out here shopped. During the tour, one of them asked the Costco guide, “what happens when you run out?” He could not believe it when the Costco representative cheerfully replied, “We just get more shipped in.”

  12. Connie said on July 8, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    My five year old Grand Caravan gets about 21 mpg. We are committed to no new cars until after the two remaining years of college to pay for, but I have been wishing for something small with better mileage. But then how would two or three people with a weeks worth of groceries get to the cottage once a year. Ha.

    I was one of three kids, and we regularly piled our family of five into whatever was the current largest Buick or Oldsmobile made.

  13. nancy said on July 8, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I dunno about you guys, but I foresee a day when our two cars consist of a) something that goes pretty well in the snow, and; b) something electric, hybrid or otherwise very very small. Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, etc. Seating for three or four, maybe. Essentially, a 1.5-car family.

    Either that, or a best-seller for Nance. I don’t really see how we’ll handle $7/gallon gas any other way.

  14. LAMary said on July 8, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Our household car configuration for two teenage kids and two adults is one VW Beetle and one VW Passat wagon. Between the two we can handle pretty much any large cargo, vet trips or Home Depot runs.

  15. coozledad said on July 8, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    Outside of Danville, VA, there’s a construction firm that has a bunch of vehicles out front, in various states of disrepair. One of them is an old Checker limousine with about twelve rows of seats in it. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
    My wife lusts after it, but I’ve told her I’d have to get an engineering degree to even move it off the lot.
    I’m trying to talk her into getting one of these:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messerschmitt_KR200

  16. Edward Carney said on July 8, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    Moscow on the Hudson (1984). Robin Williams plays Vladimir Ivanoff, a musician with a Russian circus touring the U.S. He defects. Later in the film he is in a supermarket to buy coffee.

    Vladimir: Coffee line, please?

    Employee: Aisle….No line, though.

    Vladimir (in a series of quick cuts of the items named):
    “Taster’s Choice…
    “…decaffeinated…
    “…Maxwell House, El Pico…
    “…Chock Full O’Nuts, espresso…
    “…cappuccino, Café Français…
    “…Sanka, Folger’s…
    “…Café Caribe.”
    “Coffee. Coffee! Coffee!”
    (He passes out and is revived by a paramedic who tells him, as I recall, “You should have seen yours truly when I came from Bombay. With me it was cereal.”)
    HT: Drew’s Script-O-Rama for the transcription. (http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/m/moscow-on-the-hudson-script.html

  17. ellen said on July 8, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    failblog.org = more time-wasting internet fun/copyeditor porn

  18. Gasman said on July 8, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    As to the Christopher Hitchens speaking ill of dead-not-soon-enough Jesse Helms, it was with great incredulity that I read Marc Thiessen’s decidely re-constructionist assessment of his benefactor:
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/06/AR2008070601767.html?nav=slate

    It seems to me that in this article, Mr. Thiessen’s intent is to make himself appear less foolish for having been so closely associated professionally with such a mental and moral pygmy. From my perspective, it is a rather laughably transparent attempt to repair his own sense of respectability by grossly inflating Helms’ status and glossing over his idiocy and racism. Jesse Helms was a bigoted moron and no amount of retroactive polishing of his record can change that. As Christopher Hitchens unflinching obit on Helms points out, he was woefully uninformed about basic facts concerning world politics, the constitution, and what it means to be a compassionate human being.

    Helms was a homophobic racist that would have gleefully turned back the calendar on segregation, Jim Crow, and maybe even slavery itself. He represented the basest, most hateful and ignorant elements within our society. He was not mainstream anything.

  19. moe99 said on July 8, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    “I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.”
    Clarence Darrow

  20. colleen said on July 8, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    When did it become law that you had to have a humongo car when you spawned? At one point, both of our family cars were TWO DOORS.

    And as for hauling stuff….we got an old fashioned porch swing with its “rack” home in my husband’s PT Cruiser, AND we both were seated with seatbelts on the way home.

