Toyota Pious

I drove twice this week, in two different cars, for two different reasons. Although the Old Dominion has pledged to increase intercity rail, the service doesn't yet include Blacksburg, so once again I Metro-ed to National Airport and picked up a rental. Imagine my glee in seeing a patient Prius in the Emerald Aisle next to a line of SUV's looking like angry toasters. The Prius was green...really, not just metaphorically. My husband and I had rented one once before in California for a trip from San Francisco to Yosemite. We took to calling it our "Pious," so righteous did we feel silently and efficiently rolling through that precious landscape.

So, pious once more, I headed down 81. The Pius is great at positive feedback. I constantly glanced at my energy consumption performance as I dodged 18 wheel beasts. 53. That was my average mpg: 53! Yeah. That’s right. More than my age, less than my IQ, and a heck of a lot better than the various Pontiac products that usually dominate the rental choices. Still, I would have preferred the train.

Yesterday was Zip truck day. Sometimes one must haul mulch, and those times were made for Zip truck. My usual mulch-hauler is Tonya the Toyota; she lives on 18th Street in one of those challenging back-in-at-an-angle spaces. I felt very odd driving through the city in a truck, feeling oddly tall and wide. (Does this truck make me look fat?) Not only because I'm not a regular driver, I’m also not a truck driver. I found myself puzzled by one way streets, no left turns (surely either a subtle warning or an actual conservative plot on the District) and getting riled up by arrogant pedestrians acting like they own the place. Fortunately, I parked, tapped Tonya good bye on the windshield and with canvas bags in hand walked up to the grocery store. And my blood pressure returned to normal.

Acres of cars sit unsold and forlorn--buy me! buy me!--and our newly elected President and Congress have vowed that the US without an auto industry is like a day without orange juice…or whatever. Yet, I can't help but think that individual car ownership is just so 20th century and that we really need to think differently. I would never have bought both a Prius, for highway travel and a truck for mulch-hauling and a Mini for errands. Zip gives me all those options, tailored to suit each purpose.

The Big 3 are falling all over themselves and each other to get people to buy cars offering incentive after another. Maybe they’ll start to throw in chauffeurs next. But there is nothing, not one thing, that would entice me to buy a car. Nada. Zilch. Nihil. Why own when you can share?

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