Everyone should drive an aircraft carrier

Sport utility vehicles – don’t ya just love ’em?

There’s no getting around it, SUVs are the automobile of choice for today’s trendy motorists. If it weighs 87,000 pounds, looks like a bank vault on wheels and costs more than your kid’s tuition at Stanford, you’ve just got to have one in your driveway.

Everybody seems to want one, but the reasons behind this unprecedented wave of SUV popularity are rather elusive.

Admittedly, some SUVs have been purchased by golfers who’ll buy just about anything as long as you can convince them that they’ll be able to stuff just one more set of clubs into it. Others are driven by federal marshals who need a tough, reliable vehicle to deport escaped Republicans and crazed serial killers to places like Wisconsin.

Many SUVs also have been purchased by thirty-something couples who have a dozen kids, three golden retrievers and a riding lawnmower, all of which they take with them wherever they go.

The rest of the nation’s eager sport utility vehicle purchasers, however, are a bit of a mystery. They seem to be driven only by a desire to spend $40,000 for an aircraft carrier on wheels that has all the nimble maneuverability of a dead rhinoceros and the fuel efficiency of an oil field fire.

If you ask these folks why they need an SUV, you’ll be met with a nervous giggle and a blank stare, followed by several fistfuls of cash thrown in your general direction in an attempt to make you go away.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of this trend is that many wet-behind-the-ears SUV owners have virtually no knowledge of sport utility etiquette. They’re just bouncing down the freeways like BBs in a box car without the slightest clue about how to behave in a vehicle that weighs as much as the average three-bedroom home.

Here are a few tips to keep you SUV neophytes out of trouble:

* Turn signals – These are an outdated, leftover option from a bygone era. Don’t waste your time with them. If somebody can’t figure out that the Titanic has just drifted into their lane, they probably ought to stay off the road.

* On the interstate – Always use the left, or “fast” lane on freeways and try to maintain a speed of roughly 50 mph while simultaneously talking on your cell phone, swatting your kids and sipping a latte. (Swatting your latte and talking to your kids is an acceptable option). Don’t worry about the 18 motorists stacked up behind you, they’re just admiring your SUV and wishing they had one.

* Traffic lanes in general – Hey, for what you paid to get that SUV you deserve to use at least a couple of these – simultaneously.

* ‘Compact only’ parking – If you play your cards right and maneuver your millennium mammoth with care, you’ll be able to take up three of these spaces. The same goes for handicapped parking spaces if you don’t mind putting up with a lot of silly whining.

* Entering traffic – Whenever possible, bounce out of driveways and side streets with plenty of enthusiasm, then come to a dead stop, blocking one of more lanes of traffic while you fumble for your mineral water and squash racket (Jack Daniels and ax handle if you live in the Allendale region…).

* Sidewalks – Hey, they’re your playground, amigos…

Originally published February 18, 2001

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