Confessions of an eco-snob
IT’S NOT LIKE I’ve been tooling around with Ed Begley Jr., recycling my gently used toilet paper and making dress shirts out of reclaimed hair and bottle caps. I don’t hug trees or pose nude for PETA (not that they’ve asked me or anything). I’m not that person. I’m not an eco-snob.
Or at least I wasn’t. Until the Prius.
When the transmission in my loyal ’92 Accord started gurgling on the 405, I had to shop for a new car. I had vowed to hold out for a flying car (weren’t those supposed to be in dealerships by now?) but, with sadness in my heart, I began looking for my next landlocked, fossil-fuel guzzling companion.
I heard rumors about the Prius. Nasty rumors. That its mileage claims couldn’t be trusted, that it might die on me just when I thought we could go the distance together.
A car with commitment issues and a reputation for stalling? Sounded like an ex-boyfriend.
But none of that compared to the real horror -- encountering actual Prius owners.
If I so much as mentioned that I was considering purchasing a hybrid car, these eco-bullies would clutch onto my arm with surprising strength (probably developed signing petitions to save the whales/wolves/flesh-eating sea rats). “You never have to fill up your tank! You can drive in the carpool lanes!” they’d burble, clearly high on the idea of low emissions. Then they’d drop into a low, conspiratorial tone. “And really, isn’t it our responsibility? Isn’t it the least you can do for the environment?” A sad smile would be followed by a heavy sigh redolent of Tom’s of Maine toothpaste. Oh, the burden of being one of the few unselfish humanitarians to tiptoe on the Earth.
Even as I signed the car loan papers, I denied the inevitable. Just as I would never become exactly like my parents, I would never become a self-important jackass who believed getting 49 miles to the gallon would save the Arctic Circle.
The transformation was gradual. Bewitched by my nifty LCD multi-informational display panel with its gauge, I soon discovered that I could get really great gas mileage by coasting along at a jaunty 20 mph in the fast lane of the 405. The resulting cacophony of horns was simply a trumpets fanfare telling me that, yes, I was at that very second getting 99.9 mpg!
At a gas station one afternoon, I felt perfectly comfortable leveling a death-ray glare at the soccer mom behind me. I hated her simply for her passenger-free, fuel-sucking Land Rover -- which was certainly canceling out all my hybrid’s hard eco-work. As she nervously studied the interior of her designer purse to avoid eye contract with the clearly psychotic woman facing her (me), I felt no guilt in wishing an eco-karma death for her. (Choking on her own fumes would be ironic, but swallowed whole by polar bears worked too.)
With one foot constantly poised on the brake, the better to charge my batteries, I found myself shooting nasty looks at SUV drivers even before they’d cut me off. I would nod at other Prius owners in traffic, the secret eco-handshake of the open road.
Then came the day when a friend mentioned that her junker was gasping its last breath. I tried to resist, but the words spilled out, the faintest taste of organic mint lingering on my tongue. “You know, I haven’t filled my tank in two whole weeks.... “