Companionable – 2 smart guys and their cars

“The attachment of the modern American to his (or her) automobile, and the symbolic role played by his (or her) car . . .  this is where the study of American mythology should begin. . .  Meditation on the automobile, what it is used for, what it stands for . . .  might leads us at once right into the heart of all contemporary American problems.” –  Thomas Merton


This weeks photo challenge reads in part: You might think “companion” refers to a person with whom you share experiences, but the definition is much broader . . .

  • A person who is frequently in the company of, associates with, or accompanies another.
  • A mate or match for something.
  • A handbook or guide.

Here goes my take on Companionable: a different kind of love affair – with the automobile.


Bruce & Mike with their smart cars

About 10 years ago my friend Mike asked me if I’d heard about the new Smart Car? Each of our spouses  had changed their career paths and headed for new horizons ‘down island’.  Our jobs didn’t move with them. Mike resulted in travelling a weekly 300 mile (500 km) return commute. Mine was a once monthly 600 miles return journey from the north to the south tip of Vancouver Island. The bonus was that for eight years Francis and I loved to explore British Columbia’s  beautiful capital, Victoria.

Mike is a Power Engineer  – he’s the guy in the power plant running formula’s to make sure steam boilers don’t blow sky high. So Mike is a smart guy. He understands the laws of physics, and he doesn’t like to waste energy. That’s his job.

Both of us needed reliable cars so  we did a some math, and ergo, the economics favoured a smart car. Over those years we certainly traveled light. By the way – contrary to popular belief,  Smart Cars are safe . They’re built like a nut shell and hard to crack.


Energy savings banner

2 smart cars


When oil peaked in 2008, just before the US housing bubble burst (and don’t forget the bank bail-out too), I admit having mixed feelings to report that Mike and I reaped amazing compound savings from the exceptional fuel economy. 

My Smart Car fuel costs had risen from $40.00 to 55.00 per trip, but fuel for my old  truck would have risen from $120.00 to a $165.00 per trip. It is ironic that the increased fuel costs,  also increased my savings when I drove the Smart Car – from $80.00 per month to $110.00 per month.

This simple rule  of ‘compound savings’ is true with all energy efficient products – from small cars to compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Energy prices surely rise. Choosing to buy Energy Star, even with the extra capital cost, will provide a constantly increasing dividend.

An added bonus is maybe we’ll stop cooking the planet . . .


Bruce's pick-up truck to die for


A different kind of Companion: A good old book!

1974 energy crisis bible

America has 5% of the worlds population and uses 25% of the world’s resources, much of it wasted energy. Australians and my fellow Canadians don’t do much better.

Although the book above dates back to 1974, the tips are more than applicable today.

There are simple things people can do to conserve energy and improve life. How about to slow down while driving? Lets examine the chart below, for driving a 1973 Camaro.

Slowing down from  80 miles per hour (@ 11.5 mpg) to 60 miles per hour (@ 15.5 mpg) saves 44% in gas. In other words, a trip that costs $14.40 barrelling along at 80 mph, will cost  only $10.00 driving at a more sane pace of 60 mph.


Fuel economy chart 1974 camaro


Slowing down while driving saves money and the environment. We can also enjoy the scenery and have a safer journey!


Mt brother Al in 1982


The full text of Merton’s American meditation on the automobile:

“The attachment of the modern American to his automobile, and the symbolic role played by his (or her) car, with its aggressive and rubric design, its useless power, its otiose gadgetry, its consumption of fuel, which is advertised as having almost supernatural power – this is where the study of American mythology should begin . . .”

Vintage auto on day of the dead


“Meditation on the automobile, what it is used for, what it stands for – the automobile as weapon, as self advertisement, as a means of suicide, etc. – might leads us at once right into the heart of all contemporary American problems: race, war, the crisis of marriage, the flight from reality into myth and fanaticism, and the growing irrationality of American mores.” – Thomas Merton


Yuck!  I say, let’s try something different:

2 more guys and their smart car

Two smart guys with Dr. Seuss, and a Chevy Volt!


or, how about a plug in Prius . . .

Power Smart BC Hydro car 2


Times change.  Mike and I no longer need the long commute. Hence our automobiles also changed.

Recently Mike’s son got married.  My good friend leaned over during the evening after a few beverages, and somewhat confidentially said, “Bruce – I miss my Smart Car.”  And so do I Mike.

There you have it – Companions. Two smart guys, and their cars.

