Like many fathers, I worry that my own narrow interests and hobbies will be passed on to my sons and that he will grow up without a well rounded education in manly things. Thus, as I’ve done for the last few Februarys, I feigned interest first in the Superbowl and then in cars, which put us last weekend at the Chicago Auto Show.
Late in our visit, we decided to try the mini test track in the Chrysler/Dodge/Fiat/Jeep area. (Pictures of these areas are available elsewhere.) This was a surprisingly popular attraction, given that it was essentially a trade: you give Chrysler an incredible amount of personal information (you could save typing by just letting a foreign owned corporate behemoth scan your drivers’ license!) and they let you sit in the passenger seat of one of their cars on a tiny track for 30 seconds. This seemed really appealing to my 7 year old, who is apparently at the same level of emotional maturity as the dozens of fully grown men in front of us, there even without a child to humor and/or feel guilty about.
The Chrysler track was there to demonstrate the vehicles’ 0-60 speed, while the Jeep track involved a steep fake hill you could ascend and descend in your choice of Jeep vehicles, like the Wrangler, the Patriot, and the Phi Delt Pledge. There we were, just south of downtown Chicago checking out vehicles based on their acceleration and hill climbing ability.
In downtown Chicago.
If I could do a Venn diagram of flat places in the US and metro areas with the most crippling traffic, the intersection would be a picture of the Sears Tower and a comically small mayor flipping you off.
The steepest thing you’re going to climb in your car in Chicago is the ramp to the parking garage at the mall, and the fastest you’re going to go is back down that same ramp when the Cheezie Mayo Dubl D’Lite you got at the food court starts feeling like it might come back on your upholstery.
The Auto Show experience reminded me of my neighbor during the blizzard in Chicago in 2011. He has some fancy 4×4, and while a couple of us were outside clearing the alley, he pulled out of his garage and promptly got stuck. As we’d done for other neighbors who needed to leave, we pushed him clear and then did so again when he got stuck at the end of the alley. About 3 minutes later, the car appeared at the other end of the alley.
It turns out that he was so excited to experience the snow, he’d allowed us to push him twice just so he could drive his 4×4 around the block. His heavy, dirty, cold, stupid 4×4 that shot slush all over my pants. Somehow, they never show these scenes in beer commercials or for that matter, Jeep commercials.
The next day, the city cleared my alley. Both my 2002 Accord and my 1992 Corolla made it out just fine, although maybe they would’ve looked more stylish with giant tires and a roll bar. Alas, it was too cold for me to wear a sleeveless t-shirt and cutoffs, which means no one could see the barbed wire tattoo I’d got from the machine at the grocery store.
A few days later, it warmed up and the snow was gone. We haven’t had any snow accumulation for any length of time in Chicago in the two winters since. Maybe my neighbor is driving up the embankments next to the on ramps for the highway to see if he can get stuck in those. He’s probably running over the daffodils that now come up in February thanks to a changing climate and, well, the increasing popularity of vehicles like his.
We never made it into either the Chrysler or the Jeep vehicles at the Auto Show. Eventually, my seven year old son reasoned out that it was a dumb use of his time when there were other things to see.
As we walked away, I swore I could see some guys still in line framing the cars with their hands as they moved them back and forth whispering “Vrroooom! Vrrrrrrrrooooooom!!”