Thursday, October 20, 2011

First post back. Advance apologizes for a storm of negativity.

Ask most who know me, and they’ll say that I’m an easygoing guy.  I’m not easily roused to anger.  I get along with most people.  Most people get along with me.  And I really like it that way.  Sure, I’ve grown slightly more irritable and cynical as I’ve aged, but for the most part, I like to keep my mood somewhere north of peachy.  Which is why I hate to have to do this post.

I know it’s been a while since the last post.  This first post back was supposed to be an apology for taking so long, a rant about moving and cable companies, an update on the Great Shreveport Biking Experiment, and an announcement of some (relatively) exciting blog news.  Seriously, I promise, I was.  The post was even half written.  Then I saw this new General Motors ad:

I almost let it go.  I almost wrote it off as tilting at windmills by a desperate company grasping at straws.  But then I had a couple glasses of hipster smugness potion, aka organic Malbec from some obscure region of Argentina:

(editor’s note:  Actually, it was a $4 bottle of Wal-Mart Malbec).

There are so many different reasons that this ad is infuriating that I’m not even sure where to begin.  First, the obvious.  Why does any college student need a new car?  Why does someone need a car payment in addition to student loans, books, room, board, random student activity fees, mandatory health insurance, and beer expenses?  According to The College Board, the total sticker price of attending four years at a public university as an in-state student will come to over $92,000.  The above GM ad showcases a new GMC Sierra, which, after the student discount, costs only $29,482!  What a deal!  Do our kids really need to add another $30,000 to the already ridiculous cost of college?  We have become a nation of borrowers, of over extenders, of rent-to-owners, of paycheck loan customers.  If you were wondering why that is, it’s not because of evil liberals spending money on NPR and Planned Parenthood.  It’s because of the mindset that leads to advertisements such as these.

Second, the ad just assumes that cycling sucks, and that cyclists are embarrassed to be seen cycling, and that if only we could afford a car, we could ditch this child’s toy for good.  Are there people out there that think cycling is uncool?  Sure.  Are there maybe a few cyclists who would gladly trade their two wheels for four and a door, if financially possible?  Sure.  But for most of us, we made a conscious choice at some point to trade our car keys for Kryptonite lock keys.  We choose our bikes over cars.  Many cyclists are even car owners themselves, and even choose the bike over the car every day they head out to work.  And I, for one, am damn proud of my bike and my lifestyle choice.

Hey GM, you know what?  You’re actually right.  Reality does suck.  Unfortunately for you though, you’ve lost your grip on reality.  The reality that sucks is that you’re a failing company that for decades refused to innovate and lost your market share to Japanese companies.  Then, when you realized that good old-fashioned jingoism wouldn’t be enough to sell cars, you came hat in hand to Congress begging for a handout.  (Actually, you didn’t exactly come hat in hand, unless that phrase now means, “I took my private jet to get there”).  You lost touch with your customers, and ended up needing an emergency $49.9 billion of taxpayer money in order to stay in business.  Guess how much bailout money Trek received?  Oh by the way, Trek makes all of its bicycles in the U.S., at its factory in Waterloo, Wisconsin.  Just a quick search of GM factories shows locations in Japan, Vietnam, Australia, Colombia, and Canada. 

Yeah, reality does suck.  It must suck to be able to see, to almost be able to touch your upcoming demise.  To know that times have changed, and you just can’t keep up.  To know that your only hope of survival is to prey upon our kids who aren’t yet smart enough to know better.  You’re basically cigarette companies in the 1960s.  I can already see the next GM campaign:  a greaser camel urging kids to buy Chevys because “all the cool kids are.”

But of everything about this ad that upsets me, I think the worst thing is that I’ve actually been pulling for you, GM.  The Detroit story is a true source of American pride.  Detroit is everything that America stands for.  It’s a workingman’s city.  You live there, you work hard.  The weather sucks, but so what—you put on the damn hardhat and get to work.  Everyday is a struggle, and you slog through it, making products that make Americans proud.  Hell, living in Detroit is basically analogous to riding a bike.  Sure, there are easier places to live, but you choose to live and work in Detroit, just like I choose to ride a bike when it may sometimes not be the easiest way.  I was on your side.  Even if I wasn’t buying cars, I was pulling for you to make it.  No more.

Reality does suck for cyclists though, for one big reason:  GM, and the other members of the worldwide automobile-manufacturing cartel.  GM’s vehicles helped to cause more than 32,000 fatalities in the United States last year.  For a comparison, firearms killed about 31,000 Americans.  In other words, automobiles are actually more effective killing machines than machines that are purpose built to kill things.


Okay, good to get that off my chest.  Now I can get back to my usual musings about obscure hipster stuff.  Check back soon, lots of hipsteriffic activities planned for the weekend, including art galleries, farmer’s markets, and old Brando films.