Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Smart Cars and Phillips Brooks

Today is our church's feast day for the late bishop of Massachusetts, Phillips Brooks.  He was known for his preaching and his moral standing.  You might have also heard of him as the composer of "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

Little is the word.  The quote for the day is from him and speaks to smallness again: "Greatness, in spite of its name, appears not to be so much a certain size as a certain quality in human lives. It may be present in lives whose range is very small."

So, I'm on a small kick.  That's why on Monday, I took a Smart Car for a test drive.  No kidding.  Never see one before?  Well, here's a picture.  We saw them in Germany this summer and fell in love with the tiny little vehicles.  As I read the Brooks quote, I thought about that little car.  Greatness isn't so much about size as it is about the quality.  This vehicle does something I think Brooks would appreciate -- it makes the world a little bit better.

What's so great about them?  Well, first of all, they're really cool looking.  At about 8' 8" feet long, they're the shortest street legal car going.  Three feet shorter than the Mini Cooper.  You can park anywhere, too.  More importantly, you can't get better mileage without going to a hybrid -- and it gets better mileage than some of those, too.  

You'd be surprised how comfortable they are, too.  I'm not a tall guy, so it doesn't matter to me -- any car works, though some actually feel too big.  But even tall folks -- I mean really tall -- have found the smart to be comfortable inside.  When you drive, you completely forget that there's practically nothing behind you.  I've pretty much settled on this being my next car even after comparing it with all other comparably priced cars.  

Obviously, they're not for everyone, but 90% of my driving is alone, so why would I want an inefficient beast?  For me, it's an attractive, fun and responsible choice.  To paraphrase Brooks, greatness may be present in cars whose footprint is very small.