VIEW FROM THE HILL

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN PAUL PENNER
“You are what you eat.”

I suppose that statement might be true. On the other hand, when taken in the literal sense, the metaphor can create an interesting, if not laughable, image.

For instance, has anyone seen a person that resembled a pig-in-a-blanket? Which features brought out the resemblance-the cloven hooves or the floppy ears? Or perhaps was it the flattened snout, the high pitched squeal or the curly tail?

Two years ago, I accompanied my spouse on a shopping trip to Wichita. Shopping was not, and has never been, a favorite pastime. When opportunities like this come up, I prefer almost any other activity.

On that particular day, I wrote down all the names of vehicles that passed through the parking lot. I remembered the statement, “You are what you eat,” made popular before the Atkins diet hit the television circuit.

I created a slightly different version: “You are what you drive.”

Have you ever wondered how the car manufacturers came up with the names of their vehicles? Some make no sense at all, but I suspect the motive behind the names is to manipulate a person’s self-esteem and magnify his or her sense of inadequacy.

Consider these statements that came to mind as I was thinking about certain models of automobiles:

“I identify with John the Baptist just before Jesus began his ministry. I need a “4-Runner” to pep things up while wandering in the wilderness. You know, preparing the way for less capable cars and even less capable drivers. Not to mention my improved ability to get away from persecutors and not lose my head.”

Or better yet….

“I have reason to believe that God, if he were here in person, would drive a HumVee, otherwise called a ‘Hummer.’ That beast really puts the fear of you know who in all other drivers. It is the ultimate VWMD (vehicular weapon of mass destruction). It is conspicuous to the max. It is the mother of all bad boys! (Excuse me, I intended to say ‘good’ boys). Any disciple of the ‘Left Behind’ book series would be proud to drive this baby while fighting off the demon hordes.”

Back to reality. My wife and I drive a car named after a weapon of war, otherwise known as LeSabre. How ironic. We’re Mennonites. But who cares about names of vehicles anyway?

People over the age of 40-correction, 50-drive this car. It is safe and big. The driver feels secure-no tiny powder muffin of a car will survive when they touch paint.

A family member says our car is like a womb on wheels. But then again, that person drives a Ford Focus. It is a downsized, reincarnated Edsel with a facelift. It is Cinderella’s nightmare come true. After 30,000 miles, it turns into a pumpkin, and nobody can save it.

Meanwhile, I also observed many Explorers and similar SUVs with off-road capabilities wandering in their “natural” habitat. Guess where the vehicles were exploring: the shopping mall parking lot, the grocery store parking lot, the movie theatre parking lot.

Instead of exploring the road less traveled, it seemed like most people were trudging around in a well-traveled, concrete jungle.

What does that say about human behavior? Perhaps not a thing. But it does strike an odd chord.

Truck names are an interesting, too. I recently purchased a pickup truck that had 147,000 fewer miles than my last one. It is an “LS,” or Luxury Sport. That name is a contradiction in terms. I don’t remember anything from my days as an athlete that remotely resembled luxury. Perhaps I was in the wrong sport.

And finally, luxury cars were cruising the parking lots; the scenery was beauty personified as if Miss America was on display. I saw these cute items; Lexus, Infinity, Jaguar, BMW and Mercedes. Model numbers read like they were secret agents in a James Bond movie.

That’s O.K. They have nothing more than I do. We all drive from Point A to Point B. We each have our own desirable image, if one cares about such things. They ignore me, I ignore them. They sip Latte or brandy, made from the finest products in the world. For me, Latte is fine. So is Earl Grey. Or H2O.

They may drive to the country club and spend the day socializing and walking on the green. As for me, I will tour the countryside, and while there, I will apply NH3, P and K on Terra Firma.

If need be, chatting with friends and associates on the cell phone is a definite possibility. And so is racquetball.

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