A cool car

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 14, 2006

I’ve been thinking about buying a Toyota Prius. My car is about 5 years old and is starting to have some issues.

I tried to look at one at the car show a few months back down at the Beach but there were about 10 gazillion people there and you could hardly get near it.

Let me state first off that I’m not interested in a Prius because I’m some kind of environmentalist. I’m not. While I believe we are destroying the earth and that recent strong hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis and the like are a result of that, it’s just not something that ever got me fired up. I mean, no boys or girls are kissing each other, there are no fetuses destroyed unless a pregnant woman is killed in a tornado, and the environment does not “hate our freedom,” so it’s a little difficult to get too worked up about it.

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I have a couple reasons for being interested in the Prius. One, I drive 40 miles roundtrip to work every day and last night I paid $2.75 a gallon for regular. I bought 20 bucks’ worth and it barely got me over half a tank. Plus, my wife drives a gas-guzzling SUV that might get double figures in mileage if you keep to the interstates. Gas is breaking me up.

Plus, Larry David drives a Prius on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” one of my favorite shows and they look really cool.

I’ve never had a cool car, having always driven old fuddy duddies. The past few cars I’ve driven in order include my current Chevy Malibu, a Dodge Spirit, a Chevy Caprice, a Chrysler LeBaron and a Chrysler K Car. God, what a loser.

Yesterday, reporter Ashley McKnight-Taylor was interviewing a couple ladies in our conference room about a Garden Week story she was working on. I had stepped outside a moment for some air and spotted a Prius in the parking lot. The two ladies in the office looked like Prius drivers so I poked my head in and asked whether it belonged to them. One of them responded in the affirmative and I told her about my interest. She was excited to tell me all about it and invited me out for a look.

One of the concerns I had about the Prius is that at nearly 6-4, I might be a bit long for it. But I easily fit into it with as much room or more than I have in my Malibu. Plus, the controls were about the coolest thing I’d ever seen. You don’t need a key. You apparently carry a sensor in your pocket or purse as the case may be. The door will automatically unlock when you put your hand on the handle when it picks up the sensor and all you have to do to start it is push a button (Didn’t the Edsel have that?). After sitting in it idling for a minute or two, it seemed to go dead, but the owner told me that was merely the electric batteries kicking in. It was almost dead silence. How cool is that?

Anyway, I don’t know whether I’ll get a Prius, probably not. I understand that at current gas prices, the payback between the gas savings and how much more you have to pay for the Prius than a comparably sized vehicle is something like 5 to 10 years.

Plus, “South Park” really ripped into Prius drivers last week for being

smug ( they actually caused a giant “smug cloud” over South Park and were so full of themselves they went around smelling their own farts because they liked the smell) so after seeing that, I would be almost too embarrassed to drive one.