Women are behind the wheel and so the truck stops here

September 25, 1995|By MIKE LITTWIN

I'M MINDING my business on the beltway when, and this ha probably happened to you, I get passed by a vehicle with a tTC bumper sticker that reads: Real women drive trucks.

Which gets me thinking.

First, it gets me thinking that I've never had a bumper sticker on my car, but if I did, it would say: I hate people with bumper stickers.

Secondly, it gets me thinking, as I often do, about women in trucks.

One of my all-time favorite movies is, of course, "Truck Stop Women," but there was surprisingly little driving in it. The bumper sticker reminds us that women -- when they were called ladies -- didn't drive trucks. They also didn't get tattoos or run for higher office.

I'm not sure who qualifies as a real woman -- I like Geena Davis, myself -- but certainly women of all descriptions are driving trucks in great numbers. Also, men are driving trucks in great numbers. In fact, four cars out of 10 purchased today are not actually cars. They're pickup trucks and vans and mini-vans, and yes, jeeps.

This trend is, to say the least, alarming.

I understand about the minivans -- a minivan is a '90s station wagon. For many men, a station wagon means this: I admit it; I've turned into a weenie. With a mini-van, you can sort of pretend it was like the van you had in the '70s with the strobe

lights and the water bed.

Trucks? If you do a lot of hauling, I guess. Or if you need a gun rack. Like many of my generation, though, I've had a problem with trucks since "Easy Rider."

The most stunning thing I learned during Cal Ripken Streak Hysteria Week was that the man who makes $6 million a year drives a Chevy Suburban. Like, what's the point. If he's not going to spend his money irresponsibly, let him give it to somebody who will.

I am glad, at least, that Cal doesn't drive a Jeep, or sports utility vehicle, or, as Jeep-owners call them: trucks.

As in: "Honey, did you leave the cell phone in the truck?"

Why do people drive them? They're big, they're uncomfortable, they don't handle well. But they do get lousy mileage.

Have you ever climbed into one? I've got a friend who's about 5-foot-4 who owns a Four-Runner Land Cruiser. He needs a pogo stick to get into the driver's seat.

They do have good names. Bronco. Wrangler. Cherokee. This is from the western tradition of Jeeps, begun, of course, by Pat Brady and Nellybelle. The idea is to make you think while you're sitting in your Armani suit and sipping decaf, that you're not really on the way to work in that crummy office. No, you're going to herd some steer and rustle up some grub. You walk in the office and call your secretary Cookie and ask if she can get Hoss on the line. I can see Jeep Cherokee driver/Mayor Kurt Schmoke talking to Hoss right now.

It's all fantasy, right? And the fact that your 16-year-old is begging you every day to buy one.

Jeep commercials offer virtually no clue. One commercial says it's good to have a Jeep if you want to drive over a mountain that lacks roads. Or over the rocks blocking your gated estate.

The best one, though, is for the Subaru. It's got Crocodile Dundee and a beautiful woman in a Subaru being chased through the Australian outback by a couple of homicidal maniacs in, apparently, a less-desirable brand of Jeep.

Before I buy the Subaru, I have to ask myself a couple of questions. How often do I find myself in the Australian outback? And, if I were in the same car with Crocodile Dundee, wouldn't I just as soon be killed by the homicidal maniacs?

Do Jeep owners know of some disaster -- this is Albert Brooks' theory -- that the rest of us don't know about? Is it true about the millennium? If the world ends, can a Jeep save you?

My friend Tony, a determined non-yuppie, says, "I want, say, a Buick Regal. Drive one of them babies, my friend, and you don't even feel the road."

Some people want a smooth ride. Others want a cool ride. I can understand that. In my youth, in the days of muscle cars, you weren't driving unless your car was pushed out of shape, hard to steer, but I got rubber in all four gears.

Ah, youth. Somewhere along the line, the hot car became the recreation vehicle. Unfortunately, you had to wear a hat with fish hooks in it and collect bumper stickers from all Six Flags amusement parks.

The Jeep is the direct descendant of the RV. Somebody `D discovered it, I'm thinking, while on Lion Safari in his RV. The rest is history. The Jeep was cool and, besides, it gives you, well, confidence. Patton, after all, drove a jeep.

And maybe that's it. I asked one friend why she bought a Jeep and she told me this: "Nobody messes with a chick in a truck."

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