Manic Hyundai

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So I get this thing in the mail telling me that my car registration is about to expire and that I should send Utah a huge check. (Well, the check would be normal size; the amount of money represented by it would be huge.)

Now, I can understand why we have to register our cars. Cars are dangerous, and we want to know who owns them. In fact, there should be a five-day waiting period on cars to prevent people from rushing out and buying one in a mad rage of having to get somewhere, and then tragically getting to that place before anyone can stop them.

But why does it cost money? My 1998 Hyundai (company motto: “Have You Considered Public Transportation?”) cost me $175 to register. What am I paying for? The privilege of having my windshield chipped every time I drive on the terrifyingly unfinished death trap that is I-15?

One thing I am evidently paying for, if not with registration fees then with state taxes, are the highway patrolmen who have lately taken it into their heads that they should drive 55 mph in the fast lane. I have seen this between Salt Lake City and Provo three times in the last two months. I understand what they’re doing, of course: If they drive the speed limit, they know no one will dare pass them, and it slows down traffic and makes people late for things. (Perhaps it prevents accidents, too, but that is not my main point.)

But to do it in what is supposed to be the PASSING lane, instead of the right-hand lane, where it would be just as effective — to me, that’s just a cop saying, “Look at me, I’m a cop, I have mighty powers to slow down traffic! I can drive wherever I want! La la la la la la la!” (Note: “la las” added for dramatic effect.) If I drove 55 mph in the passing lane, I’d probably get a ticket for obstructing the flow of traffic. But of course a cop isn’t going to pull himself over and give himself a ticket, unless he’s a minority and has to meet his racial-profiling quota.

Anyway, I also had to have the safety and emissions tests done (on my car, not on me) (though I would have passed). My car failed the safety test because of two bald tires. I maintain this is not a safety issue. If I get a flat tire, that’s my problem. When I drive with one hand on my cell phone, the other hand holding a beverage, and my knee occasionally on the steering wheel, THAT’S a safety issue. But they don’t test cars for that. (“We’re seeing a lot of knee-induced wear and tear on the steering wheel, Mr. Snider.”)

I have no idea how I wore out only two tires, considering I generally drive on all four of them simultaneously. Nonetheless, I went to a tire place at which all the employees were named Steve and asked them to have a Steve put four new tires on my car. (Figured as long as we’re spending money, I might as well get all four replaced.) One of the Steves — the one who could operate the computer — told me that would cost $48 per tire, which included mounting them. By my math, that comes to about $200. When they were finished, though, the total was $220. I have no idea where the Steves came up with that other $20, nor did I ask, intimidated as I was by all the Steves and the Steveness emanating from them. I know nothing about cars, tires, or Steves, so I was triply out of my element here. I can handle a Ron, or even a Dave, if I have to. But Steves, particularly when they travel in packs, make me wish I were in a profession more manly than journalism, such as ballet dancing.

I’m guessing the extra $20 was to pay them for readjusting my driver’s seat that I had positioned exactly how I liked it (they had to drive the car a good 10 yards, after all), and possibly also for that plastic thing they put over the steering wheel that keeps grease from getting on it but which does nothing to prevent the Steveaceous odor from permeating the vehicle.

To summarize: I’m paying for a lot of things I don’t really want, the cops have turned the fast lane into a slow lane, I’m apparently driving on two tires most of the time, and Steves scare me. See? I’m just a regular guy.

I suspect this column will be particularly popular with guys named Steve. I should point out also that I have a couple friends named Dave, all of whom I have no problem getting along with. The only Ron I remember ever knowing, though, was my high school girlfriend's ex-boyfriend, who was a big jerk who gave her flowers on Valentine's Day, even though she was clearly going out with me at that point and had no interest in any collection of plant life coming from him. But I digress.

The column was very popular with Daily Herald readers, judged in terms of how many of them called to say they liked it. Usually no one called; occasionally one person would call; this column prompted three phone calls. That may not sound like a lot, but in newspaper terms it is, figuring that for every one person who calls there are [fill in the blank] others who agree with them.

I think it went over so well because while it's full of complaining, it's a good-natured, almost gentle sort of complaining. Not grumpy or cynical; just griping about everyday things that people can relate to.

Well, except for this person -- "DLea277044@aol.com" -- who took issue with my non-chalant attitude toward driving:

Mr. Snide Remarks,

It is attitudes like the ones displayed in your column on this date that make our roads and community so dangerous these days. Get a clue, open your eyes and take a look at the world around you. Even though the way things are done and the rules (laws) that are made aren't the most convenient for your self centered world, there are almost always sound reasons behind them that outweigh your need to wait until the last minute, and drive like a Road Rage prone idiot, to get where you need to be on time.

I guess I did admit in the column that I always wait until the last minute and then drive too fast to get where I'm going on time. No, wait. I said nothing like that. Hmm. I don't know where he/she got that from, then. Must have been a Robert Kirby column or something.

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