Cheers to all you other folks – Bruce

25 thoughts on “Companionable – 2 smart guys and their cars

  1. 15.5mpg?! Really?!! Our car does mid 50s and my bike does over 100mpg. With the exorbitant cost of fuel (ie. tax!) here in UK (and Europe) getting anything less than mid 30mpg is unacceptable to the average motorist ….

    • Yes that is so true Noeline. Here in Canada and the U.S, and probably australia as well, there are so many trucks and SUVs that only get 20 or 25 miles per gallon. We have had relatively cheap fuel costs, so people don’t mind, but when prices inevitibly rise people are stuck with vehicles they can’t afford to fuel up. We are really short sighted in this regard.

  2. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: The Golden Hour & Barrelling down the highway | through the luminary lens

  3. Love these cars. They could be my companion any day.

    Thank you for visiting my blog today. I appreciate the time you took to stop by. May your day be filled with joy and peace.

  4. Pingback: A Word on Cars and the Environment | Illuminate

  5. Your welcome! Thanks for the advice about cars! I’ll look into it.
    By the way, I changed my username because I decided to only use my first name. I just found out that Google searches can even track comments we make on other people’s posts, and that made me a little nervous.

    • Thank you Angela – I’ve heard of the electric smart cars and looked at them via you’re link. And as I said on your blog, over in Germany you’re installing so much wind and solar, so now you can have wind and solar powered electric vehicles. And it’s not like Germany is a hot desert climate either, right? This is way cool.

  6. I love those quotes about America’s “relationship” with its cars. I don’t think most people, including myself until I read the quotes, really realize how and why we are so obsessed with cars. It sounds to me like a very dysfunctional relationship. I don’t have a car, but if I ever get one, you’ve convinced me that a smart car is the best kind to get.

    • Thanks Tanya for your affirmation, and good for you for not owning a venicle. I have found over the years, that on average at least 25% of Francis’ and my budget goes to the cost of owning and operating an automobile. And Fran doesn’t even drive! That ammount of money could take a person on a lot of transit rides and probably a nice holiday as well. Our rural location, like many people, makes auto transport essential.

      If ever you really feel an absolute need to own a car, maybe consider a local car co-operative where you can borrow different types of vehicles for different applications, as you need them. I’ve even heard of tool co-operatives. This idea of ‘car ownership’ or even ‘house ownership’ is an illusion, in my opinion. Lets face it, most of us take out a bank loan and the bank owns the car. So why not have part ownership through a co-operative?

      One other thing – there are many small cars on the market in different price ranges for different needs – I choose the smart car as one example, not to say it’s best or ideal – there are many small cars only slightly less efficient that have way better ‘value’.

      For other people reading this, please check out Tany’s recent post about climate change and the recent flash fire is Phoneix that tragically took the lives of 15 firemen . . .

      I pray to the almighty powers that be, for people to start connecting the dots, snap out of denial, and then begin to make even small changes that will begin us, the world, on the road to recovery.. . .

      Peace to all, and a special thank to you Tanya.

  7. Pingback: Weekly Photo Challenge: Companionable | Denis Danze Photographe Freelance

  8. You’d think people in our small (9 x 5) island would go for small & energy-efficient vehicles. Oh no, it’s full of 4 x 4s snarling up the roads in the mornings and evenings with Mums taking the the kids a mile or two to and from school. One day maybe people will start listening to the message. Nice post Bruce.

    • Heh Brendan. Your welcome. I’m glad to hear rorm you. I’ve thought a few times how these postings are a bit like jungian sandplay – without the sand 🙂 take care, my friend.

  9. wow Bruce, you and your people and car friends are smart! I don’t see many here. In fact mostly see new and old pickups. Today I put the roof rack on my honda fit to take the kayak out and enjoy cool paddling on a hot day. I’m fortunate to live close enough to shopping and daily activities for walking and biking. So the honda is probably happy to be fired up once and awhile. Thanks for bring attention to a do-able way we all can help save energy and the planet!

    • Hi David . . . that Honda fit sounds like a smart choice itself. With the kayak on top, maybe you can go amphibious. 🙂 It is so good you’re in a location where you don’t have to drive so much. A real small carbon foot print, that will leave the earth better off for the next generations. this is the first chance I’ve had to ‘blog’ for a few days, and I’m looking forward to your new post which I noticed briefly, but I think I’ll think i’ll head to bed soon, and check it out tomorrow. Peace to you, as always. Bruce

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