Is that ol’ SUV right for you?

As gasoline prices skyrocket and parking places seem to shrink, many once-proud sport utility vehicle owners are asking themselves if they made the right choice when they purchased a 58,000-pound land barge for personal transportation.

If you’re one of these uncertain SUV owners, here’s an easy quiz you can take to find out if you really need to drive an aircraft carrier back and forth to the bowling alley, or if you’re better off with, say, a 1993 Chevrolet Cavalier.

It’s a simple 1-to-4-point scoring system that even Humvee owners should be able to understand.

  • Where do you live?
  • a) In your SUV (4)
  • b) Apartment (0)
  • c) Subdivision (1)
  • d) On a farm (2)
  • e) In a swamp (3 points)
  • How are you employed?
  • a) Rhino poacher (4)
  • b) Game warden (3)
  • c) Lumberjack (2)
  • d)Federal marshal responsible for transporting captured terrorists (1)
  • e) Accountant (0)
  • How many children under 18 years of age do you have living at home?
  • a) Eight or more (4)
  • b) Five to seven (3)
  • c) Three to four (2)
  • d) One to two (1)
  • e) None (0)
  • What kind of exotic pets do you regularly travel with?
  • a) Ocelot (4)
  • b) Alligator (3)
  • c) Boa constrictor (2)
  • d) South American carnivorous tree frog (1)
  • e) Yorkshire terrier (0)

(NOTE: If you travel with more than one of the aforementioned exotic pets, three alligators, for example, score appropriately for each animal. YORKSHIRE EXCEPTION: If you regularly carry four or more Yorkies in your SUV, give yourself a 12 and – once you’re off the road – a stiff shot of bourbon).

  • With whom do you regularly travel (five to seven days a week)?
  • a) Your daughter’s junior high school field hockey team (4)
  • b) Michael Jackson (3)
  • c) Your spouse’s methamphetamine rehab group (2)
  • c) Your Uncle Roscoe, who likes to clean firearms while traveling down winding, pot-holed roadways (1)
  • d) Yourself (0)

SCORING: If you scored 17 or higher, you probably need an SUV (and possibly a personal assistant with a tranquilizer gun).

If you scored 12 to 16, you might need an SUV. If you’re still not sure, multiply the number of field hockey players by the number of boa constrictors, divide by two and flip a coin. If it’s “heads,” keep the SUV.

If you scored 5 to 12, you’d probably be just as happy with a used Buick Roadmaster station wagon or a 1953 Dodge stake-bed truck.  (Really. I wouldn’t kid you on this…)

If you scored 0 to 5, you don’t need an SUV, you need a life. Go to church, read a book, take up yoga, paint your dog. Do something before you turn into a human doorstop, dude…

Originally published June 22, 2005.

Jadiasuvs threaten California highways

I was motoring peacefully down Interstate 80 with my old ’60s sidekick Sapper not too long ago when a king-sized sport utility vehicle lumbered onto the freeway in front of us, slowed to 45 mph, drifted back to the road shoulder, sped up to about 70 and then shot back to the center divider before stabilizing itself between two lanes and drifting east like an overburdened Lithuanian freighter.

“What’s wrong with that guy?” I muttered.

“It’s jadiasuv, bro, jadiasuv. Been goin’ on for years and it ain’t gettin’ any better, either,” Sapper declared, enthusiastically gnawing on a large slab of beef jerky.

Sapper, I should point out, isn’t always easy to understand.

Forever lost in Age of Aquarius after ingesting some unidentified herbs near Bolinas in 1968, his communications can sometimes be on the cryptic side.

“Jaddasoov?” I asked.

“Na, bro – ‘jadiasuv.’  It’s one o’ them words you make up out of letters from other words that mean something. You know, an acrimoniouszym.  It stands for ‘Just Another Doofus In An SUV.’ What we just saw was a jadiasuv.”

The phenomenon, he continued, has been around for more than a decade, “ever since SUVs got popular with dot-com yuppies with more money than brains…”

Suddenly, he continued, the roads were filled with motor vehicles the size of aircraft carriers driven by pointy-headed little folks whose previously most challenging automobile had probably been a 3-year-old Toyota Camry.

“They buy a lot of Eddie Bauer shirts, too – the scratchy wool lumberjack kind, ya know?” Sapper added.

Uh-huh.

Many, he intoned ominously, are suspected of being golfers.

“Real rugged outdoor types, Pebble Beach pioneers. Ya know they’re diamonds in the rough because they’ve got, like, heated passenger seats and dual climate controls…”

Sapper was getting somewhat agitated, evidenced by the fact that he had abandoned his beef jerky and was gnawing industriously on his shoulder harness.

The rest of the conversation was a little hard to follow, but Sapper did point out all the danger signs of being in close proximity to a jadiasuv.  I’ll share then with you because it’s way better than climbing up on a broken chair to try, unsuccessfully, to fix the clunky newsroom clock again today…

* You’re in the presence of a jadiasuv if the vehicle next to you on the interstate is roughly the same size as your neighbor’s duplex.

* You’re in the presence of a jadiasuv if the vehicle next to you is so next to you that it’s two feet into your lane (reach out and tap on the window to let the alleged motorist know that you’re there).

* You’ve encountered a jadiasuv in heavy snow or rain if all you can see of the vehicle is its stationary basketball court-sized roof because the driver thought engaging his four-wheel drive would allow him to drive through 12-foot deep floodwaters or through an 18-foot snow drift.

* You’re behind a jadiasuv if it’s doing 35 mph in the fast lane of the freeway.

* You’re in front of a jadiasuv if it’s tailgating you at 80 mph in the slow lane of the freeway.

Happy motoring, amigos…

Originally published November 9, 2003

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