Jeff McAbee: Real men drive tiny cars
Picture a guy 6’3″ driving a tiny car. That’s me. Recently, it has come to my attention that my car might not be right for Summit County. Not for practical reasons mind you – it gets me from Point A to Point B – but for more subtle reasons. According to some people close to me, this car is hurting my image.
Not too long ago, I took my niece to the big city for a day of shopping, museums, and lunch – you know, city stuff. While dining at a restaurant that served only cupcakes and milk, this high school freshman looked up at me from her colorful dessert and said,
“Uncle Jeffery, can I ask you a question?”
Secretly hoping she was finally going to ask to drink at the fountain of my wisdom, I searched my brain for nuggets of truth that would lift this beautiful child above the valley of ignorance.
“Sure”, I said.
“Why do you drive such a small car?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it’s just that you’re such a big guy. You need a truck.”
I went on to explain to her that when I bought the car, my commute to work was 30 miles one way. I mentioned how little the car cost me to operate and how well suited it was to my transportation needs. She took a sip of her milk and stared at me blankly.
When I moved here last December, I knew one person in all of Summit County, a college buddy of mine from CSU. Shortly after we reconnected, I was driving him to his house in Blue River. He too, suggested that my little car, with barely enough clearance to handle a speed bump, might not be a car fit for life at 10,000 feet.
I reminded him that he had seen the road to my former house in Vermont and that I had managed for three winters to drive up that steep hill and even steeper driveway. Unlike my niece, he listened attentively. It was a point he couldn’t argue, but as I pulled in front of his house and came to a stop to let him out, he lifted his legs in an exaggerated way as if he were a giant emerging from a tiny cave and in a real deep voice emulating a cartoon show on TV, he asked,
As the winter went on, he kept asking me that same question, at the ski lots, at his house, in town lots, anywhere he saw me.
In early spring I had him and his girlfriend in my tiny car. She said she liked my car. It’s neat and clean. It has a dock for my music built right in. I began to talk about how the engineers used “tricks” to get more room out of the space. They extended the wheel base from bumper to bumper, slanted the hood down abruptly and sloped the windshield out away from the steering wheel in such a way to give the appearance of riding in a larger car. I was reveling in pride until I noticed her mocking me in my rearview mirror. It was all the two of them could do to keep from bursting out laughing. When we arrived at our destination, my friend asked in a real deep voice,
“What’s so funny about a tall man getting out of a small car?”
His girlfriend hummed circus music.
The Summit Tigers’ last football game of the season was an away game at Englewood. I grabbed my sack lunch and climbed on the bus ready to compete.
“Hey Coach McAbee,” a couple of the boys asked. “What’s the deal with your car?”
“Yeah, it’s so little.”
“Cars that size make me angry,” another young man chimed in.
“Coach, if someone hit you in that car, you’d be dead.”
“But that’s the thing,” I had them where I wanted them. “People who drive large cars drive to survive an accident. I drive to avoid an accident. And besides, it is very inexpensive to keep on the road.” I defended myself. “I mean, I pay $25 to fill it and I can go two weeks on a tank of gas.”
“Coach, I’m in high school and I can afford gas.”
By this time I was feeling attacked. I muttered something about the environment, the intrinsic values of clean air and water, healthy forests and happy caribou in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. One of the boys stopped me suddenly.
“Coach McAbee, do you know why you don’t have a girlfriend?”
“It’s your car, dude! No woman is going to want to ride around with you in that!”
I’m not sure if this kid has a girlfriend or a license for that matter so I called a girl with whom I had actually been out with on a date. I told her what the boys had said on the bus.
“Yeah,” she said. “Get a truck.” I haven’t seen her since.
It hadn’t occurred to me that over the past couple of years I might have been driving a vehicular form of birth control. I can tell you what else got me thinking this way.
As for women riding with me in my car, I think I would be happier with someone who accepts me just as I am. I know that she’s out there. Perhaps she hasn’t moved here yet. Perhaps she is from a city where they have subways or buses like New York or London.
“Want to go get something to eat?” I’ll ask.
“That sounds nice,” she’ll reply. “Shall we drive?”
“Nah, let’s grab the Summit Stage. There’s a stop just down the street. We have really good public transportation here in the county.”
“Lead the way…”
Jeff McAbee lives in Breckenridge
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