Subaru Is Making Me Mad...Seattle, Too..
A Day In the Outback
A modern philosopher of some renown said, “You are what you drive” and I always laughed it off as a marketing ploy, a means to up-sell a more expensive automobile to an executive climbing the corporate ladder. Reared in rural America, I could only associate this statement to those who lived in close proximity to my family’s home in Hecla, South Dakota where a ten year old car was thought to be “new” and the only foreign cars on the road were Volkswagen Beetle’s. I recall my father saying “Son, a car isn’t even broken in until it reaches 100,000 miles” and we seemed to live that philosophy with every automobile purchased. I recall some “interesting” cars acquired by my Father during my youth including a 1955 Packard Clipper with a back seat so large it could house a small family comfortably, a 1956 Chevy Nomad two door Wagon with a green color that reminded me of pea soup, a 1965 Jeep Wagoneer with its 230.5 cubic inch engine that could push the vehicle to a breathtaking 60 MPH, a 1972 Oldsmobile 98 with a huge 455 cubic inch high compression engine that devoured gasoline and, my personal favorite, a 1939 Ford Pick Up truck with a little 65 horsepower flathead V-8 engine. Some of these cars were kind of cool and it didn’t suck to cruise Main Street in them on a Saturday night; the main event in a rural South Dakota boy’s social life.
There was, however, one very memorable vehicle from my youth that haunts me even today. It was a practical vehicle, likely owned by a person with a love for citrus that went far beyond the dinner table. I was a junior in high school at the time and without a car of my own. Desperate for a social life, I had to borrow this jalopy from my Mom anytime I had a date. It was not an easy thing to do and I had to weigh the “hotness” factor of the date with the “embarrassment” factor I’d have to endure. Imagine my esteem at picking up my Saturday night girl in a lime green 1971 Ford station wagon with a dented front fender, bald tires and an interesting aroma emanating from the air conditioner on a hot summer day.
To entertain her I would have the option of playing the AM radio, which more often broadcast the crop reports than popular music, or plugging in an 8-track tape with its requisite clunking and hissing sounds and tinny speaker system. When picking up a date, I had to park this beast down the block a bit to make sure she didn’t sneak out the back door of her home when she got a look at the lime monster. Thank God I had a personality and was a good athlete otherwise I’d never have gotten laid.
Somehow I survived my high school days and moved onto college where I invested in my first real car; a 1967 Chevy Malibu that my Grandfather had driven since it was new. It was a car that was sexy enough for my college escapades but not quite roomy enough for my friends. It looked good when it was parked but when I lit up that little 283 cubic inch engine, the sound that emanated from the mufflers was more reminiscent of a sewing machine than a macho automobile. I couldn’t complain because it cost me next to nothing and I didn’t have to wear a disguise when I drove it into the parking lot of my fraternity house.
After two years in the saddle, I got the bright idea to upgrade to a red Chevy panel van that had been repossessed by a bank I worked for. It had a bigger engine, was in good condition but beyond the two seats for the driver and passenger, it was devoid of any interior features. It had a sliding door, rear window and non-insulated metal walls with a floor that had a wood surface. Clearly my maroon Chevy Van was made for a tradesman but to me it was rolling opportunity. What the Chevy lacked in personality, it more than made up for in utility. I discovered that I could put two ratty couches in the back, turn the music up loud, add a bunch of my friends and the requisite amount of alcohol to make it a vehicle for mass transportation to and from the party de jour. One memorable night it was loaded with 20 people destined for nearby Sioux City, Iowa. The tires were so close to flat that an Iowa State Patrolman decided to pull us over just to see if I had a mechanical problem. Imagine his surprise at seeing the equivalent of a clown car’s worth of passengers emerge from the sliding door. He just laughed, told us to be careful and to not drink and drive. I am amazed we survived the trip and I am clear evidence that God protects children and fools.
Leaving the Dakotas after college, I moved to Arizona where I found an entirely different emphasis on transportation. I settled in an upscale area where I lived at the crossroads of Pretention and Narcissism; an intersection located miles north of Practical. From my vantage point, I could closely observe those who had gone over to the dark side, selling their souls to the Devil in exchange for a beautiful car. This fact struck me every time I pulled into the assigned parking space at my modest apartment complex. I felt very much out of place when I opened the door of my four year old Honda Accord and saw my two neighbor’s vehicles, a silver Rolls Royce convertible and a slant nose Porsche 911. The cars adjacent to these top of the line vehicles included Corvettes, Cadillac’s, Audi’s, a Ferrari and a Maserati; pretty heady company for one of modest means who lacked a desire to mortgage his soul for the sake of self esteem.
