COMMENTARY: Parking the Beast

Overcoming My Gas-Guzzling Cadillac Addiction

The 1990 Cadillac Deville, my guilty habit.
© www.automotive.com

When I was a kid, sugar substitutes were sure to give my rat brain cancer, Pop Rocks would make my stomach implode, and most anything one could spray or drive would poke a hole through the ozone . I easily passed on the diet stuff, mixed Pop Rocks with Cola, and watched Ma tease her hair with 1/2 a can of BRECK hairspray while smoking a Tareyton 100. Three decades after G. I. Joe was laid to rest, I watched Gore and Moore and still did not care much about worldly going ons or global salvation. I arrived in my 40s far from eco-friendly.

Last winter, I was driving back and forth to work in my 1990 Cadillac Deville, a.k.a. "the Beast." One day as the 8 cylinders idled at a stop light, I looked off to the right and noticed two hybrid cars totaling the Beast's length. Shortly after, I heard something dragging beneath my car. I imagined it to be a Prius or the like under my rusted tailpipe.

I was outside the car, bent over to have a look, when I noticed an elderly man sitting on a porch in the cold. A small oxygen tank sat next to his wheelchair and a small green tube snaked to his face. I wondered if my driving the Beast may have helped put him there. I looked at the sickly man, then the Beast; the sickly Beast, then the man. I felt guilty. Then I forgot about it.

Months later I passed the porch where the old man had been sitting. It was getting warmer and the snow had turned a mushy gray and black. The man was not there. The feeling of guilt returned, but worse. I thought back to when I had my addiction under control, only driving the Caddy on the weekends. Then it took hold of me. Back and forth to work, trips for the morning paper while the family 6 cylinder "Bob" sat in the lot of our house. Arriving home, I Googled 12-Step programs for old Caddy owners and found none. I would have to wean myself off the warm womb-like vehicle.

Instead, I went nearly cold turkey and started driving Bob to work each day. At first I cursed every bump, rut, and bigger car on the road. Then it got better. Although not perfect, I am happy to report that I am down to once a week. Saturdays I drive the Beast to a bookstore to meet some friends and discuss literature. Meeting up with friends has helped a lot with the separation anxiety I feel toward the Beast.

Yesterday, my wife and I drove Bob to the waters at Marblehead Neck, Massachusetts. As speedboats wheezed by, I spotted a sailboat and admired its simplicity and lack of revved-up motor.

U.S. Dept. of Energy www.fueleconomy.gov

1990 Cadillac Deville:
Premium Gasoline
MPG15 City, 17 Combined, 23 Hwy
Cost to drive 25 miles: $ 6.19
Fuel to drive 25 miles: 1.47 gal.
Annual Fuel Cost*: $ 3713,
Annual Petroleum Consumption: 20.1 barrels (1 barell = 42 gallons)
Annual Tons of CO2 Emitted: 10.8.

2008 Toyota Prius:
Regular Gasoline
48 City, 45 Hwy, 46 Combined
Cost to drive 25 miles: $ 2.15
Fuel to drive 25 miles: 0.54 gal.
Annual Fuel Cost*: $ 1289
Annual Petroleum Consumption: 7.4 barrels (1 barell = 42 gallons),
Annual Tons of CO2 Emitted: 4.0.

("Based on 45% hwy/ 55% city, 15,000 miles / year, Prem.: $ 4.21 gal./ Reg.: $ 3.96 gal.)

MICHAEL J. CONWAY is a freelance writer who reports he is "getting better at this green thing" every day. He can be reached at mjcon6@msn