Monday, January 12, 2004

S U Voila
The local TV Newsmimbo was showing an SUV. An un-crashed one.

Momentarily stepping out of his familiar role of scaring the shit out of us with grisly highway accidents, violent crimes, war, and Republican victory celebrations, the mimbo stepped into another familiar role: shill for giant corporations.

On this night, he was covering the Detroit Auto Show, giving priceless free advance advertising to -- among other vehicles -- the massive, new Toyota Indignity, the auto industry's latest winking bitch-slap to the environment, safe drivers and weapons-poor, oil-rich countries.

The SUV sat on a stage atop an enormous lazy Susan and rotated, beguilingly. Its hood gleamed. Its chrome sparkled. The Newsmimbo cooed.

Great, I thought. Just what the world needs: another giant, 9-passenger auto (rarely seen with more than one occupant) with four-wheel drive (never engaged), ready for off-road excitement (never to venture off the pavement).

OK, I'm getting verklempt. I need a moment. Talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic: Sport utility vehicles are neither sporting, utilitarian, nor vehicles. Discuss.

OK, I'm better. Ever since Henry Ford corn-holed the world by developing his petroleum-burning engine instead of his plant-burning engine (because he owned oil-company stocks and, hey, any idiot can raise corn -- where's the cabbage in that?), America has been manipulated non-stop by Big Oil, Big Auto, Big Insurance, Big Highway Contractor, McDonald's and Wal-Mart. (OK, I haven't yet established the link back to McDonald's and Wal-Mart. But you know they're in there. They're in there!)

But wait! Did I hear that Newsmimbo right? Jarring me out of my non-stop eye-rolling reverie over Big-Auto audacity, he said, "the Toyota Highlander [Oops. It isn't called the Indignity. My bad.] is a hybrid vehicle. Available by year's end, this gas-electric SUV will use less gas than compact cars with four-cylinder engines -- less, in fact, than the tiny Ford Focus."

Whaaa?! I made fists and rubbed them on my eyelids. Was I dreaming? In a rare lapse of cynicism, I grew misty-eyed. An auto company doing the right thing?! But it's true: Hybrid vehicles are catching on. In fact, the auto-nerds who vote on such things recently selected the gas-electric hybrid Toyota Prius as the car of the year. Those babies get 60 miles per gallon, even in the city. They're more economical to drive than conventional cars, they pollute less, and they give people like me another way to daydream about being sanctimonious. Oh, what a feeling! (TM).

Quickly, I regained my sarcasm (it had rolled under the coffee table and the dog was chewing on it). A smirk of smartassed-satisfaction came to my face as it dawned on me: Not now, not ten years from now, but someday -- god willing, in my lifetime -- Big Oil is fucked! I truly believe that -- despite the oil-soaked evildoers who have taken over this country, despite America's love affair with driving, despite the trend toward being able to say "hummer" without laughing out loud -- more and more Americans really do recognize deep down that it is wrong to kill people for oil. And that -- not greed -- well, OK, greed -- but not just greed; greed plus fear plus conscience -- is what's driving the demand for hybrid cars.

So, Big Oil, put on something pretty: You're gonna get what's coming to you! (And, with apologies to John Hiatt, just keep those pretty legs showin'. It gets hot down where you're goin.)

Sure, there will be MobileExxon hydrogen fuel cells and BP charging stations, and eventually Marathon dilithium crystals and you will still come up with new and creative ways to rape our natural resources and kill innocent people and steal elections and destroy the planet, but when it comes to spreading misery with fossil fuels, you are screwed.

My advice: Lube up, baby! At least you petroleum people got plenty of jelly for it.