    Yes. There is always a choice, and “because I wanted one, that’s why” is often the reason behind the choice.

  21. joodyb said on July 8, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    thank you, connie. that’s where my thinking was leading. besides the fact that 98 percent of americans are spatially challenged and don’t even try to transport objects, we are total 60s zombies when it comes to a car. except for those jon&kate+8 types – which contrary to any MSM blather is NOT the new family (and despite the spate of suburban moms status-spawning over the past decade) – how many times a year do you have more than 4 people in a vehicle? i counted none in 2007.
    does no one remember gas lines? it absolutely kills me to waste a trip anywhere for anything. and i was like that before 1974.
    i blame reagan, but then i blame him for just about everything.

  22. Jen said on July 8, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    One woman I know routinely transports herself, her husband and at least two of her three children in her PT Cruiser, along with a lot of their stuff. They also have a big gas guzzler (maybe an Escalade), but she said she much prefers the PT Cruiser.

    I, too, have a Cruiser, and although I don’t have any children, I find it very easy to put at least two adults in the backseat (we’ve had three back there before), and its cargo area is deceptively large. The only SUV I think I’d be comfortable driving is a Ford Escape or some SUV similar in size (in a hybrid, if I could), because anything else seems too extravagant, and I flat-out refuse to drive a mini-van.

  23. Sue said on July 8, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    You folks are forgetting something very important in your olden-days car discussion: the trauma of being children 3 through infinity in one of those old-fashioned cars. YOU NEVER GOT A WINDOW. The two oldest kids ALWAYS got the windows, even if you called it first. I say we can’t go back to the good old days of car design unless everyone agrees to SHARE THE WINDOWS.
    And let’s not forget the lack of air conditioning.

  24. LAMary said on July 8, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    We used to pack five kids, two dogs and two adults into a Ford station wagon in the fifties. No AC, a cigar smoking father, and one the dogs was flatulent. Good times.

  25. Peter said on July 8, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    LA Mary, I used to brag/complain about being in the backseat of my Dad’s ’56 Chevy as we went down the Stevenson past the operating stockyards or through Gary and the steel mills, but it pales in comparison to your comment. May karma reward you in the next life and you’ll be a hummingbird in a fragrant field.

  26. Dexter said on July 8, 2008 at 6:30 pm

    The selling points of the Navigators and such were based on safety. As in “if you drive a subcompact you are out-of-date, buddy! Get with it!”
    And I remember going to the MSU-UM game in 1997, I think it was, in East Lansing. I was driving a Mercury Lynx and I was parked in between two brand new black Lincoln Navigators.
    I’m a big guy but I felt like the 98 pound weaklling in the old comic-book Charles Atlas ads.
    Now, as a Toledo car dealer told me three weeks ago, “people now realize the Navigators and Excursions were just too much truck.” Thank god.

  27. moe99 said on July 8, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    LA Mary, your post reminded me of a trip to Coldwater Lake during my childhood. 5 kids 2 parents and a dog in the back well of the second seat of a station wagon, that my father would turn around every so often to swat because she could not stay still. I can’t remember which dog it was (we went through 6 in Defiance), probably Duchess the boxer.

  28. del said on July 8, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    A couple of years ago a book came out called The Paradox of Choice. See wikipedia. Thesis: too many choices cause anxiety. Three years ago our Swiss au pair was totally freaked by the choices in our stores.

    Small cars would be a heckuva lot safer if others weren’t driving ginormous SUVs

    Dexter, that was a great game. 6 interceptions thrown by MSU.

  29. LAMary said on July 8, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    “Small cars would be a heckuva lot safer if others weren’t driving ginormous SUVs”

    My thoughts exactly, del. There will always be trucks of course, but how about we lose the huge SUVs frequently operated by people who don’t have any idea how to drive something that large.

