Advice columnist Amy Alkon had a delicious secret.
In her spare time, she'd been actively insulting the owners of sport utility vehicles (SUVs) with an inspired piece of performance art. This past spring she wrote about her one-woman campaign in our sister publication in Los Angeles. The column ignited a firestorm of letters. She was interviewed by English newspapers, contacted by fans from Japan, linked on numerous Web sites, and listened to on more than 100 radio stations.
Last June her wonky paper on the stunt and her subsequent column were accepted for presentation at the Rutgers University gathering of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.
"I decided to turn to the principles of evolutionary psychology and signaling theory to create a meme [author Richard Dawkins' term for ideas that spread rapidly across cultures] that would leap out from the background and spread like lice through an elementary school," Alkon informed the assembled anthropologists, primatologists and evolutionary psychologists at Rutgers.
She did not tell the academics, or her readers, that she drives a $3,500, 1970 Mercedes-Benz that gets "zero miles per gallon."
Her original column is answered here by Robert Nelson, who believes firmly that Rutgers has a sissy football team.
Her nasty little cards get quite a reaction from gas-guzzlers.
By Amy Alkon
If you have a small penis, I can feel quietly sorry for you. If, however, you have a small penis and compensate by driving an SUV the size of the USS Nimitz, I loathe you and I want you to know. I printed up a small card to put on the windshields of aircraft-carrier-size new SUVs around Venice, where I live and write a syndicated advice column. In case I missed yours, here it is:
"Road-Hogging, Gas-Guzzling, Air-Fouling Vulgarian! Clearly you have an extremely small penis, or you wouldn't drive such a monstrosity. For the adequately endowed, there are hybrids or electrics. 310-798-1817."
The abuse continues at the phone number on the card. There's a recording. Some crazy woman (that would be me) is talking very fast:
"Piggy, piggy, piggy. If you can afford one of those huge new SUVs, you can afford something that doesn't suck all of the air out of the planet and spit it back black. Um, even if you don't drive an electric car, you can get some stylish little sports car that doesn't just chew up the planet. Um, it's really creepy that you drive that thing and I just wanted to let you know."
As you might expect, I got a lot of messages letting me know what I could do with my little cards. Many callers berated me for being wrong about their SUV. Many more berated me for being wrong about their penis.
Man No. 1: You're a freak.
Man No. 2: That is so funny. You are such a loser. I had to call to hear what you were about. (He laughs.)
Man No. 3: I just want you to know that my penis is huge. It is really, really, really big. And I bitterly resent that insult to my precious manhood.
Man No. 4: I have this strange card on my very large automobile. I don't have an extremely small penis. I mean, currently my penis is extremely small because it's not in your fucking mouth. I'm sure that won't be hard to do since you have such a big fucking mouth. You should be able to fit my extremely small penis in there.
If it isn't Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Man No. 5: What about all the women and the single mothers, especially the single mothers, that drive SUVs and haul all the children around? I guess if we were to interpret this for them, we would have to say you felt that they had small, dry, inadequate vaginas. Give me a break.
No, I would imagine that they have big, dry, inadequate vaginas. The penis on the card -- it's a metaphorical small penis. Sadly, the card wasn't big enough for me to be genitally inclusive. Now that we've covered my tendency toward genital discrimination, what do you have against single mothers? (Apart from their big, dry, inadequate vaginas.)
Woman No. 1: Hi, my name is Kimberly and I have four children. And I can't drive a sports car because that just doesn't work for a big family. And I think that you are absolutely vulgar and disgusting . . . that you exercise your right to free speech by trying to make other people feel bad. What is wrong with you? I have no penis. I have a luscious vagina. And I think you should, like, shove all these cute little cards up your ass, okay? Have a nice day. (Kimberly squeals with delight.)
I think you should, like, try a Jetta station wagon, Kimberly. It'll get you, your family, and your luscious vagina where you're going at the rate of 42 miles per gallon city, 50 mpg highway.
Man No. 6: How would you recommend that we all get our furniture that we deal with lugged around all day? I guess we could strap it to the top of the electric car or the hybrid car. Then it would weigh down the top and run the battery low, and then we'd have to pay people to fix it and replace the batteries. Probably at the end we wouldn't end up saving much anyway, and we'd annoy everybody because we'd be pulled over on the side of the highway broken down and stopping traffic. So you think about that. And you think about other ways to get a message across that are a little bit more intelligent. Thank you.
A more mature person might have put out a card with a brief statement in beautiful script about egrets with black lung disease. Moved as I was by the thought of hundreds of birds in tiny iron lungs, I beelined for the lowest common denominator. I did this not only because I'm obnoxious and immature, but because I was hoping to get other people to spread the cards and the word. Something told me small dicks would travel better than small birds with respiratory ailments.
