Traffic Disco

Sunday Signal

There are several car commercials on TV that show people dancing in the front seat of their cars. That’s a good reason to buy a brand-new $33,000 car: so you can get a $500 sound system. Good deal, huh?

The commercials don’t say anything about the car’s reliability, safety features or gas mileage. Come to think of it, the commercials don’t say anything about the car at all. It’s as if they’re not selling you a car, but a stereo that you can drive.

Me, I find the times I need to dance in the front seat of my car are pretty rare. That time I saw the cops ticketing that guy a few minutes after he flew past me while weaving in out of traffic was a happy moment, but not enough to make me dance. Besides, the seat belt makes it difficult.

Buying a car for the sound system is like buying a house for the air conditioner. If you like music that much, you could take a taxi to a nightclub and save yourself, oh, about $32,500.

If not talking about the car is the way to sell cars, there are other ways to do it. They could show a middle-aged woman in the front seat, roasting a chicken. If that doesn’t say “Buy this car,” what does? Or they could show an elderly guy in the passenger seat swinging a golf club. It would make just as much sense.

Some car brands don’t show dancing models in the commercial. They show their cars doing doughnuts in the middle of the desert, or driving up rocky cliffs. How often do people do that? I can’t remember the last time I went driving off-road in the middle of the desert. Oh yeah: never. Where would I get gas out there? Besides, driving up cliffs is something you should do in a rental car, not your own. What I need is a car that can get me to the grocery store and back, not to the Gobi Desert and back.

They also show a lot of people rock-climbing in car commercials. It’s almost as popular as showing people dancing. I saw a 350-pound guy climb out of an SUV the other day. That’s the real customer, but you never see that guy in the car commercials. It’s always some skinny rock-climber dude wearing skintight spandex with a butt so tight you could crack walnuts on it. Between the gym and rock-climbing, where would this guy find the time to make enough money to buy a car?

They never show you real things in car commercials. No one’s ever stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic in a car commercial. No one ever drives around and around looking for a parking space in a car commercial. No, in the commercials, drivers are all on wide-open, empty roads, doing 107 mph without a care in the world.

They never show people making obscene gestures at you in the car commercials.

Me, I’d like to hear something real, something honest, about the car itself. Want to sell me a car? Tell me there’s a gadget that will automatically turn off the left blinker after 10 minutes. Offer me a windshield made with my eyeglasses prescription. Give me a sensor on the dashboard that tells me where the nearest open parking space is at the mall. I’d like a thing on the keychain that when I push it, my car would send up a signal flare so I could find it in the long-term parking lot at the airport. I’d like to know that the airbags won’t kill me while saving me from an accident. I’d like to be able to set the clock without having to read the manual. I’d like to know that backing up into a garbage can at 2 mph isn’t going to cost me $4,000 in repairs. I would like little dividers in the back seat that keep my grocery bags from falling over and spilling. Those are things I might pay $30,000 for.

I’ll buy my own radio.

Contact Jim Mullen at [email protected].

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