  30. basset said on July 8, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    >>an old Checker limousine with about twelve rows of seats

    That would be, I believe, a Checker Aerobus. can’t seem to get a link inserted here… try http://aerobus.homestead.com/Aerobus.html

    shouldn’t be too hard to work on, actually. the Aerobuses had small-block Chevy engines, and for most of its existence Checker was so cash-poor that it used mostly other manufacturers’ mechanical parts. AMC was the same way… when I was in high school we had a ’73 Hornet with a Chrysler transmission, GM Delco electrics, and Ford carburetor & manifold.

    Difficult trips… I work with a guy who spent a long 4th of July weekend driving from Nashville to Amarillo and back. With his wife and three small kids. In a Corolla.

    (edit… well, how about that… just pasted that Aerobus address into my text and it showed up as a link. What’ll they think of next…)

    Peter… lucky to get 20 mpg in an Outback? what’s up with that? my 07 gets 29-30 combined, mainly going back and forth to work, and my best highway mileage yet is 37.1 doing a steady 60 on flat ground.

  31. coozledad said on July 8, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    Basset: That’s the one. You’re a legend.
    I drive a 98 Subaru Postal and it gets around 22-24 mpg.
    I never responded to the recall notice about the brake fluid leak on the front axle. I figured I’d done more damage to it driving over stumps delivering certified letters. I drove it four years on the route, which should have killed it, but it’s fine.
    If I’d wash it every now and then , it wouldn’t look so bad, but my wife used to drive it to work near a semipro baseball park, and the hood is pitted with steroid-fueled pop flys. So what the hell, really.

  32. beb said on July 8, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    Kate’s school experience is the essence of comedy. If it had been typed it would have been a sure bet for America’s Funniest Videos. Of course the girl who was hit by the book may not find it asfunny as other people, and one should express some sympathy towards her. But what makes teachers seem like such hopeless squares is their instinct to protect victims from embarassment.

    I drove a Geo Metro for 12 years. I’m a big man – 6’2″, 300# – and I found the Metro comfortable inside. Of course two people in the front was a little cramped and the back seat was a joke but it had sweet mileage. It was a little scarey driving next to semis because their wheels are nearly as tall as the Metro. Our other car at the time was a Caravan, a nice car, especially when one has a young child. (It’s amazing how much stuff one believes one needs to take along on trips.) I was astonished the first time I saw an Expedition because it made our Caravan look small. Nobody needs that much car I thought at the time.

    Choice is a tyranny, at least when I go to a restaurant. Every thing sounds good and nothing sounds so much better than anything else. MacDonalds had it right, originally – hamburger, coke and fries, and shake and nothing else. No choice but adequate food.

  33. nancy said on July 8, 2008 at 11:08 pm

    I knew a woman who owned a Checker Marathon in New York City, back when there were still a fair number of them on the streets as taxicabs. And even then, fixing the thing was always a big ordeal. The simplest repairs required long hospital stays, mainly spent hunting down the parts. You’re better off with the Subaru.

  34. Gasman said on July 8, 2008 at 11:21 pm

    Not everyone who drives a gas guzzler does so totally by choice. I wish I had the option of driving something small, but I transport lots of stuff on a daily basis. The smaller of our two vehicles, a mid size SUV, is just big enough to carry my average load. I am getting killed by these gas prices. It hasn’t happened yet, but I bet I could spend $100 to fill the tank on my pickup truck. If I want to continue doing what I do professionally, I pretty much need something that sucks massive amounts of gas.

    However, I cannot pass on my increased costs to my clients, because they are getting crunched too. If I raise my prices, I believe that I would lose much of my business. I just have to grit my teeth and limit the number of trips I make.

  35. joodyb said on July 8, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    folks in europe seem to get along fine with their frighteningly little cars. saw euroversion of blessed passat in paris – it seemed as big as a navigator!
    gas there ranges $5.50/gal (and that is the gallon not litre price). so i guess we’re only now coming in line w/rest of globe, at last. i say suck it up, yanks.