Unfortunately, in time I grew accustomed to this mentality and actually purchased a nearly new Honda Prelude just to get into the swing of having a car payment. After three years, I came to the understanding that the desert sun was starting to bake the gray matter beneath my skull and lest I visit the Porsche dealer, I decided to move to an area that was more temperate and hopefully realistic.
After looking at metro areas all over the United States trying to find the perfect location for this small town boy, I settled on the Pacific Northwest knowing I would fit in better with the lumberjacks than the urban cowboys. With an interim stop in the Salem, Oregon area, in 1988 I made my way to the land of grunge, Seattle, Washington and joined the likes of Curt Cobain, Chris Cornell and Eddy Vedder in this temperate but very wet area.
It was here I came to truly understand what the “you are what you drive” statement really meant. I also came to know why Seattle suffers the highest suicide rate per capita of any major metro area and clearly the two are related. Mental illness exists up here to such an extent that most have grown to view it as a normal state of being and the very core of Seattle society has conformed to a delusional thought process. Those with even an ounce of common sense are ostracized to the hinterlands on the outskirts of the city or are burned at the stake on the altar of liberal thought.
The Cult of the Subaru
The move to the Seattle area was a shock for me and I quickly discovered I’d misjudged the nature of the typical resident. In my lifetime, I naively felt I’d been exposed to most cultures, personality types and versions of the human condition. I considered myself a pretty reasonable guy who had no problem getting along with others. I always believed that a person had a right to make choices in life and live with the consequences of their decisions. No one was born entitled to be cared for by others and if they had their health and half a brain, they could create their own success. In short the only limits we faced were determined by our individual ambition. Don’t get me wrong, I knew rules were in place to make order from what would otherwise be chaos and when a rule was applied it should be respected; at least to the point where common sense might overrule it. I quickly discovered that this attitude was NOT shared by the majority of the population of the city of Seattle. Common sense was simply missing; its face plastered on milk cartons all over the Whole Foods Stores that infest the area.
This attitude intrigued me, however, in a morbid sort of way. Rather than slink out of the area in the cool of the night to find friendlier vistas, I elected to stay and learn their curious customs and behaviors. Like Jane Goodall studying the gorillas, I lived amongst the native population, eating the same food, drinking Starbuck’s coffee, listening to grunge music, all the while mentally recording the habits and tendencies of the indigenous population. In time, I began to recognize the characteristics associated with various groups. Certainly there were distinctions caused by the many variations of language, socio-economic status and beliefs, but it was not that dynamic that caught my attention.
From the many cultures in the melting pot of the Greater Puget Sound, one breed of great interest emerged from the misty fog of the rain forests. This breed was called many things depending on the observer’s point of view. The genus and phylum I would assign differs from the common assignment of “homo sapiens”. For purposes of this story I will simply call them Cultus Subaruien or Cult of the Subaru. The common element binding this group together is ownership of a Subaru automobile. Don’t get me wrong, the Subaru is a quality vehicle, well equipped for travel in the woods and the manufacturers have done a brilliant job of marketing to their demographic. They paint a picture that shows young, earthy, happy outdoorsmen frolicking in the trees, by a lake or on the ski slopes. They also, focus on safety when portraying a father with some serious control issues instructing his six year old daughter what she can and can’t do behind the wheel. This was a clear demonstration of the paternal nature of the Subaru owner and the need to direct the behavior of anyone around them. The Subaru ads equate the vehicle as the passport to recreational opportunity and seem to imply that mere ownership will mean you are anointed with the skill to kayak the Pacific Ocean, race a mountain bike over steep trails in the Cascades or ski the black diamond runs on Stevens Pass. The picture always seems to involve trees, a tent, and the descendants of Ewell Gibbons, still eating granola off of a rustic picnic table near a stream.
On its face it portrays only the good things in life and should stand no controversy. The reality is that the ownership group of the Subaru has grown to include a cult of personality that harbors delusions of grandeur and an implied entitlement to impact the lives of all around them. Within this cult an attitude of smugness prevails. Inflammatory statement, it would seem, designed to hurt those who innocently choose to purchase a particular type of automobile. Rather, it is not a criticism of this demographic, merely an observation of their tendencies and behaviors.