Woman No. 2: Hello, psycho! We should all be driving hybrids or electrics or little Honda Civics with hatchbacks, but you don't know how half of us came about having our cars. I can't just get rid of this car I have. And it's not a new SUV, okay, so screw off. And worry about yourself.
I'm not just a psycho, I'm a psycho with friends who don't follow directions. These cards were only supposed to go on the most hoggo new SUVs, like Lincoln Navigators and Cadillac Escalades. You do have a point that I should be worrying about myself. Especially when a Navigator or an Escalade is bearing down on me on the 405.
Man No. 7: (With an Indian accent thicker than day-old lamb vindaloo.) Hello, I got this card on my car. What the fuck is your problem? I have eight children. Fucking Americans! Go right to hell, you fucking asshole!
Eight kids? I should have left a box of Trojans on your windshield. Hell, maybe a case.
Man No. 8: I got one of your cards a couple weeks ago. The vehicle the card was put on was actually a work vehicle for security and staff. I don't take offense at all at your labeling it a monstrosity. It is. It's a pain in the ass to drive, and very expensive. I actually appreciate your putting the card on the car; I agree with you 100 percent. For my personal use, if I can do my part by getting a hybrid car, hey, all the more power to it. I thought I would be able to get more information about the hybrid cars here.
No, this number you're calling is merely the continuing insult line. But this sounds like the perfect time to break for a testimonial about hybrid vehicles, complete with famous TV star:
"My Toyota Prius hybrid electric vehicle gets up to 55 miles per gallon with one-tenth the emissions of an SUV, and it is stylin'!" says Michael Weiss, star of The Pretender on TNT. "It can help you get lucky! And if you can't get lucky in a car with that kind of enviro-friendly karma -- let's face it, partner, you ain't gettin' lucky!"
Man No. 9: Hi, I have the store Cabana Joe's (on Abbott Kinney in Venice). If you leave the card on my new car one more time, I'm going to have a private detective trace your phone number down and I'll file a police report against you. My name is Joe O'Brien, and I don't feel comfortable with a psycho from Venice putting cards on my car, threatening me and calling me names. So, I will file a police report against you, and believe me, it's very easy, because you left this phone number, to find out where you're at. So I'm just letting you know that this is gonna take place, okay? Thank you. Buh-bye.
Cabana Joe gets tough: Actually, you know, I don't feel comfortable with the fact that you've put these cards on my car twice, so I'm gonna actually just go to the police department right now and file a report. So, just to let you know what the actions that you've taken have caused, okay? Thank you. Buh-bye.
Y' know, Joe . . . I had a hard time getting the cops excited about arresting the drug dealers across from my house. You really think they'll clap me in irons for putting a business card on your windshield?
Woman No. 3: Because I use the car to haul things back and forth, it keeps me from taking three trips for the same amount of stuff. Actually, I'm saving gas for the planet, you moron.
Like so many people, you have a hard time packing three scripts, a parking stub and a latte into a Honda Civic. Then again, there are times when only an SUV will do. Like when you're tooling down Wilshire and you pass a buffalo grazing just off Beverly Glen. You can take him out with a tire iron and toss him in the back of your Expedition -- and still have room for a cord of wood, should you be in the mood for a little light logging on the way home from drinks at the Peninsula Hotel.
Man No. 10: How about sucking all the happiness and joy out of the air and spitting blackness in because that's exactly what you're going to do to people when they come out and find these horrible little notes on their car. But the other thing is the amount of bad will that you're going to promote with your ridiculous little moronic campaign, bringing down the morale of everyone that you touch, spreading misery to those all around you -- maybe even cause people to get in fights and promote violence. That I would consider before I went on this bullshit little campaign.
Imagine my influence on gang warfare. Soon, gangbangers will start whipping out business cards to end disputes: "Freeze, motherfucker, or I'll, I'll . . . throw this piece of thermographed card stock at you!"
Man No. 11: Hey, I received one of your cards saying that I'm a really creepy person for driving a big V8 engine, and let me tell you, it's people like you that really make me want to pollute even more. Actually, I can't wait to go home and just get all the batteries I've saved for the last several years -- just dump them into the ocean -- and just drop cans at random in nature. And when I go hiking, just drop all my plastic and nonbiodegradables and saran wrap. I mean, I just want to pollute as much as possible because of idiots like you.
Spoken like a man with a "Heal the Bay" sticker on the back of his Chevy Suburban. Those people are my old favorites.
