Get Out Of The Way: My Buick And I Are Coming

This morning, I went out to my car to drive to work. I approached from the back, which is the vehicle's south wing, and greeted the rear navigator, the guy stationed in a little trailer cab with a steering wheel. Upon reaching the vestibule, I gained entry through the main proscenium archway and proceeded to initiate the ignition sequence preparatory to disembarkation of the dreadnought from my driveway.

I've bought me a new car. It is a Buick.

Yes, I, like you, have always believed Buicks were only owned by someone's fat, bald father. I still believe that. The thing is, now I'm someone's fat, bald father.

The Buick is the last vestige of the American car industry that flourished when nobody cared about gas mileage or the environment or efficient design or anything, back when the main purpose of a car was to support tail fins that looked like pontoons. This ended with the gas crisis, when Japan and Germany began to produce peppy little cars with engines the size of Chiclets. Nowadays, all cars are small. Have you seen the new commercials for the Cadillac DeVille? DeVilles used to take up two time zones. This one looks like a loaf of bread.

Through all of this downsizing, though, only Buick refused to give in. Buick kept making hogs. Buick was true to the American Road. Nobody bought Buicks, of course, because they were monstrosities. But, hey, that's the price you pay for principles. As Patrick Henry said, "Give me a Roadmaster with chrome up the yin-yang, or give me death."

So, I bought a Buick.

I love it. The trunk alone could accommodate the entire machine-gunned Bonnano family.

(People in my neighborhood warned me not to buy an American car, but I think I have beaten the odds because I have already driven it around the block more than once without the front seat falling through the floorboards and grinding me into road sausage.)

It's funny, but before I got a Buick, I never noticed Buicks on the road. Now, I see them everywhere. They are hard to miss - the only things bigger on the highway are those cheesy prefab houses being hauled on trailers.

Car renders driver invisible

Buicks that are not driven by obvious Mafia hit men (Vanity plate: "Slay 4 U") appear to be driven by no one. That is because the driver is invisible from behind. From what I can tell from casual inspection, the average Buick owner is 4 foot, 11 inches, 83 years old and, basically, one big fused liver spot looking through the steering wheel.

You know the slogan, "Wouldn't you really rather have a Buick?" When I picture the people actually behind the wheels of Buicks, I imagine them saying, "Compared to what, a hearse?"

I knew Buick wasn't aimed at anyone my age when I saw that one of the options was handrails.

Still, I love this car. It's so, um, so . . . retro! Behind the wheel, I feel like Perry Como. I have started wearing cardigans and humming when I drive.

I was afraid that my children would be embarrassed to be seen in a Buick with me. But my daughter assured me it wasn't the Buick - she's simply embarrassed to be seen with ME! "It's not what you drive, Dad, it's the stupid way you sing along with the boring music on your oldies station. By the way, Dad, aren't most of the singers who were popular when you were young dead now?"

Actually, I think they're driving Buicks.

Nine miles to the gallon

The only teensy complaint I have is that this baby only gets - this is not an exaggeration - nine miles to the gallon.

I phoned the dealer to complain. He asked me how many miles I'd driven.

I said, "About 600."

He said, "Your gas mileage will improve after, uh, 2,000 miles."

I think he pulled 2,000 out of a hat. I think he said 2,000 figuring that I was a typical Buick owner - meaning that I drove 10 miles a week and that I suffered short-term memory loss. He probably figured that by the time I got to 2,000 miles, I'd still be getting nine miles a gallon, but I'd have forgotten the conversation.

Now, I have to say that this mileage thing makes me feel a bit piggy. I am from the generation that believed in having a social conscience, at least so long as it helped facilitate the pursuit of chicks. So, I am not proud of having a gas guzzler.

This baby drinks. If every car on the road were a Buick, the tiny oil-rich kingdom of Dubai would be pumped dry in three years and members of the Dubai royal family would have to get jobs in Nogales sweatshops making novelty toys.


Maybe I shouldn't feel that bad.

(Copyright 1996, Creators Syndicate Inc.)

Syndicated humor columnist Tony Kornheiser, who writes for The Washington Post, appears Sundays in the Scene section.