To be fair, I would actually expand this group to include owners of the Toyota Prius, Volvo Wagons, Smart Cars, Scions and Honda Passports as they seem to work in tandem emanating the same aura as the Subaruians. Those of you who know me and see this story will think it is a result of sour grapes due to the accident I had recently. I was walking across the street by Pikes Place Market a week ago and was struck by a Smart Car traveling at a high rate of speed………I’m just fine but the driver was killed instantly and upon closer observation the bodies of ten clowns were discovered inside. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the opportunity for a cheap joke).
Tendencies and Behaviors:
Surely by now you are likely thinking I am a Subaruist, a hate-monger, one who demonstrates bigotry against defenseless foreign automobiles. Even now those who see themselves in my description are contemplating how to silence me. Because I choose to speak up against the Cult, I will be branded a neo-Nazi, racist, redneck (ok, I am that), a Tea Party Member, elitist, fat cat, hater and lactose intolerant. The protestors will demand my apology and will damn my constitutional rights in the name of harmonic convergence. I can hear the din that will be created by speaking of the Cult and I know I risk loud whistles interrupting the quiet of my day and bull-horns encouraging the Seattle City Council to create a proclamation that makes Seattle a Subaru-Sanctuary-City. I will see petitions on each corner of the Downtown area to declare Subaru owners a protected class in matters of employment, housing and other civil rights.
I see a day when the cult will convince Seattle’s Mayor to create special areas for Subaru’s to park while unloading their bicycles, kayaks or skis or perhaps a quiet place in the middle of traffic where they might apply the appropriate bumper stickers to help those who don’t get it, get it. Ok, maybe I go a little too far with my perception of the reaction. In truth, those who own and drive a Subaru will already have discounted me as beneath contempt because I drive a Jeep Wrangler. I’ve come to accept my shortcomings formed by not being one of those “enlightened folks who are just better than those who don’t think their way". To be Progressive means you accept everyone except those that don’t support your causes.
Again, one does not have to park an Outback in their outback to belong to the Cult. I would bestow many with the title of Honorary Subaru Owners and provide a formula to help the less informed spot the many members. Individuals own the right to wear the six four-pointed stars of a Subaru owner if they demonstrate more than ten of the tendencies and behaviors in the following list.
1) Liberal (Prefer their interpretation of the US Constitution and consider anyone else’s an annoyance.)
2) Outspoken (They feel if they are the loudest, they must be the most correct)
3) Entitled (Hey, you OWE me. They are awesome at directing the actions and resources of others based on their ideals whether they participate in the cost or not)
4) Environmentally conscious (proud of their carbon footprint, less aware of their methane footprint, sorry that was a cheap shot formed by a recent walk through Pike Place Market)
5) Vegans (but a new movement is underfoot to advocate for vegetable rights which means they will be left with only dirt and crushed rock on their menu)
6) Teachers/Educators/Public Employees/Social Workers (and others not tainted by the reality of the free market system. Comfortable with theory, not so much with practice)
7) Frugal (with their own money, generous with others’)
8) Pro-Gay Rights (Subaru’s are manufactured with the rainbow sticker in the back window, located strategically beneath the Obama/Biden 2012 sticker that is also factory issued. Not that there is anything wrong with that)
9) Anti-organized religion (how can there be another higher power when they themselves are still living?)
10) Anti-Razor (the kind used to shave pits and legs)
11) Idealistic (reality is SOOOO annoying and represents an inconvenient truth)
12) Pro-union (why not, don’t cost nothing…John Belushi from Animal House, circa 1981.)
13) Progressive, Socialistic or Communistic from a political point of view (the Robin Hood’s of modern society)
14) Anti-Free Market (evidence being the Cult’s tactic of demonizing those who have achieved success to gain funding for their causes. Look at the history of the Acorn Group.)
15) Pro Obama (a God-like figure in their eyes, who would be driving a Subaru if the Secret Service would allow it.)
16) Economically illiterate (Their inability to grasp cause and effect relative to the economy is akin to those who would say; we don’t need farmers when we have grocery stores).
17) Pro-Choice (which is odd since they tend to impose their choices on the others with no regard for the impact on their targets)
18) Pro-weed (the marijuana kind) and also those that are evident in their lawns. (No pesticides for me man, I just want it to be natural).
19) Pro-tree (they carry chains in the Yakima carrier atop the Subaru in the event they spot a woodsman with an axe and a gleam in his eye.)
20) Pro-immigration rights (no respect for the legal immigrants who endured the gauntlet to become US citizens, if someone can sneak across the border without getting shot, then they deserve to be here.)
