There’s a saying in art — form follows function. There’s beauty in the right tool for the job. Then there’s stupidity like this…
TOKYO — When Sadayoshi Ishi drives his Hummer, he takes precautions. He has installed a navigation system that shows wide-open streets in green and more-dangerous narrow streets in pink on a computerized map inside the truck. Periscope-like monitors on each side-view mirror alert him to obstacles.
Ishi isn’t dodging land mines in a desert war zone. The 48-year-old Japanese cartoonist is trying to navigate Tokyo’s urban jungle of streets too narrow for his 2.1-meter-wide vehicle. ‘I broke out in a sweat every time I drove it,’ says Ishi. He now drives his Hummer just once a week to golf games on a predetermined route.
Ishi is one of a growing number of Japanese who are spending more than $100,000 for the military-style H1 Hummer. Mesmerized by the mammoth trucks shown in TV news coverage of the war in Iraq, they are determined to overcome the special problems of driving in Japan.
The Hummer is popular among drivers who want the cachet of war without going to places where people actually shoot at you. But that’s not the only use for a Hummer. Here’s Iwao Makino’s impossible dream…
‘Im just waiting for a typhoon or big disaster to hit Tokyo so I can use my Hummer to rescue people,says Makino. His biggest thrill now is dodging retailer’s street signs when driving to the grocery store and taking his dogs to the park.
Well, maybe Godzilla will come back. Then the guys who forgot to enlist in the coalition of the willing will finally get a chance to see some action.
Meanwhile, back here in the states it seems like a lot of people are not getting the concept of form follows function. You can see by the ads that the Hummer is meant to be driven vertically up remote mountains and into lakes and stuff but most drivers don’t do it. They look for the narrowest streets in Providence, the ones that even a horse and buggy had trouble with, and then they clog up traffic. Until they park on a corner where they block the view of oncoming traffic so that anyone trying to make a left turn sings, ‘nearer my God to thee.’
It’s kinda sad that so many of these macho cars never go anywhere but the burger place and the mall, so General Motors is rumored to be starting a website called ‘Hummer Helps’. Owners can send in photographs of themselves doing heroic stuff. I look forward to that, and the needy should not get upset if a guy in a Hummer shows up in a crisis to take a picture of his cool car. The needy have to take what they can get, right?
Speaking of taking what they can get, whenever I see a Hummer with a business logo painted on I can’t help suspecting that it’s a Corporate Welfare Cadillac. Hummers and other heavy luxury S.U.V.’s qualified for tax breaks that were originally intended to benefit farmers and contractors. That’s why you might see your local florist using a Hummer to deliver some ferns and a few bunches of baby’s breath. The tax exemption was eventually knocked down to $25,000. There were some in Congress who wanted to eliminate it altogether but I can’t find any reports about that after this June. Maybe the bill is languishing somewhere.
$25,000 isn’t much. It’s only a little more than twice the cost of my car when it was new. I spent five years paying it off. I use it when I work, visiting the elderly and disabled. I didn’t get any tax exemption for it. I PAY TAXES ON IT. And then I PAY FOR GAS. SO I CAN DO MY JOB.
Okay, I’m better now. I know that the extra tax burden I carry to subsidize giant luxury vehicles is minuscule compared to what I’ll end up paying for the Iraq War. So it’s okay then.
I think the Hummer Helpers could do more good if they leave their tanks in the driveway until duty calls. A small localized emergency would be best. Otherwise they will end up exacerbating the traffic jam you would get in a really big emergency, like the hundred mile traffic jam from Hurricane Rita in Texas. I’m looking forward to checking out Hummer Helps website when it appears, and I hope that G.M. Corp isn’t discouraged by all the snarking and sarcasm that is already coming their way, like this…
GM is asking rescue teams to film themselves using the vehicle in real emergency situations. While the idea is great, acquiring footage will be a difficult challenge for GM, as many rescuers refuse to film themselves in such situations.
Geeze, what wimps. Probably think they’re too busy. I’m not embarrassed to film myself doing good works. The elderly don’t mind. I think. I’m going to call my site, Cheap Little Japanese Car Helps. My car can weave through traffic. It gets thirty-three miles to the gallon. It’s so small that Godzilla won’t even notice it. I’ll count on the Hummers to distract him while I make my escape.