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road sage

Andrew Clark recently bought a 2019 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 in Island Blue Metallic.Andrew Clark/The Globe and Mail

Prior to my recent purchase of a 2019 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4, both my vehicles had been painted a simple, classic black. I liked the understated, time-honoured look. There are those who believe that black is the only appropriate colour for a car. One reason is that black cars look good in every kind of weather and even, as Canadian superstar singer Gino Vannelli observed, “better in the shade.”

A lot of drivers feel the same way; over fifty per cent of the cars on the road are shades of grey and black.

So when I decided to turn in my 2010 Dodge Grand Caravan, I chose to go with something sporty. I wanted a car that looked playful and a little off the wall. I considered many hues: British Racing Green, Chili Red and Chestnut Brown. Ultimately, I went with Island Blue Metallic. I also added a white top and white racing stripes. My new ride would be fun to drive and fun to see.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that it was, indeed, a very notable vehicle. So notable in fact, that I had become “that guy.” As in, “that guy in the tropical-blue striped Mini.” (It is possible that instead of “guy,” people use more descriptive language to identify me.)

When you drive a unique-looking car, it quickly becomes clear that you have kissed off any semblance of anonymity. Occasionally, I’ll see another Island Blue Metallic 2019 Mini Cooper S Countryman ALL4 with white racing stripes – but not often.

The experience has shown me that anonymity, or at least the sense of anonymity that automobiles create, is the foundation on which most poor driving is anchored. When you lose your anonymity, you must take responsibility for your actions.

When you drive an easily identifiable vehicle, road rage is out of the question. For me, that hasn’t been an issue. I’m not a yeller. Credit the advice of my late uncle Tom Jamieson, who once explained, as he navigated Bayview Avenue and was cut off by a sedan, “If you get angry every time some other guy does something stupid on the road, you’ll lose your mind.” In my old black minivan, I could have gotten away with screaming the occasional anatomy lesson at a fellow motorist. In my tropical blue Mini, I will be remembered. It would be embarrassing, and perhaps a little dangerous, to roll around engaging in road rage, only to be called out in the parking lot of some grocery store by the irate objects of my ire.

In the same way that I am resented for driving transgressions, I am appreciated for driving favours. When possible, I accommodate other drivers. If someone needs to nose into the lane and I can facilitate, I will. Driving my Mini has increased this predilection. If I’m called out in the parking lot of our local grocery store, it’s going to be a friendly wave.

If we are searching for easy, low-tech ways to improve driving habits, we may want to consider incentives for those who opt to make their cars more personal. Why not give a cash rebate to the driver who willingly paints his or her first name on their vehicle? After all, you are much more likely to be a courteous driver if you have “Jennifer” written in bold letters across the side of your Honda Civic.

Why won’t dealerships provide discounts for unique exteriors? In 2016, Dodge offered the psychedelic “Go Mango” hue for its 2016 Dodge Challenger and Dodge Charger SRT models. Why not bring that back on all models? Why not Lantana Purple, Hakone Green, Indy Yellow Pearl? What about a discount on insurance for anyone who is willing to have a digital reproduction of their face printed on the hood of their Ford Fusion?

Of course, if everyone gets weird, then being dull will stand out.

What’s the point of painting your Mini Island Blue Metallic with white stripes or your Challenger “Go Mango” if everyone is doing it?

That’s the moment I will opt for something in midnight black. Some of us like to stand out.

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