by Jane Smith
Driving a Prius isn’t cool. It’s the exact opposite of cool. Christoph and I are just as aware of this today as we were three years ago when we walked into our local Toyota dealership to look at the new model. We just wanted to browse and get a closer look at the redesigned hybrid. We had no intention of buying.
My husband and I both like cars. We’ve been known to go to car shows together and Top Gear is my idea of Sunday morning television fun. As a matter of fact, I have several categories of dream vehicles preselected for myself should I ever win the lottery and have the disposable income. I’m no gearhead, but I like cars and have since I was a kid. I also enjoy technology and my husband is a tech guru as far as I’m concerned. I walked into that dealership mostly because of a review I had read of the redesigned Prius. Plus, I’d never been inside one and wanted to see for myself.
Turns out Christoph had never seen this breed of Toyota up close either. As is customary, curiosity got the better of us and we slipped inside that dealership for a peek. They had a spotless, pearl white Prius set up in the middle of the showroom and it shone bright like the North Star. I immediately ran up to the car and opened the passenger side door. The first thing I noticed was the crazy looking dash display. It’s centered and completely digital. It also displays some rather wonky looking output.
The gearshift is this little nub of a thing. It’s an odd, blue and silver device that works unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a vehicle. This nubbin is so tiny it’s raised up on an elevated center console. It’s weird, but it works. The fact that the driver’s seat feels like a cockpit in the most Jetson of senses only adds to the futuristic nature of this vehicle. I gotta say, the Prius control panel is a pretty neat thing to behold.
After the initial shock of automotive novelty wore off, Christoph and I examined the rest of the vehicle. That’s when we noticed the supple leather interior, ample trunk space and nifty, high-tech options. We were impressed with the Prius. We had no idea that these cars were intriguing, gas-saving, emissions-minimizing and HOV-lane-access-having vehicles. Sure the automotive styling is a little passive, but if you look up close, its got a sleek exterior that slices through the wind on the highway.
At the time, Christoph had an SUV and was spending entirely too much money on gas each week. He was actually thinking about selling it and getting something new. It just so happened that we were beginning to look at new vehicles when we decided to walk into the Toyota dealership. That was our first mistake.
Our fatal mistake was learning that, with this Prius, I could use the HOV lane during my commute to work. Back then I lived in the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan area. Anyone who has ever driven in D.C. traffic can attest to the fact that it is indeed, Hell on Earth. Any trick to skim some time off that ordeal was worth its weight in gold. Hours and entire afternoons of my life had already been sacrificed to the bitter D.C. traffic gods. I would do just about anything to minimize the time I had to sit in a self-produced cloud of spiteful rage, in gridlock.
It also happens that punctuality was paramount in this previous existence of mine. I had to be on time for work or I would get docked some pay. It was tough first world times. As one of the habitually tardy, I paid the price. The nervous frenzy associated with that kind of precisely enforced punctuality, however, no longer plagues my mornings. I’m thankful for that, but I’m also thankful someone showed me that I should just get to places on time. I learned the hard way folks. I also still struggle to ensure my timeliness. It’s a constant battle and I refuse to give up, but I digress…
The decision to buy the Prius was melodramatic, as most things in my life tend to be. It’s a curse, but at least it keeps things interesting. What I wanted desperately was to get to and from work in under 2 hours. I also knew that the husband and I like to take road trips and this car would save a good deal on gas. To top it all off, we’d be doing the environment a bit of a favor by minimizing emissions if we drove a hybrid. We’re all for trying new things, so we figured we’d give it some thought.
We went home after seeing the Prius, did the math 329 times and decided that we were going to live on the edge and buy one. This would be my husband’s vehicle, but I would drive it daily so I could cheat traffic and use the HOV lane to get me from the boonies to the moderately suburban and highly trafficked area where I used to work. I was hoping this would cut my commute to an hour MAX, each way.
You know what’s sad? The blood in my neck is starting to boil at the thought of fighting traffic back in my hometown.
In an effort to keep my blood pressure stable, I’m going to go ahead and skip to the part where I realized just how much some people hate this vehicle.
As already expressed, I knew the Prius wasn’t the coolest option. What I didn’t realize was that the mere sight of one would also provoke animosity in certain folks.
