Exploits of a concern trollPosted on September 22nd, 2006 No comments
There are all kinds of characters on political discussion forums. One charatcer is frequently called the “concern troll”. The concern troll is basically a troll, a person there to raise hell or cause trouble but their angle of attack is different. Here’s an example of what a concern troll post on the POG might look like, “I’ve been a Prius owner for about three months and I love the car but I’m worried that it really has made me into a jerk. I drive in the car pool lane. I’m smug about when I talk to friends and co-workers. And whenever possible I’m rude to other drivers on the road. I think Prius makes act this way. I’m also worried about my batteries exploding. I’ve been reading about that online and I think Toyota is hiding something from us.”
You get the drift, I’m sure. The idea is that the concern troll is “one of us” but has concerns. Valid concerns, sort of. The idea is to create dissent and discontent through misinformation but to have it accepted because you’re really not against whatever the general group there is for.
Anyway, I read through this Marketwatch piece and I couldn’t help thinking, “concern troll” over and over again. There is a lot in this story I would call incorrent at least, disinformation at worst. Nonetheless, here it is for your evaluation…
Mileage is fine, but how about that carpool lane?
L.A. Prius owner shares trials and tribulations of driving Toyota’s hybrid star
By Russ Britt, MarketWatch
LOS ANGELES (MarketWatch) — Sure, there’s the great gas mileage and the low emissions. But that’s not what drove me toward making the hybrid leap to a Toyota Prius a year ago.
I’m afraid the straw that broke the camel’s back was a little more self-serving.
You see, in California, if you buy a certain kind of hybrid like a Prius, you get a ticket to paradise. I’m speaking, of course, of being able to drive in the carpool lane — without actually being part of a carpool.
For a commuter struggling every day in the tangle of clogged freeways that is Los Angeles, having unlimited access to this stretch of open ribbon of concrete sans a driving partner gives me a strange sense of privilege. It’s like having Nicole on your arm at the Oscars, bantering with Jack courtside at the Lakers game, shooting 18 with Tiger at Riviera.
Imagine this: You’re flying past the soccer moms who somehow need an entire Ford Excursion to transport them and, well, just them. Or you’re cackling sadistically as you whiz by the bejeweled, impatient BMW driver, knowing you could reach the riding club in half the time.
To be sure, owning a hybrid is not all fun and games. And in my own defense, my decision to buy a Prius was rooted in a somewhat noble cause. It’s just that actually making the leap required that there be something in it for me.
It was April 2005 when the thought first hit me. I was at a conference, listening to former Vice President Al Gore giving a talk on the dangers of global warming, the same talk he gives in the current documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
I’d never seen Gore so animated, and I’d never been more scared. I won’t debate the merits of the former veep’s case here. Suffice to say, I normally don’t care about such matters. I showed up at the conference in an Explorer, for crying out loud. By myself.
After hearing Gore, I was shaken. Even if his dire predictions prove untrue, I figured it probably wouldn’t hurt to make my next car one that was a little friendlier to the environment.
Heh, well, it was an amusing thought.
In the ensuing months, gasoline prices started to climb. Hmmmm, maybe it’s time to consider making the leap, I thought. But the cars got more expensive and it seemed that the gas savings may never pay off. Plus, the mileage isn’t always what manufacturers claim. So I tucked that thought away.
Later, my daughter was about to get her driver’s license and would need a car. She was salivating over my Explorer. Don’t you think you’d like that Prius now, Dad?
Um, not so much.
Then I bumped into a friend who bought one. On it were these obscenely large yellow stickers. I inquired and he told me how the stickers got him into the carpool lane. Usually reserved for two or more occupants per vehicle, use of California carpool lanes was expanded recently by the state to include some hybrid vehicles – including the Toyota Prius.
I told him I’d been thinking of buying one. He told me to do it soon; the state may run out of stickers. After years of toiling in commuter hell, it was all I needed to hear. I pressed into action.
That weekend, I went to my neighborhood Toyota dealer. They had just one on the lot that was way out of my price range. The reason is it had a ridiculously priced global positioning system. Five grand just to know where you are. Geez.
There was more. When I talked to a salesman about buying one without the GPS, he said I’d have to wait. He added there would be no negotiating the price, and that I’d have to pay a $3,000 “dealer premium.” I asked why they would charge that.
He smirked and essentially said: “Because we can.”
Then it hit me. While waiting for my selfish motives to kick in, Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast and gas prices soared. Meanwhile, everyone else’s selfish motives kicked in and they clamored for the gas savings a Prius offered.
