You are Not What You Drive

The butt of my car
In many ways, your car is similar to your clothing; an item with a practical purpose, which at the same time can say something about who you are. Whether consciously or unconsciously, your choice of car says something about what social group you belong to and what you do with your life.

Ranchers drive trucks, moms drive mini-vans, yuppies drive BMWs, and any number of personality types, from poor college students, to ski bums, to 30 and 40-something professionals, drive Subarus. Relying on stereotypes, you could assume a Subaru driver to be a like-minded person. It’s probably a safe bet to say they’re like you - active, healthy, and environmentally conscious. In many ways, they’re your typical Bozemanite.

But anyone with enough money or the ability to get a loan can buy a Subaru. Like with clothing, a car doesn’t change what’s inside a person, and as with everything else, there are exceptions to the stereotypes. Even in the Subaru loving town of Bozeman, at least one driver of this much-cherished vehicle is the opposite of what you’d expect.

A few years ago, I was driving my car (A dark green Subaru Forester, pictured near the rainbow) and the traffic light had just turned red. I was the second car in line, behind a maroon Subaru Loyale, circa early 1990s. For an older Subaru, it didn’t have an excessive amount of rust or dents nor was it plastered with a ton of bumper stickers. The car had local license plates and a ski rack adorned the rooftop. A lone “Be a Yokel Buy Local” sticker from the Bozeman's Community Food Co-op was affixed to the bumper.

Cars like these are a dime a dozen in Bozeman, so you can imagine my surprise when the driver of this quintessential Bozeman vehicle threw a cigarette butt out the window. I was instantly outraged. I thought smoking and littering were a filthy habits that went out with the 1970s. If anyone littered or smoked anymore, it certainly wasn’t in my beloved, forward thinking town. In addition, the driver didn’t appear to be a dirtbag or a derelict but rather a Barbie doll-looking young woman talking on her cell phone.

Within seconds, I was out of my car taking matters into my own hands. I picked up the cigarette, knocked on window of the offending vehicle and tried to be polite while I told the driver, “Here, you dropped this.”

The girl was truly startled. I was about to toss the smoldering nub into the car when in a weak voice the driver said, “Just give it to me,” and stuck her hand out the window.

Back in my car my heart was beating fast. The cigarette was hot to the touch and I could still feel the burning sensation on my fingers. The smell of smoke lingered in the air. Somehow I managed to accomplish this task before the light turned green. The incident left me as shocked as I had made the driver. I thought about what had happened over coffee that morning. My outrage. My ability to act suddenly. The cars stopped at the light watching the scene. But what stuck out in my mind the most was the contradiction between vehicle and driver behavior.
Lada Niva 4X4. Dream car for the mountains of the Wild East.

Subaru driver = active, practical. Co-op shopper = healthy, environmentally conscious. Bozemanite=all of the above. Littering and smoking were not part of this equation.

A message to the young woman in the maroon Subaru Loyale….

Littering is not looked upon favorably here or anywhere. You may profess to shop at the Co-op and display their bumper sticker on your car but that doesn’t make you a good, healthy person. Driving a Subaru, even an old Loyale, does not make you cool.

My friend Jen drove this exact same car in college. Very cool. Maybe you are what you drive after all.