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Sizing up big auto drivers with shrinks

September 06, 2000

Sizing up big auto drivers with shrinks



There was a fascinating story recently in the New York Times dissecting the psychological differences between minivan drivers and sport utility vehicle drivers. Since I've never clearly delineated in my mind which group was worthy of more ridicule, I read every last word.

Oh all right, that might be a little harsh. But my fundamental issue is that I can't see around them - and if something inconveniences me in even the slightest manner, I have the bad habit of taking the ball and running with it, until I have arrested, indicted, convicted and executed the perpetrator on all manner of charges, some valid, some hallucinated.

In the Times article, minivan drivers actually make out a little better than SUV drivers who, psychologically speaking, were frankly painted as a pretty pathetic lot.

Personally, I'd take an SUV driver over a minivan driver any day for reasons I'll explain later, but the Times story says the faux four-wheelers tend to be more self-centered, worried about their sex-appeal, in denial about their families and scared of things like criminals. They feel small and insecure, so they want to sit up high where they can enjoy delusions of control.

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I didn't know you could tell so much about a person just by what he drives. According to these psychological profilers, you could probably send men with white coats and butterfly nets to blanketly scoop up all the people who drive retro Volkswagen bugs and save the taxpayers a fortune in psychosis testing.

Minivan drivers, meanwhile, were said to be "people (who) want to be in control in terms of safety, being able to park and maneuver in traffic."

Well if they want to, then why don't they?

I'm a reasonable person who makes judgments based on the evidence. And I do not believe there can be any arguing that minivan drivers, nice as they may be when they are not on the highway, have a few driving issues. I do not say this to be mean. In fact, when I'm riding my bike the minivans always slow down the most and give the widest berth, although that will probably change once this is published.

But get them out on the highway and all bets are off. Show me a traffic tie-up and I'll show you a minivan that's at the root of it.

On the road, I have a friend who operates on a "three strikes and you're out" policy. In other words, he says he won't totally assume you are a horrible driver until three offenses have been tallied.

Driving a minivan is one strike, in and of itself. So is driving a pickup with a cap. (A cap on the pickup, I mean. A cap on the driver is strike two if it's made of nylon mesh).

I would add that a bumper sticker that says "I'm Pro-(fill in the blank) and I Vote" is a strike. So is "Think Globally Act Locally." I've seen a lot of these stickers and I can only assume "thinking globally" is what the driver is doing when they're going 55 in the fast lane.

Speaking of bumper stickers, I will award a positive point to the truck in Hagerstown with the bumper sticker "Your child is an honor student. But you are a moron."

And no, the pickup didn't have a cap.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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