Shopping for a new car is no less mind-boggling then shopping for a bottle of shampoo – there is so much to choose from without having any real choice. There is a perplexing sameness to the myriad items in a particular category, but that hasn’t stopped the advertising claims that each is superior to the other, when the only real difference might be the color. Or in the case of cars, the shape of the taillight.
I found myself in a bit of a traffic jam the other day – a traffic jam in Steuben County is when there are six other cars in view of your car all headed the same way on the highway – and I noticed how little difference there was among them. They weren’t all the same make, either – there were a couple of Chevys, and couple of Fords, and they all had the names of sports teams on them – Cougars, Broncos, Lynxes - no Donkeys or Mules, however.
I was snooping around on a new car lot one day, just kicking some tires as the saying goes, when I became mindful that some of the major parts seemed to be lacking. Some of the fixtures that used to come with a new set of wheels had, indeed, become options. And in many cases the only designation used to identify a car was a set of letters and numbers.
I was kicking the tires on an SUV when a guy walks up and wonders if he can help me.
“Nice looking car,” I noted.
“Yessir, That’s one of our QZRK22PKUs. She’s a beauty, ain’t she?”
“What’s the name of this thing,” I asked.
“It’s a Water Buffalo, sir.”
“A QZ … What did you say this was?”
“A QZRK22PKU, sir ,,,”
“How do you know that? All it says here is Water Buffalo.”
“We are required to memorize the model numbers, sir. This is just one of the models of this make of car. For instance, over there is a QRV …”
“I’d like to look at that one over there,” pointing in the opposite direction. “What’s that called?”
“That’s one of our newest models – the Mama Hippo, model GSPM7-ought-ought D. The slightly smaller one next to it is a Baby Hippo and the big sucker is the Bull …”
“How’dya tell a Hippo from a Water Buffalo.”
“The biggest difference is the price. Hippos cost a little more.”
“You don’t say? Why is that? Where’s the difference,” I asked.
“Hippos come road-ready. You just hop in and drive away!”
“You can’t do that in a Water Buffalo …
“Or a River Rhino …”
“A River Rhino, sir. That’s one you’re leaning on.”
“What would I have to do to one of them in order to be able to drive it off the lot?”
“Put a carburetor on it.”
“There’s no carburetor on this 45,000 dollar car?”
“Nope, carburetors are extra. But it does come stock with a glove compartment, three cup holders, and windshield wipers. You have to pay a little more for seats, though; seats are extras.”
“Oh, yeah? How about a radio?”
“Radios are optional. We do have a wide range to choose from, though. You can get a standard AM/FM or one with multiband overseas capability, which is installed in the trunk.”
“If you can get one in there,” looking over a Water Buffalo Calf in the adjacent row. “I suppose all of your cars come equipped with a steering wheel and tires? I think you guys have been screwing up when putting spares in the newer models; they’re much too small; they look as though they belong on a wheelbarrow.”
“Yessir. We’re just trying to keep the price down. We’re very people minded – bullish on America, as it were.”
“Yeah, right. What else you got?”
“Well, let’s see. Over there’s an Armadillo; right next to it is a Platypus. If you like a four-wheel drive pickup, there’s a Pack-E-Derm – it’s the same one you see on TV sitting on a mountaintop with no roads going up it.”
“Yeah. Good ad for helicopters, and I don’t see one around here. Besides, if I’m going up a mountain that steep, I’d rather have a mountain goat. Say, you got a Mountain Goat around here? Ah, never mind, I don’t have much use for a truck that can climb over boulders and crush rows of cars. I don’t come up on many of them on the way to the “Y”.
“Say-y-y, what’s that sitting over there by the showroom? Looks like a Ford or a Chevy or maybe a Buick.”
“Naw. That’s just the boss’s Cadillac. Nothing special about that.”