A Message from a Window
It's 7am on March 29, 2006 and I'm driving into the city in my Chevy Suburban that I bought a little over a month ago. The price of gas is $2.70 a gallon and on the radio there is a discussion concerning SUV's (Sport Utility Vehicles) and gasoline consumption. As I approach the next intersection the signal light turns red and I and the vehicles in front of me come to a stop. I look at the car in front of me and I see a message printed on the inside of the rear window of a VW Jetta. The message reads "My Jetta gets 49 mpg. Enjoy your SUV!".
A Chevy Suburban is hardly an SUV. Let's face it, there's nothing "S" (sport) about it. However, most people consider a Suburban an SUV, so I read the Jetta's window message as if it had been intended for me. The following are the thoughts that went through my head as I sat at the intersection waiting for the signal to turn green.
Forty-nine miles to the gallon. That's pretty good. I had a car that got similar gas mileage, it was a Mitsubishi Lancer. It was great for commuting, delivering pizzas (I used to work for Dominoes), and for any other light duty, quick trips to the store. The Lancer was very roomy inside, for a compact car. I remember taking 3 of my friends to lunch in it and all 4 of us were comfortable. Although we were certainly not comfortable enough to take any long trips in it. The first week I had the Lancer I remember taking it on my once a week shopping trip. (I should explain here that I wait until the weekend to do my shopping. This allows me to make one trip, in a circuit, to buy all of my groceries, hardware items, landscaping supplies, etc...) The first stop was Wal-Mart. That was the last time I went to Wal-Mart with the Lancer or took the Lancer for my weekly shopping run. I couldn't fit what I bought into the car! So I had to make multiple trips! Gas mileage is great, but if I have to make multiple trips to one store, or single trips to each store, then I'm wasting not only gas, but time as well.
As I thought about my Suburban and how it allows me to save gas and time compared to the Lancer I began to think about all of the other advantages the the Suburban has that allow me to reduce my impact on the environment.
When I had my lancer my coworkers and I would go to lunch together we would sometimes take 3 or 4 vehicles. But with my Suburban we only took one. So there were 3 less vehicles on the road. That's less gas being consumed, less congestion which translates into less of a chance of an accident, and less wear and tear on the road, and we were more comfortable, all at the same time. When comparing gas mileage I have never heard anyone include these factors in the comparison. Yes, my Suburban gets less miles per gallon than just about any other passenger vehicle. But when used to make less trips and reduce the number of vehicles on the road, it actually reduces the amount of fuel used. Suburban wins!
With my Suburban, I not only make one circuit to do all of my shopping, but I can take advantage of its power and my aluminum (light weight and fuel efficient) trailer to pickup large items as well. So when I buy a riding lawn mower, or a refrigerator, or a big TV for my home, or 30 bails of pine straw, or 6 yards of mulch for my flower beds, I don't have to have it delivered. I can buy it and bring it home in one trip. People who own gas efficient vehicles think they are saving gas when they drive to the store and buy these items, when in fact they went and bought something and then came home without it. So the trip home was wasted gas. And then the fuel guzzling, oil leaking, 10 year old delivery truck delivers their purchase. In total the people with the gas efficient vehicles have used more fuel than I have for the same purchase. Suburban wins again!
Now I understand that not everyone lives in a 30 year old two story home that needs lots of upkeep and repair, and that not everyone has an acre of land to landscape. But there is one other advantage that a Suburban has over these fuel efficient vehicles. Have you ever seen a compact car after it was hit by a tractor trailer, or a dump truck, or a bus, or any other large vehicle. Do you really think the people in that fuel efficient vehicle survived? Ask any E.M.T. out there and they will all tell you the same thing. If you want to survive an automobile accident, drive a Suburban. If you think the 20 more miles per gallon you get with your vehicle vs. my Suburban is worth your life, then peace be with you. As for me, I know that me and my family and friends will be more likely to survive an accident, or even walk away from it. Trade my safety for gas mileage? No way! No contest, Suburban wins again!
As the signal turned green I looked back down at that message printed in the window of the Jetta: "My Jetta gets 49 mpg. Enjoy your SUV!".
"Enjoy it!" I thought to myself. "Heck no! I love it! And I wouldn't want to drive anything else."
(By the way, my wife loves her Suburban too!)
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