Small Round Tables

This the blog of Robert Dean Banta. Novelist, Humorist and Writer At Large

The hazards of a middle-aged man driving a Toyota Prius, taking over where comedian Jeff Dunham left off. Sub-titled: Japan’s flanking movement on the US economy

In his video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQcSOP2AzXU Jeff Dunham talks about his experiences getting a “sparkly” blue Prius. It’s a hilarious sketch where he tells us about his wife making fun of him for driving this sparkly, blue Prius with a 3 pound Chihuahua in his lap and his kids’ Christmas season jelly stickers on the back window. Not a masculine image.

Jeff Dunham makes a valid point, but I feel he is not taking seriously the dangerous truth about the Toyota Prius and the middle-aged American male. We all must heed the warning signs and not underestimate what could either be Japan’s subtle attack on the United States, or a mid-life crisis gone wrong. When you’re in the middle of it, as I am, it’s hard to tell which.

But put your paranoid conspiracy theory hat on for a second. In order to compete in the global economy does not America need both men and women to be robust pioneers of whatever industry they choose to pursue? And can you not imagine how this would be difficult, if not impossible, for middle-aged men who happen to drive the Priuses, Priusi, Prii – or whatever the confounding plural of Prius should be.

Seriously, though, there is a lot of talk these days about the crisis of the man: the man crisis. Women are moving up in America and in the world, and that’s great. But lately even The Atlantic Monthly is devoting articles to the issue of the male of our species and they question the role of the man in the world’s new economy.

The pernicious problem before us is how can a man be a man, in all of his manliness while driving a Toyota Prius. If his manliness is not encouraged, how can he compete to his fullest in the world economy? And, since Toyota is a Japanese company, could this not be a subtle social attack on the United States of America, with the sole purpose of destroying the American male?

In the words of The Great Lebowski, and George Bush before him, “this aggression will not stand, man.” I’m sure President Bush did not say “man.”

Let me parry this possible Japanese foible by dissecting “the attack.”

Layout

The Prius console is a screen with lots of great information. Many men, like me, love the information a car can give you, especially all the info the Prius kicks out. But the console is not right in front of you, like it is on most self-respecting cars. So you have to turn your gaze to the middle of the dash to see what’s going on with the car. Is it possible that this is a distracted driving ploy so that we men, constantly looking over to see what’s going on, get in more accidents? Um, yeah.

Gas Mileage

Great gas mileage is at the heart of the dangerous allure of the Prius, because a middle-aged man naturally values economy, and the Prius is nothing if not economical. That helpful little console screen is bad news for the middle-aged man because on it is displayed the attention grabbing function of real-time gas mileage, almost by the second.

As a man who has grown up playing video games, this just not fair. You’re driving along and you must win this game. Hmm, I wonder, what country tends to make really rocking video games? (Japan).

Here’s how Toyota pulls off their dastardly trick. In order to get better gas mileage you have to drive modestly. In fact, the more you coast, the better your gas mileage. This is true of any vehicle, but the Toyota Prius takes the best advantage of this and uses it to crush a man.

Then this screen, which is mostly taken up by a graph that shows your overall mpg, then your mpg for each five-minute driving period. The higher the graph goes for each five minutes, the higher the mpg. So now I drive slowly, cautiously, and I coast every chance I get; all in pursuit of a .1 gain. Yes, that’s right, point 1 mile per gallon better gas mileage. Consciously I know how lame this is, but I can’t help it; all those .1s add up.

So I’ll be driving my Prius to work, letting off on the pedal as much as I can and old ladies in red and yellow Mustangs blow by me. Worse yet, even the wind from the speed of their ‘stangs almost pushes me off the road. Shouldn’t this be reversed? Shouldn’t I be the one in the SVT Mustang Cobra and some tiny old lady be the one in the smart, efficient, and yes, as Jeff Dunham says “sparkly,” Priusss? But no, I’m the one obsessed with miles per gallon and winning the Prius screen video game. To confess, mine is that same giddy blue color as Jeff’s and let me tell you – I’m getting 44. Uh, 44 miles per gallon, that is. I wonder if the color has anything to do with gas mileage. Hmm, I’ll have to put that on my list of things to google. But is this just the plight of a mid-life crisis gone bad, or could it possible be a Japanese plot to involve me, the average American middle-aged man, in some conspiracy of economy?!!

Styling

America used to be the kind of place where guys like me would be driving hot cars with fins and V-8 engines. My Prius – on the other hand – looks like a guppy turned into a car. The car is a high-roofed, short wheel-based boxy frame with japanime aerodynamic swerve all over it.

The problem is not only that I cannot at all feel cool in the car, but that my social status takes a severe beating.

I remember public school cafeterias at lunch time. You get your food and walk into the seating area with all the plastic benches and tables connected together and in that vast space you look for someone to acknowledge you so you can eat with them and not feel like such a dork. The bullies eye you thinking they might want to start something. The same applies with the Prius, especially on the interstate. A middle-aged man could be seriously beat up driving one of these things.