  36. Dexter said on July 9, 2008 at 12:29 am

    del…I’m a UM fan…that game was the one where Charles Woodson (Heisman winner) jumped into the sky and made a one-handed interception on the sideline…it was the greatest interception in Michigan football history…I have a Freep poster of it, all framed in my garage.

    Gasoline averages $8.80 a gallon in France now. I watch the entire Tour de France live on Versus Network. It’s educational to see the cars the French drive, aside from all the “camper cars” that are rented by tour fans every year. Oh…for you patriots, the two US cycling teams are doing very well in the tour. OK…I’m different…while millions watched Wimbleton tennis, I watched the tour , and I say hockey is the best sport for TV ,after football. Baseball is sorta my life’s passion, but TV does it no justice…ya gotsta B there.
    Oil fell five bucks yesterday,. and Mad Money Cramer said that it looks like five dollar gas may never happen. Yeah,. right….

  37. Dexter said on July 9, 2008 at 1:06 am

    Mort Zuckerman invests $150 million for new color presses for The Daily News

  38. Jen said on July 9, 2008 at 7:24 am

    I saw someone driving a Smart car the other day. Of course, they were on every street when I went to Europe three years ago, but they’re just now getting over here.

    Their website is: http://www.smartusa.com/

    You can fit two of them in a parking space, and they get around 40-45 mpg, according to the website. It wouldn’t be particularly effective for anyone who needs to haul children around, but I’d love to have it for driving around town! I’d just be afraid a huge SUV would come along and smoosh it flat.

  39. basset said on July 9, 2008 at 8:03 am

    for about ninety percent of my driving, I’d do fine with one of these:

    http://tatanano.inservices.tatamotors.com/tatamotors/

    it’s a $2500 car made in India…and it really is, as some are calling it, the Model T of the new century. it’s going to put the Third World on wheels the same way the T did in the USA ninety years ago.

    Checker repairs… I don’t doubt some of the parts were hard to find, they mostly used Chevy engines and transmissions from the early Sixties on (and the occasional Perkins diesel), but they did make many of the body panels and such themselves.

    as square and heavy as those things were, I suspect they got horrible gas mileage… the company’s still going, though, making stampings and parts, mostly for GM.

    the Smart… I sat in one at the dealer recently, didn’t get to drive it but it seemed comfortable and I’m 6-1 and close to 300 lb. anything that short would be really twitchy on the highway.

  40. coozledad said on July 9, 2008 at 8:52 am

    Yeah, Nancy: I’ll wind up driving the Subaru till it falls apart. I’ve had a “project car” before, and it was both hideous and dangerous. It was a 74 AM General Postal jeep.
    I bought it at auction for $200.00, and was thrilled with it. The only thing that appeared to be wrong with it was a squeaky water pump. I sprayed some WD-40 on that sucker and fixed it right up.
    The plan was to paint it a sort of milky forest green, and add wooden paneling to the sides, a luggage rack to the top, and chrome plated safety flooring to the dashboard and floor.
    But plans change, especially when you don’t have a pot to piss in. I wound up giving it a dusting of Massey-Ferguson Red with my Wagner Power Painter (taking special care to avoid getting it on the tires) and fashioning a luggage rack from some galvanized pipe. When I first drove into the parking lot of the post office where I worked, the station manager nearly shit himself.
    Soon, problems began to present themselves. I took a curve a little quickly one day, and the sliding door slid off its track and spun into a customer’s yard. He stood on his porch spitting while I rehung it. Not long after that, the neutral safety switch started to fail. I first noticed this when I’d stopped on a long stretch of dirt road to take a leak. I’d just started to relieve myself when the jeep put itself in reverse and began backing down the road. I ran leaking after it, and just manged to throw myself behind the steering wheel by grabbing the support post of the windshield.
    That’s when I knew the sonofabitch was trying to kill me.
    Things went downhill from there. After a local mechanic claimed to have fixed the safety switch, I was loading it in the parking lot one morning. I left it running while I stepped in the office to pick up my accountable mail, and I’d just gotten back on the dock in time to see it pop into reverse, cross the parking lot, and clock a city carrier’s Honda Civic.
    I jumped up and down and pulled at my hair and said things, I’m afraid, and became part of the oral history of that office from that day forward.