21) Pro-welfare (Hey, we are here, where’s the beef)
22) Anti-Business (If we abolish all private enterprise and the free market EVERYONE would be equal; starving, but equal).
23) Anti-Capitalism (who needs jobs or means to generate revenue when we have a federal government with a printing press.)
24) Pro-Tibet (pro-China too as they look longingly at the communist success story without realizing that 100 years ago WE were China. Like most declining societies, we can civilize ourselves out of existence.)
25) Pro-Marx (not the Groucho variety)
26) PRO-bumper sticker (their attitude is that they are so smart; people would naturally want to know what they stand for.)
27) PRO-bike rack (but why would they need to drive to the place they would ride their bike? Isn’t that increasing the size of their carbon footprint after all?)
28) Anti-personal style (come on Zoe, put on a little makeup and shave that top lip. Tie-dye again, really?)
29) Pro-free speech (which is why they should embrace this story and welcome my message even if they find it offensive)
Philosophy of the Cult:
The Cult of the Subaru supports very interesting positions and a quote from the great philosopher Donald Trump (gag me) below relates to their position on Health Care Reform:
“Let me get this straight . . . ... We're going to be "gifted" with a health care plan we are forced to purchase and fined if we don't, which purportedly covers at least ten million more people, without adding a single new doctor, but provides for 16,000 new IRS agents, written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress that didn't read it but exempted themselves from it, and signed by a President who smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, for which we'll be taxed for four years before any benefits take effect, by a government which has already bankrupted Social Security and Medicare, all to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that's broke! Is there something WRONG with this picture?”
In the Hands of the Driver:
The Subaruites are best observed in their natural environment, on Seattle area roads during times of great traffic congestion. There they exhibit a style that sets them apart from other tribes occupying this patch of asphalt including the Dickheadus Lexusites, Redneckus Pickupians, Thugus Hondausians and related Boomus Stereous, BMW/Mercedesus AHoleus and Asianus Obstaclus. The Subaruites are more adept at creating the most frustration amongst their fellow drivers with the one exception being the Asianus Obstaclus who cause the frustration but don’t so it with any level of intent.
I’ll try to describe some of the behaviors of the Subaruites below:
1) Those in Subaru’s feel entitled to the fast lane. It is not that they want to drive faster than the cars to the right, they merely want to display their bumper stickers to those forced to trail them in this passing lane. They seem to have adopted the attitude that they have the right to impede the progress of those who might otherwise drive over the speed limit. Their divine right to impose their philosophy on reducing the carbon footprints of all drivers helps them endure the frustration and inevitable one finger salutes they receive from drivers who finally find a way past the hated Cult member. In their minds, they only see “half a peace sign” in that waving bird or perhaps a “number one” sign in honor of their brilliance in an otherwise dull world.
2) Those in the Subaru’s tend to fit a similar physical mold. More often than not the drivers are females or men who wear panties. At times it is very difficult to distinguish between the two and rarely is it necessary to do so. They drivers are likely to have had a perm sometime in the past twelve months, wear glasses, have a haircut that is stylish in a 1980’s kind of way and be wearing pants.
3) The cars will have equipment common to others in their Cult. Most often the Cult will drive Foresters or Outback’s. The vehicles are required to have a bike rack in some configuration on the vehicle. On the top, a Yakima Storage Bin OR a Ski-Rack is mandatory. As discussed earlier, the standard feature on all new Subaru’s is an Obama/Biden 2012 bumper sticker to go with the Rainbow sticker. Most will choose a minimum of two other stickers and these will need to come from the approved list below:
a. Endless War
b. I “Heart” Outdoors
c. “Darwin” – equipped with little prehensile legs
d. I Worship Dog
f. Be Green
g. Free Tibet
h. Mean People Suck
i. Bark Less, Wag More
l. Visualize World Peace
n. If the Environment Were a Bank, We’d have Already Saved It
o. I HATE Sarah Palin
p. I Only Turn Left
q. I’m Pagan and I Vote
r. My Other Car is a Broom
s. Take a Hike
t. Earth Junkie
v. Keep Your Theocracy out of My Democracy
w. Stop Global Warming
x. Save the Whales
Of course there are a number of elective stickers that can be added to enhance the experience and frequently a Subaru owner will literally cover their vehicle with stickers. In other articles I will include some interesting pictures of such cars as their owners pour out their hearts on their cars, clearly, they poured out their minds some time earlier. Until then, I will continue to study the various species occupying the Pacific Northwest and will record my observations in future hubs.
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