After buying the car and telling my friends, I got the expected razzing. My sanity was questioned a couple of times. Other times, friends flat out laughed in my face. Still other times, I got the wholly disappointed head shake in response to my new car news.
To tell you the truth, I was OK with all that. I would have made fun of any one of my friends for doing what I’d done. I accepted the mockery knowing full well I could now road trip liberally and not sweat gas prices too much. I also glowed with the inner knowledge that my morning commute was at least 20 minutes shorter, each way.
A year went by and the mockery died down. I had weathered that initial negative front rather nicely and thought it was all behind me. That’s when I met a very amicable and angry Vegas taxi driver.
Christoph and I arrived in Las Vegas to attend a two-day concert. I’m a nerd for my favorite band and I follow them places. Vegas was the latest place to which my musical travels had brought me. Fresh from baggage claim, we shuffled into one of the ridiculous taxi lines at McCarran International Airport. We lucked out and the line moved fast. We got a friendly taxi driver and thought ourselves lucky to be starting the trip on such a positive note.
The flight was great, we found our bags quickly, snagged a cab swiftly and we got a nice guy to take us to our hotel and chat us up along the way. It was all going incredibly smoothly when our cab driver spotted a Prius in the intersection in front of us. This was when the F bombs started dropping in a frenetic rage. I don’t even think the Prius cut us off or anything, the cabbie simply spotted it and became instantly irate.
There was so much “fuck this…” and “fuck that…”that I couldn’t really make out what offended him so much about the car, which he didn’t know we drove. In the back seat, I shot a look of bewildered amusement at my husband and he fired back something similar to me. Without words we agreed to not mention that we drove a Prius. We also let him vent because his vehicular animosity had clearly been building for some time. He needed to get this out. Unfortunately, he got so angry at one point that he started venturing into psycho territory.
As a modern woman living in a rapey country, I gotta be on high alert for psychos at all times. This is why I noticed that our driver was becoming unhinged way before my husband did. Cristoph thought I was overreacting until our cabbie got even louder and angrier. By the time we got to our hotel, we knew he hated the Prius with an epic passion. He hated the people who drove them even more. He thought the vehicle so offensive that it didn’t even deserve to be called a car. “The Prius is a pissant, not a car,” he reminded us as we opened our doors and jumped out of the back seat.
Relieved that we were finally free, Christoph and I shared a nervous laugh and remarked about just how offensive some people found our car. Despite the fact that we had heard several people go off on the subject, none of them ever really verbalized exactly what offended them. Instead they just described their anger in great detail and with lots of emotion.
We shrugged it off our cabbie’s rant because we were in Vegas for a good time and we weren’t going to let the hybrid hate ruin that. We do think of our angry cabbie often, at least I do. I think of him every time someone cuts me off, assuming I’m driving slowly before they realize I’m not at all. I’m reminded of him when people race me at green lights thinking they can easily slip ahead and in front of me. I ponder his passionate hate when drivers get visibly frustrated with me for not slowing down and letting them pass me when they need to get over. It turns out, I think of him a lot because stuff like this happens almost daily.
Recently, some annoying kid was rolling down the street on a skateboard with a friend nearby. He was being reckless and darting into the road enough to get himself hurt and to block the flow of traffic. His friend seemed to recognize this and motioned for him to move closer to the sidewalk. Once he started to scoot over, Christoph sped up to pass them both. The nerve of us trying to get past them offended the Daredevil Skater so much that he yelled out “fuuuck your Prius.” He then immediately summoned a fake laugh and exclaimed, “nice car!”
That was when I got irritated enough to respond. I immediately hit the button to roll down my window, ready to remind the little fucker that he was on a skateboard and shouldn’t talk shit about the grown folks with actual vehicles. Vehicles that could be used to run over assholes like him. Unfortunately, it took the goddamn window so long to roll down that by the time I stuck my head out, I could barely see the skaters.
The only question I have for this Daredevil Skater and the Angry Vegas Cabbie is, “what did the Prius ever do to you?” Actually, I’m going to go ahead and pose that question to everyone since most people seem to have some sort of beef with the world’s most recognizable hybrid. Tell me guys. What has the Prius done to offend your sensibilities? Why the hate? I want to know. Wait; fuck that. I NEED to know. An ill-informed battle is a losing battle and I hate losing.