Williams column: Sport utility vehicles that block out the sun
The other day, I had just positioned my car in a space at the local Food Lion, when the morning sun, which had been brightly shining up until then, was suddenly blotted out. Its eclipse wasnít due to a perfect alignment of the earth, moon and sun, but instead to an extremely large vehicle bearing the name ěExpeditionî (There is, however, another very large vehicle called the ěEclipse,î and if it had been one of these which had blotted out my sun, it would have been the case of a pun taking physical form).
The name ěExpeditionî brings to mind safaris in foreign lands, but on Jack Hannaís television show, he is always riding through the Serengeti Plain in something much smaller, a Jeep.
One day, the monstrous vehicle known by the apellation ěRendezvousî pulled up to a stoplight beside me. For this vehicle, that name just doesnít seem to fit. If one were planning something as clandestine as that name implies, then a vehicle much less in size, much less detectable, would be more fitting.
Other names attached to oversized pickup trucks, such as ěYukon,î ěTundraî and so on bring to mind the great beasts of the Ice Age Pleistocene (which, by the way, are extinct). Upon the frozen, earthen tundra, used to walk the mammoth, the mastodon and the wooly rhinoceros. The names of the first two of those great creatures of the past ( by virtue of their great size alone) would have made great names for such macho, inflated vehicles (with the exception of the third, the wooly rhinoceros).
Some of the most threatening carnivores of those past days could have provided names as threatening as the size of these over-blown vehicles as well, but have yet to be adopted. Imagine driving a ěDire Wolfî or a ěSabre Tooth!î
My personal favorite would be a vehicle, impressive in its blend of massiveness and slow, dumb, creeping pace, given the name of that massive creeping beast of the Ice Age, the ěGiant Ground Sloth!î Imagine it, as your ěGiant Ground Slothî edges up slowly (ever so slowly) next to those guys in their ěYukons,î ěTundrasî and ěExpeditionsî blotting out their sun, making them visibly cringe and drive off with their tailpipes between their legs.
In the 1970s, we thought that the rationing of gas, along with its high pump price (for then) had ended the large gas guzzlers, and it did for them, but as Stephen King once said ěSometimes they come back,î and they did, but in another less aesthetic form.
One time, in the very early 1960s , my father drove home a mid- í50s model Cadillac in consideration of purchasing it. These giant trucks and SUVs of today seem to be made of an equal amount of metal as used in that í50s Cadillac, but unlike them, it was a thing of beauty.
A similar amount of metal as used in these modern colossi, was also crafted much more beautifully into vehicles when I was growing up in the 1960s and í70s with such names as ěBrougham,î ěElectra 225,î and ěLeSabreî (the LeSabre of the í60s and í70s, not the present thing into which it has devolved).
The SUV does seem to have garnered more bad press than have the gargantuan trucks. I really donít think that the media cares for them. Anytime that one of them is involved in an accident, the word ěSUVî becomes the major noun of the news storyís title. Although a Volkswagen is, in its own way, just as distinctive as an SUV, I recall no news stories stating that a ěVWî or ěBeetleî crossed the line, resulting in injury or death. To me, SUVs have the look of something metamorphosing into something else, kind of like the pupa stage of a 16 wheeler.
I guess this current fad in vehicles will pass someday, and future scientists will discover their remains in old, buried car graveyards, just as they discovered the bones of those giant behemoths which became mired in the tar pits of Rancho La Brea, which brings to mind: I know that some SUVs have a penchant for rolling over, but are they also prone to becoming stuck?