My New Prius

Those of you who read me regularly know I have had some serious car issues. There was my poor Audi, which was hit in Utah by Buck, the twelve-point male deer around Thanksgiving a few years ago. Then there were the minor accidents I kept having in LA, where parking is complicated by hidden nightmares like cement poles that are supposed to mark the spots, but only serve to dent my fenders. Then there was the rental car that was towed. I had no idea what kind of car it was, which made it difficult to pick it up at a lot where it was hidden among hundreds of other cars that were recognizable to their drivers. Never did find that car.

But I have recently added a new car to my fleet. My name is Christine, and I bought a Prius. I wish to be a stronger member of the “I want to leave a smaller carbon footprint on the world” club, and since ice cream and my advancing years are making my physical person larger, I’m working on making my footprint smaller. Membership in this club calls for thoughtful spending and usage of resources, so I followed my little sister’s lead and bought a Prius.

When I was test driving it, the very nice and patient sales person, a friend of my cousin Cliff’s, explained that the correct way to drive a Prius is to hit the gas pedal gently, which allows for slower acceleration and less gas consumption. They even put this gauge on the dashboard that shows you how many miles per gallon you are getting, so you can actually see that the slower you accelerate, the less gas you use. At its best, a Prius can get 100 miles per gallon. This is a good thing… or so you would think. But truthfully, it’s beginning to get on my nerves, to say nothing of the other drivers behind me. I now glance from the road to the gauge over and over again throughout any driving expedition, trying to keep that line over 50 miles to the gallon. This was fun for a day or two, but not so much now. And while I grant you my Mario Andretti ways were probably not in the best interest of the environment, my ridiculous granny-driving is greatly reducing my billable hours per week.

Then there is the problem with the sound of the engine. The engine makes no sound, and there is no key in the ignition, which is another thing that seemed like a great idea when I bought the car, but is now a nightmare. I keep leaving the car running overnight. When you stop and put the car in park, there is no sound, which makes it easy to forget to press the “power off” button if you are on the phone (hands-free of course), or just thinking about important things like whether you remembered to TIVO Oprah’s latest Master Class. How many times have I left it on, you ask? I’m almost sixty and my memory—especially short-term—doesn’t serve me well, but I can safely say it’s more than five, and I have had the car for three months. Okay, that’s a lie, I have had the car two months.

But the biggest problem centers around interaction with people. I am not a friendly person by nature. I realize that sounds bad, and I don’t mean it to be, but I am busy trying to be a strong, thoughtful friend and family member, and time is a precious commodity. That means I don’t have a lot of time to make new friends in parking lots, which they never mentioned when I bought the car is a “benefit” of belonging to the “I Own A Prius” club. Membership automatically comes with purchase; it’s not opt-in, and unless you want to feel really bad about yourself as a part of the human race, there is no easy way to resign.

“Oh, I see you have a Prius. I’m thinking of getting one. Do you like it?”

“Oh, I have a Prius too! Don’t you love yours? Can you believe the gas mileage?”

“Oh, would you mind if I got inside? I just want to see if it feels as small as it looks from the outside!”

This last one is especially upsetting, because you are not supposed to let strangers in your car, so I always get out of the car and say, “Try the driver’s side.” This is problematic because I always forget to turn the car off, especially when I’m distracted by someone at my side window, and they could easily drive away and leave me standing on the corner dialing 911—assuming I remembered to remove my cell phone, which hooks into the car’s telephone system.

This last thing I am about to tell you is a secret because it’s really bad and I hate to share it with the world, but here it is. I was really feeling low a few weeks ago, sitting in my car listening to Adele, and sure enough, when I parked, there was someone waiting to ask me about the car. I pretended to be deaf. Yes, deaf. I know, I know. But that is what I did, and it wasn’t until later that I realized that since I was listening to Adele at a zillion decibels, they likely figured out that I was lying. To say nothing of the fact that I no longer live in LA, where the likelihood of twice running into someone you met in a parking lot is a lot lower than it is here in Cape Cod, where only I and a few others choose to live in the dead of winter. I’m sorry, and I will never do it again.

But I do feel good when I get into my Prius. I do. I feel proud of myself. I am happy that I am saving about as much as I am paying for the car in less gas used—or at least my feeble financial mind thinks so. All in all, it’s one of the best purchases I’ve ever made, and I am happy to be a part of the club. I just wish I could be a silent member.

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