  41. nancy said on July 9, 2008 at 9:03 am

    You should live in Detroit, Cooze. You’d be the hit of every backyard cookout with stories like that.

  42. coozledad said on July 9, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Thank you, Nancy. I’d wear out my welcome pretty quickly once folks noticed how fast the alcoholic beverages were disappearing.
    I’ve actually been trying to email you some photos of the farm and its denizens, but have failed. You can see some here:
    http://rurritable.wordpress.com/
    and http://www.flickr.com/photos/2876709@NO4/
    Please forgive my blogwhoring.

  43. LAMary said on July 9, 2008 at 10:37 am

    Hundred dollar fillups are not the future here. Cheap gas is 4.55 per gallon. More common is 4.75. My beetle takes 58 dollars to fill up. It’s amazing how long you can make a tank of gas last if you have to. We’re getting our money’s worth from our bus/train passes these days.

  44. Sue said on July 9, 2008 at 10:44 am

    “Baseball is sorta my life’s passion, but TV does it no justice…ya gotsta B there.”
    I disagree, Dexter, TV is very good for watching baseball. I love watching the players up close; I swear some of them are as gorgeous as dancers. And how can you make fun of some of the batting stances, and wonder why the batting coaches don’t smack the players for said stances, without that over-the-pitcher’s-shoulder view? Big view, maybe you do have to be there, but the small beauty of baseball is wonderful to behold up close. But then I was brought up on WGN baseball, which was doing it right decades before anyone else.

  45. LAMary said on July 9, 2008 at 10:56 am

    I find listening to baseball on the radio while doing some mindless chore very soothing. The time spent cleaning grout or scraping dead leaves out of gutters moves along much faster with a ball game in the background.

  46. Marie said on July 9, 2008 at 11:14 am

    I recall a childhood trip to McDonald’s with my grandparents, my brother, and my sister. My grandpa — notoriously cheap — charged up to the counter and said, “I’ll have five Big Macs and five waters” without asking any of us what we wanted.

    My ordering style has always been that of Sally (ie. Meg Ryan’s character in “When Harry Met Sally”), so at the time, I was disgusted. A Big Mac? With a pickle and mustard? Yuck! I wanted Chicken McNuggets! (With honey, not ketchup!)
    Some days when I’m stressing over choices, I think of my grandpa and tell myself to just order something already, dammit.

    The downside of our small midwestern town is that my grocery shopping options are 1) Big chain store with too many choices and 2) Slightly smaller big chain store with almost as many choices. As a decision-challenged person, I’ve found I have to set a time limit for my grocery shopping or I’ll be at it all day, debating — buttered-top wheat bread? whole grain? split top?

    To Kate: I would have laughed, too.

  47. LAMary said on July 9, 2008 at 11:39 am

    We’ve got outposts of the UK chain Tesco’s here now, called Fresh and Easy. Fewer choices, good prices on most things, and good quality on items like produce and bread. They started off kind of rough, but they seem to have figured out their market.

  48. joodyb said on July 9, 2008 at 4:19 pm

    mea culpa for the stale gas-price citation. yikes. that was only 3 months ago!

  49. basset said on July 9, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    AM General Postal Jeep… made in Elkhart in a former Studebaker truck plant, that pretty much says it all right there. some of the early ones even have leftover Studebaker steering gear.

    and, of course, there’s a Checker connection… saw on one of the Checker-history sites last night that they used Studebaker wheels and brakes until 1969, which is pretty unusual considering that Studebaker quit making cars in the USA at the end of 1963. I guess Checker bought a powerful load of Stude parts and just took awhile to run them out.