Thanksgiving is almost here – Canada’s most beloved secular statutory holiday that allows people from all faiths, colours and creeds to discuss politics while they eat until they pass out. Thanksgiving is one of my favourite days because it combines something I’m not good at (being grateful) with something I’m an expert in (consuming turkey and gravy in mind-altering quantities). It’s a time to be thankful for a bountiful harvest and all our blessings, but more than anything else, it’s about turkeys.
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on some of the turkeys you’ve driven and to envision some of the turkeys you might drive in the future. Of course, I’ve never really understood what people mean when they call someone or something a “turkey?” You mean, it’s moist and delicious? No, “turkey” means something that’s not bright, not attractive (in its feathered state) and an easy mark.
My automotive turkeys list starts with the 1992 Champagne-coloured Jetta, which needed repair almost immediately after I bought it. I eventually had shared custody of it with my ex-wife until it retired after being involved in an accident while her boyfriend was driving it. That was a dry 19-pound turkey that had been bathed in thin, bland gravy.
There was the Dodge Spirit that I drove until it resembled a vehicle from the original Mad Max films. It did not have air conditioning. The radio was not terrific. You know what, scratch that, that car was all right. Not so much a turkey as a piece of tilapia – cheap and not especially satisfying.
There was the 2004 Dodge Grand Caravan that offered a smooth, humiliating ride, modest fuel economy and zero style, but was great for moving a family around and happily accommodated soiled diapers, spilled milk and ossified Cheerios without complaint. It was a turkey, but we liked it – so much we went back and bought another.
I always hated the now-extinct Chrysler Sebring. Not because it was such a terrible car – it was average with okay handling and adequate, if meek, pep. The Sebring’s a turkey because, whenever I rented a car in the 2000s, they always tried to foist a Sebring on me. So I associate long, bland drives for business to my unwelcome companion, the Sebring, which I dubbed the “Chrysler Sebwrong.”
The auto industry produces almost as many turkeys as farmers do. I’m thinking of the infamous 1958 Ford Edsel – the biggest automotive turkey of them all – an ugly, gas-guzzling abomination with a grille some observers said resembled a vagina (an observation that really makes you wonder about the private lives of the observers). The Edsel remains one of the worst failures in history.
But what will be the automotive turkeys of the future?
Will autonomous cars turn out to be gobblers?
Lyft president and co-founder John Zimmer recently published an editorial called The Third Transportation Revolution, in which he claimed that autonomous car-sharing will quickly become widespread and that, “by 2025, private car ownership will all but end in major U.S. cities.”
If that’s true, the self-driving automobile will also “all but end” the dangers of driving while under the influence of tryptophan (the amino acid found in turkey). How many of us have squeezed behind the wheel on Thanksgiving night, our cheeks stuffed with stuffing, our veins coursing with cranberry sauce, and driven sleepily home? With autonomous vehicles, we can be wheel-barrowed to our cars carrying a drumstick and keeping eating all the way home.
That will truly be something to be thankful for.
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