I can’t perform in the world economy when I get no respect on the road. And this is not just a social ill, it’ a safety issue as well.

I have to look out for every tractor-trailer, car, and even some motorcycles. One swoop of air too many and I’ll get blown right off the road.

And there are those who actually get angry at me for going so slow. They don’t understand that I’m just trying to get my mpgs up. They tailgate till the left lane opens up then swing out and fly by.

In a Prius one must also consider the police. Driving a Prius I have to watch out for the police, not so that they won’t pull me over, but so that they will. When I see an officer of the law I do my best to speed by him. Now, just getting up to a velocity which would be considered trespassing the speed limit could take hours, mind you, but when I finally do get going that fast I actively seek a police car. But they won’t even have the decency to pull me over. Instead, they put their hands to their faces to hide their smirks.

I drive a video game car that helps the environment by getting great gas mileage, and I want reparations. I have become a puttering slouch of a man. James Dean would be so embarrassed at the depths to which the American male and his machine has sunk.

Engine

Soon after I bought the car a coworker and I went to Chick-fil-A for lunch. It is a miracle that she even agreed to ride in my Prius. We turn left and within a mile there is this hill that you have to go up. Truthfully, it’s not even a hill, it’s a little rise in elevation. But as we get to the base of the hill she gets this worried look on her face and says, “What’s wrong with the engine?” With a red face I have to respond, “Nothing. That’s just the sound of the engine accelerating.”

And she’s right. Gone are the days of cruising in my Camaro Z28 listening to the rumble of the engine. Gone also are the days of the American middle-aged man’s dominance in the world’s marketplace. Instead my Prius sounds like a blender on “puree.” It doesn’t even get to “liquefy.”

And, continuing the metaphor, I am a lowly man with a lowly job.

Tears shed. Continue. Logic! There is logic to be had, right? The reason the sound is so small is that the gas engine is so small. The gas engine shares space with the electric motor. And this creates another issue. Who knows how to fix it? Even as a man who has not done many repairs on vehicles I’ve owned in the past, I could at least could point out certain parts, listen to them, tinker a little, and generally know where a problem was coming from. In the Prius, you open the hood and think, “I could get shocked to death if I touch that thing.” This past week I had to take the Prius to a good, old American mechanic because the oil was a little too full from the last change which caused the car to stall in the middle of the interstate going 70. The good, old American mechanic pulls the codes and there are, like, 50 possibilities for this one code, so he has to send me to the Toyota dealer to get it fixed.

Coping Mechanism

In short, a middle-aged man driving a Prius sacrifices all guyness, and I feel this loss of masculinity is prohibiting my performance on the world stage.

I am trying to do my best, however. To that end I have developed a coping mechanism spawned by the pain of American ghetto rappers. In their music, their videos and in the media they seem overly defensive about everything. Though our worlds are quite different I feel a certain kinship, and I share their same attitude. That is, if that’s ok with them.

So in order to cope I have to have an attitude to deal with the cruel world in which I live. The coping mechanism I invented is a rapper’s hand signal for middle-aged men Prius owners. You take both hands and hide your thumbs in your palm. Now, with both palms facing inward point your hands with four fingers extended at each other in front of your body. This is my defiant symbol to the world and it shows everyone that I’m getting 44 – sucka! Uh, 44 miles per gallon, that is.

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3 thoughts on “The hazards of a middle-aged man driving a Toyota Prius, taking over where comedian Jeff Dunham left off. Sub-titled: Japan’s flanking movement on the US economy

  1. Ha ha, this is hilarious! So you feel the Japanese Prius is a Trojan Horse unleashed on America to make the brave American Male lose his manhood? I just love this post, well done!

    I wonder how you’d like my little AIXAM, do you know what that is? I bet you don’t, that’s something they don’t have in America. Anyone with an AIXAM would find himself/herself buried under a SUV, that’s how SMALL it is. Not really a car, it’s got space for 2 people (like the SMART) but it’s much smaller and has got the engine of a 50cc motorcycle, yes, that’s not a typo: 50 cc, tiny, tiny!

    But boy does it ROAR along! It sounds exactly like a lawnmower (actually it’s the same kind of engine). And with that little thing you can go to the center of historic towns in Europe that are normally closed to car traffic (like Rome) – which is of course the reason I have one (I live in Rome, I’m sure you guessed that!)

    My kids (age 30 and 32) laugh at my AIXAM. But they don’t know how clever it is. I can park it anywhere including sideways between two normal cars (there’s always space for it!). If it rains, well, I’m out of the rain (it’s covered) and if it’s cold, ooh, what luxury, I’ve got a heating system. I’ve even got a radio, darn it, it’s luxury I tell you.

    Not very manly of course. A Japanese trick? No, French! The AIXAM is made in France, in southern France, near Aix en Provence, so romantic…

  2. Pingback: Real men don’t… attacking the “Green” stereotype | Matthew Oldach

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