My new favorites are those with flags sticking out of their SUV windows. If we didn't need so much Mideast oil for these losers' mobile living rooms, Osama, Saddam and friends would probably be looking for work as goatherds. You wanna be patriotic? Shove that flag up your ass and get on the bus.
Amy Alkon described her ideal man based upon his car. If she were woman enough, she'd realize her dreamboat drives the biggest SUV on Earth.
By Robert Neslon
My penis is six and one-quarter inches long. I measured it once in high school while watching Cinemax. Perhaps it has grown since then. It doesn't appear to have shrunk.
Since high school I have only driven small economy cars, cars that, according to Amy Alkon, indicated that I had no need to compensate phallicly. I drove those cars because I was poor, but I liked doing so because I was treading lightly on the earth.
I am a stud, according to her nearby screed on Los Angeles' SUV drivers, even though I'm only a quarter-inch above average peniswise.
But I am a stud in the more traditional, horse-inseminating sense of the word.
Meaning I am a breeder, the alpha rabbit, a human king bee. Meaning my six-and-two-bits are the procreative Domino's Pizza delivery boy -- on time all the time or the next one's free.
And my anchovies swim, baby.
My wife of 10 years is a working environmentalist. When she met me, I had greasy long hair, a folk-rock band and a sporty two-seater Mazda that got 30 miles per gallon. It was all too much for her. She was pregnant within months of marrying me.
The two-seater was soon replaced by a four-seat Ford Tempo, which, when it wasn't vapor locking, got 27 miles to the gallon.
Such fuel efficiency caused my wife to swoon. We had a second boy. So we bought a 24-mpg minivan, a vehicle I complained made me feel like a "soccer-eunuch."
Not long ago I bought a different second car, an old Volvo, which is more or less a mobile bomb shelter that gets 31 mpg. My new environmentally chic-mobile again made my poor wife loose with her uterus. We now have a 9-year-old, a 5-year-old and a 10-month-old boy.
Because of this third child, last month, about the same time I scheduled my vasectomy, I fell in love with an 18-mpg 1996 GMC Suburban, the biggest and baddest of all the road-hogging, gas-guzzling SUVs.
And I know why the freeways of Phoenix are clogged with thousands of SUV-driving men just like me.
Here is my story of how a good man came to love a bad car:
My neighbor, Brandon Sullivan, is an auto wholesaler. He often brings home his latest prize from the auctions he attends.
At first, I didn't think much about the Suburban he brought home last month. It was that ubiquitous Chevy tan, that fleet-truck tan, and it was the Suburban's older, boxier body design.
It was the "other, older sister."
I also had a hang-up about Suburbans. Where I grew up, they were the "Cowboy Cadillacs," gunked-up monsters that rolled in from the country carrying who-knows-what sort of dead animals. We were city people -- station wagon people. We had nothing to haul but books, children and a small, live dog.
Still, I remember being cramped. I remember constantly wanting to strangle my sister while cowering from my big brother. I remember the rearview mirror serving as a picture frame for my dad's furrowed brow.
Latent in me was the equation that large families in small cars equal unmanageable stress.
Brandon had bought the Suburban at an auction in Denver. His wife flew up with their toddler to meet him for a small vacation. Then they drove the Suburban back to Phoenix.
Brandon gushed to me about the trip back. Their toddler watched movies in the back. His boy was actually happy during the trip. So Brandon was happy. So much space. The Suburban rode like a dream.
A/C like an icebox. Killer sound system.
And that Vortec engine. Remarkable, he said. Eighteen mpg from Denver to Phoenix, even with the 4X4.
And what versatility. You can pull out the back bench seat for more hauling space. You can fold down the middle seats for even more hauling space.
You can keep the back seat in, lower the front and put stuff there between you and your kids.
It sounded like heaven on wheels.
As he raved, one overriding thought consumed me:
The Suburban can do anything!
In contrast, our Nissan Quest, our allegedly fuel-efficient smart-space minivan, can't seem to do anything well.
Three kids fit fine in the thing. You just can't fit the stuff that comes along with three kids.
Stroller, diaper bag, school backpacks, water jugs, groceries. For baseball games: lawn chairs, equipment bags, more water jugs, snacks, baby toys, baby blankets, umbrellas. Bags of sunscreen, sunglasses, bug spray, wet wipes, butt cream, cameras. Then all the weird crap kids always bring along on any trip.
If it's an overnighter: portable crib, pillows, duffel bags, cooler, games, more chips, more water, more everything.
For camping: . . . Ah, yes, for camping.
This low-clearanced, passenger-tired, underpowered, weak-transmissioned, 4X2 piece of crap almost got me and my two oldest boys killed when it died in the wilderness near Globe this spring.
