Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Efficient cars

Those in the Know will be surprised to learn that,  from time to time,  I have a  deucedly hard time  little trouble coming up with interesting ideas for blog posts.  Naturally,  since I lead an incredibly idle  busy life,  it is quite a challenge to find the time to post anything at all,  but when I take on a challenge, I stick with it until I am able to present my loyal readers with a magnificent finished piece of solid blog gold.  This morning, after a frustrating few hours alternately staring at a blank post window and idly websurfing   This afternoon,  after a busy few hours alternately delivering a tasty lunch to my boys at school and whipping my home into House Beautiful perfection,  I have decided in desperation for fun to peruse the draft file I have here on the blog.  Egad, I hope Perhaps I will find a little inspiration!  Certainly, I do not expect to find many unfinished posts, since I am nothing if not reliably unproductive  productive.  Let me just take a quick gander inside the drafts folder....

Great Scott!!  There must be fifteen or twenty unfinished posts in there!  What a lucky break surprise!  I'll just pick one at random, dust it off and finish it right now!

Autumn 2010:

While I was in St John's recently,  I noticed that the local mania for small cars has descended ascended to an entirely new level.   Now,  Those in the Know™ will confirm that I am the most conservation-illiterate conservation-minded person on the planet,  so it is perfectly natural that I would be the last first to notice this trend.  Actually,  in St. John's,  it has a long and colourful history,  grounded in freakish idiosyncrasy  creative frugality and bizarre eccentricity  principled non-conformity.

One or two  Some  ?  Many Newfoundlanders care a great deal about energy efficiency, environmental friendliness and -  quite frankly the only most pressing reason, in my opinion - maneuverability through the notoriously narrow and twisty streets of the oldest city in North America.  For these reasons (not to mention a skinflinty thrifty streak running through the gene pool),  the citizens of St. John's were light years ahead of their continental neighbours in embracing the smarter car concept decades ago.

By the time the popularity of "sub-compact" cars began skyrocketing across the USA and mainland Canada in the fuel-strapped late 1970's,  the highways and biways of Newfoundland - not to mention the labyrinthine lanes and alleys downtown in the old city - had already been teeming with Datsun B210s and Toyota Corollas for years.  It goes without saying that the Volkswagon Beetle had been ubiquitous for decades.

My own dear father owned an early model Datsun B210,  which replaced the VW beetles he had had for years before it.  It would not be overstating the case to say that he greeted the arrival of cars that were even more compact (and rumoured to be more efficient) than "the Volks" with irrepressible delight.  The prospect of greater fuel efficiency naturally warmed the cockles of his thrifty heart,  while the assurance that the newer, sleeker, sportier Datsun was both more nimble and peppier than the VW was no small matter.

Dad had eked out a parking spot down a steep alley between his office building and the next one.  For years,  he had cheerfully piloted the Beetle down that narrow,  dog-legged canyon to park each morning and coaxed it back up the nearly perpendicular path out onto the busy road in front of his law chambers each night.  This feat took more than a little gutsy determination!  That VW boxer (or was it a wankle?) engine was not famous for its lightning-fast, powerful pick-up.  To say the least.  

I am not one who enjoys mentioning the flaws in beloved icons,  but there are times when one must have the courage (and Your Faithful Scribbler is nothing if not choleric courageous!) to say the unpopular thing: the truth is,  a Volkswagon starting out on a hill looks and sounds disconcertingly like a consumptive tortoise, shuffling and snuffling its way hesitantly forward, slipping back, surging ahead again, coughing and blaring flatulently all the way. 

As a youngster,  I always enjoyed being in the backseat for one of these noisy, fitful exits from that narrow, hidden alleyway.  The spectacle of startled bystanders scattering like pigeons as the old Volks rumbled up the narrow driveway between the tall buildings and burst out onto the road, literally flying over the sidewalk at the top of the lane and shooting between the parallel-parked cars like a rotund rocket before thumping jarringly down and roaring away while Dad enthusiastically ground the gears was definitely worth any motion sickness guaranteed to come with the ride.
(This is an expert re-enactment of Dad's flying beetle. Do not attempt this at home.)
Sadly Fortunately , the Datsun eliminated most of the fun danger because it removed that delicious unnerving sense of uncertainty about whether or not we would actually make it up the impossibly steep, narrow lane.  Also, that inscrutably quiet Japanese engine lacked - I am sorry to have to point this out happy to be able to point out- the dramatic flair for which the Beetle was so feared beloved by innocent bystanders people everywhere.  The purring engine and smooth acceleration up the driveway eliminated any need to "make a run for it" - as Dad used to jovially call gunning the engine, releasing the handbrake with a jump, scrambling up the clifflike path and bursting out of the alley - like in the good old days.  The bright yellow paint reflecting a glow ten feet in front of it on the brick walls of the alley alerted pedestrians on the sidewalk above of its approach long before they could enter the danger zone directly in its path find it necessary to scurry out of the way as in better times. Be that as it may,  however,  one must grant praise where praise is due.  The Datsun was a fuel-sipper and it was rather sporty looking.
Here is a photo of a Datsun exactly like Dad's 
(but clearly belonging to far less dignified people).
Where was I going with this?  It is not that I am forgetful or inclined to go off on tangents,  it is simply that I am forgetful and inclined to go off on tangents a very busy woman and I have already sometimes lose interest, so I let my mind flit off to greener pastures  have too many things on my mind at once.  Who cares?  Conservation,  schmonservation!  Of course I remember!  Compact car mania!

Those in the Know can rest assured that Your Reliable Reporter has paid absolutely no attention kept carefully up to date on developments in the transportation industry since the glory days of the Volksy and the Datsun B210.  However,  even I have been struck speechless  surprised by the most recent stage in the devolution  evolution of vehicle efficiency:  smart cars.  

This vehicle reminds me of something,  but what?  Oh well,  never mind - it is probably just another of my momentary lapses in concentration - good gracious will this post never end? flashes of brilliant inspiration.  Let us carry on!

These micro-sub-compact cars may be fuel-efficiency dreamboats,  but their true genius lies in their undeniably compact size.  Although it is true that a vehicle of these proportions could pose occupancy challenges for actual drivers or passengers,  I would like to ask: what is mere comfort or convenience compared to fuel efficiency and maneuverability?  I have a feeling Dad would have laughed at loved this car!  He may not simply have laughed at  loved it,  I think he would have laughed first and later got in line to own one! been first in line to own one!  My father was a forward-thinker as well as a very practical man.  He would have loved the quirky unconventionality of this little rig just on principle,  but I think he would really have warmed to its environmentally-friendly,  money-saving credentials even more!

That is my news about innovation in the car industry.  As usual, Those in the Know need not thank me for bringing you up to date like this.  I am nothing if not at least two years behind the times on top of developments in every sphere of human endeavor, and it is my little gift to the world to share my insights when I get around to it whenever I can.

Good Day to All!

Postscript:  I simply cannot shake away a niggling feeling that I have seen this idea before.  Obviously,  as one who has always been blithely unaware of  keenly interested in automobile trends,  I am an enthusiastic supporter of the newest innovations,  so perhaps I noticed it in a cutting edge science magazine some years ago?  It would be impossible  possible since I have never read such a thing  if I had ever time to read such publications.  Instead,  as TITK are well aware,  I have devoted my life to perfecting child-rearing and homemaking,  which means that my magazines of choice were usually...
Oh yes.  Now I remember!  Dad would have howled...and bought one on the spot!

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