I accepted the challenge nevertheless and went hunting. I told the smirking salesman to “hybrid this” and ventured on to the Internet. I soon found that every Toyota dealer in town was imposing the dealer premium, except one.
That dealer said I didn’t have to pay the premium, but I did have to buy a couple of extras from a list of add-ons the dealership offered. So I ordered leather interior and wood paneling. A bit ostentatious, perhaps, but my Prius-owning friend’s interior had this grippy cloth material that didn’t sit well with me. The best part was I got to stick it to smirking salesboy.
Yes, there was a wait for the car. It wasn’t bad at the time — about a month. My dealer says the wait now is two to three months.
Since then, ownership has been wonderfully uneventful. To answer a few commonly asked questions: No, a pair of Birkenstocks didn’t come standard. Yes, it does have enough power to make it up a steep hill. And no, it doesn’t get the 51 to 60 miles per gallon advertised by Toyota.
I’m averaging 45 mpg. If I reset my little screen to calculate gas mileage on only the downhill part of my commute to the office, I can get up to 80 mpg. But that’s quickly offset when I have to go uphill on the way home. It always averages out to 45.
Toyota says my city mileage can be higher because that’s when the electric motor is used more. Never happens for me. I always seem to get worse mileage around my house. Maybe Toyota expects me to go 25 around town.
Still, the overall mileage is much better than what I had. With the Explorer’s 15-gallon tank, I had to fill up every four days. The Prius’s 12-gallon tank lasts me seven full days, and could possibly go more if I only use it for my 35-mile commute to work. One time I topped off the tank practically to overflowing and it lasted nine days.
A bit of driver’s retraining is needed after buying a Prius. The car needs to boot up, not ignite, so you press a button. You have to keep your foot on the brake or it won’t start, I quickly discovered after buying the car. I hate having to read manuals.
The gearshift, on the dash, looks like an undersized doorknob. You push left and up for reverse, or left and down for drive, and it snaps back into its original spot. Putting it in park means you push a button. Thank god there’s a little kit with instructions for valets who have yet to experience it.
If you’re wondering about space with the Prius’s funny shape, I’m about 6 feet 2 inches tall and the car is roomy enough for me in front. As it slopes toward the back, though, the roof forces taller people to duck their heads when they sit in the backseats.
There isn’t a lot of room for storage, but I don’t need a lot. There’s this strange portion of the cargo area that sort of juts out and expands to create just enough room for my golf clubs. For a moment there I imagined some Toyota engineer was in my brain.
The coolest part for me, other than the CD player and leather interior that I never had before, is the screen that tells you in real time how much mileage you’re averaging. Press a button and another window pops up to show a diagram of your car and when you’re using the gas motor vs. the electric engine. Amusingly, that feature also illustrates when your wheels are turning — in case you forgot you were moving.
Other windows on that same screen control the stereo and air conditioner, a feature already on other cars but new to me. That was cool, too, but one bad part about that is my fingerprints are all over the screen. It’s rather unsightly when the screen is turned off, not to mention potentially incriminating.
I’ve yet to have a single mechanical problem after 21,000 miles. At that pace, the gas engine’s 36,000-mile warranty will run out before the car is two years old. Its hybrid components are guaranteed for 96,000 miles.
To be honest, I’m a bit concerned over how much a repair bill might be, given the extensive amount of gadgetry inside. My options on where I can take the car also might be limited. I guess I’ll have to wait for that to happen.
My friends and family are curious about the car, but smirk whenever I drive off, thinking what an idiot I was for investing in such an untested technology. They believe it’s all for some vague political cause since I am, after all, a running dog of the liberal press.
While I do feel a bit better about not belching so many pollutants into the air, they are sadly mistaken. I didn’t buy the car to make the world a better place.
Sailing past all those poor slobs while they sit alone in traffic gives my life new meaning. It means I’ve defied gravity, gone against the forces of nature. And I don’t need Nicole, Jack, Tiger or any other celebrity beside me to feel this way; the victory is sweeter when it’s just me and a CD.
There is a caveat, however. California may let the hybrid carpool exemption expire on Jan. 1, 2008, unless some caring, warm-hearted legislator decides to renew it. Whoever it is, they’d get my vote even if I have to move to their district.
But if no one steps forward, I may have to trade in the Prius for a Hummer.
Russ Britt is the Los Angeles bureau chief for MarketWatch.
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