Yeah, sure, I got lost. But the Suburban doesn't care if you get lost. It just keeps going any goddamn place you want over any goddamn rock you want until you find a main road again and glide on home riding high on a fat piece of cowhide in 60-degree air with your reeking, screaming kids so far back there it feels like they're riding in the car behind you.
I was in love. Brandon said he'd sell it to me for what he paid. Smokin' deal. Brandon let me test drive the Suburban for an afternoon.
So I went on a hauling spree. We bought a patio table and four chairs at a moving sale. It all fit!
We bought lamps, pots, seat pads and a jungle of fake plants. All smokin' deals. And it all fit!
As I cruised down the 101 at 80 mph looking down on all humanity with all the stuff I could ever imagine fitting in a vehicle, I finally felt like the stud I apparently always have been. I was empowered. With this vehicle, I finally could comfortably accomplish all the tasks asked of a man who had been lured by womanhood to give early and often of his studly seed.
I took my oldest son to baseball practice. My 5-year-old and baby came along. We loaded and unloaded with ease. At the ball field, I watched as other fathers quickly and effortlessly unloaded their giant SUVs. They seemed so alive. I watched as sedan and minivan people struggled. They looked so defeated by life.
The SUV dads said I had to buy the Suburban. "You've got to do it," one dad said. "It'll change your life."
They raved about that Vortec engine. They raved about the space.
I was being told I could have a better life. Safe, comfortable, fully functional. The Good Life.
I came home with a financing plan I made up in my head. Low interest rates. Home refinance. Sell the Quest ourselves. It was only a $2,500 difference, when you did the math right.
But my wife didn't see the issue in the same light.
"It's a monstrosity," she said. It's "ridiculous," "vulgar," "the ugliest car on Earth." "It drives like a giant truck." "I hate Suburbans," she said. "I have always hated them. They stand for everything I can't stand. I will always hate them."
But honey. Let's look at the numbers.
The half-ton Suburban with the Vortec engine gets 18 mpg. The Quest, which we both agree we hate, only gets four mpg better.
When family visits, we can haul everybody in one vehicle, instead of wasting gas in two. We can haul more neighbor kids to practice and school events, which means their parents aren't fouling the air with their engines.
We won't have to borrow the neighbor's truck to haul stuff.
We can do all our commuting with the Volvo. As it is, we're often driving the Quest for single-person errands.
With some thought, we could actually save gas by buying the Suburban.
And the Vortec engine is known to last much longer than the Quest engine.
Honey, I think it's just awful that you want to fill up our nation's landfills with spent engines.
She said no. And no matter how studly I am, she's the boss.
Brandon sold the Suburban to someone else a few days later.
I waved goodbye to it as it left the neighborhood for the last time.
That's when the plotting began. We will one day have a Suburban.
Which means that even though I drive a Volvo and a Nissan, I am now a Suburban guy.
And I am a stud, by Amy Alkon's reckoning.
And Amy Alkon is an idiot by my reckoning.
For one, she insults dads who are struggling to do their parental duties and then tells them to buy sports cars instead of SUVs, not realizing that many of those little sports cars get worse gas mileage than the much more versatile SUVs she loathes.
Trust me, if I didn't have the fruits of my penile labors to haul, I'd love to be getting my rocks off driving some turbocharged pocket rocket.
Also, those SUVs are often hauling several people. I hope to soon be moving five Americans down the road at 18 mpg. Alone with her wretched camel toes in her beloved golf cart, Alkon is moving Americans about one-fourth as efficiently as I will be.
Most annoying, though, is her utter disregard for, and ignorance of, the realities of being a parent in modern America. These SUV-driving studs and fillies have used their ample penises and fecund vaginas to make fine broods that now, for the offspring's enrichment, must be hauled great distances many times a day to many different activities. Much must be purchased from far and wide to feed and clothe and house and entertain and educate these broods. At some point, vehicles such as the GMC Suburban become the only logical tool for a family trying to be a good American family.
And as good Americans, we have a duty to get these children to all the activities they'll need to become the upper-income taxpayers America needs to pay for repairs on all the roads worn down by all those sanctimonious, pot-addled tree-huggers driving their oil-burning Subarus to the welfare office.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
So I dream of the day I have a big-ass Suburban on which Amy Alkon can put one of her calling cards.
That would allow me to return the favor by puncturing her tires. Then she could be a genuine environmentalist getting infinite mpg as she walked from SUV to SUV.
And as her sexy little car sat there idly saving the Earth, I would place upon its windshield a calling card of my own:
"Nice little car. If my sex organs weren't so superior to yours, I'd consider driving one."