I once attended a motivational seminar where the speaker used sand crab behavior to explain why “misery loves company.” He told the audience that when collecting sand crabs off a beach, it wasn’t necessary to put a cover on the bucket in which they were carried. He explained that no matter how hard an individual sand crab might try to climb on top of his brethren to escape over the side of the bucket, the others will just pull that crab back into the bucket in the effort of escaping themselves. As the theory goes, humans are inclined to do the same thing. While we might pay lip service to celebrating efforts by our peers to “get ahead,” in reality we tend to be jealous of that success, and we are very quick to pull our fellow sand crabs back into our bucket.

What does this have to do with buying or driving a Smart fortwo? A lot, apparently. As I write this, I have only just taken delivery of my Smart. But in the weeks and days leading up to its arrival, I began to let more of my friends and acquaintances know of my decision to sell my Mercedes CLK430 Cabriolet to drive a Smart Cabriolet. Reactions have been amusing at times yet troubling at others. I’ve had the “you’re going to drive that thing?” and the “what about safety?” comments. That’s to be expected. I’ve also had the “so little” and “so cute” squeals from women, and I’m not sure I’m overly happy to have them use those particular adjectives in such close proximity to me. But what’s been surprising, and more than a little disturbing, is the number of people who seem to be angry that I’m choosing to drive a Smart.

Why does the Smart make some folks angry? After some reflection, I think it’s the Sand Crab Theory at work. If you’re driving the same big SUV your friend drives, there is a certain sense of camaraderie that can result... maybe even validation. If your friend sells his SUV, his action can be seen as a rejection of your choice. The more dramatic the change, the more significant that rejection. And, let’s face it, there is nothing more dramatic than changing from an SUV or a luxury sports car to a Smart.

For me, the purchase of a Smart was just one of a number of “simplification” steps my wife and I have taken in the past six months. Whether it was intuition or divine intervention, we had already taken some steps to lighted our financial load before Freddie and Fannie floundered and Wall Street fell apart. Given the course the economy is taking, we are happy we were able to get a jump on what at least looks to be the beginning of a trend, if not a permanent change in the way Americans live. I’ve begun to ask myself whether driving a Smart is ultimately going to feel more like a response to life’s circumstances, or a circumstance that defines how living life feels. Does that make sense?

As we all plod through months (and maybe years) of experiences on the way to answering that question, I may just make this blog an ongoing effort. I’d be especially interested in hearing from other Smart owners about the many ways driving these little cars impact their life.

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Comment by angel on November 16, 2008 at 11:15am
And that voice in my head screams, "I don't give a flying fig what others think!" Then another voice just has to defend my lil blue belle at times. Your theory might explain why in all the years of riding a motorcycle no one has ever said to me, "Aren't you afraid of getting in an accident on that thing?" Or "Aren't you afraid of being hit by a truck?" Yet both are statements I hear commonly with my smart car. Great post btw!
Comment by Foothill on November 16, 2008 at 8:28am
I'm putting this link out again because there are new people on the site every few months - check this out and your doubts will melt away and share it with the skeptical friends you have
Comment by Becky on November 16, 2008 at 8:08am
First of all, we shouldn't care about what other people think! I am so happy with my Smart orphan and can't wait to get the Smart that I have ordered. I love the fact that I am saving gas. My husband and I don't have children, so a car for two is fine for us. If we need to take passengers, we use his car. Why shouldn't I have the joy of saving money on gasoline, thus helping with the fuel crisis by lessening my consumption, and the joy of driving a car that is so much fun!!! My new Smart is a cabriolet. I think that will be too good to be true!!!!
Comment by Carol S on November 15, 2008 at 7:15pm
I agree with all of you. I never use my back seat. And paying big bucks to fill my SUV is heartwrenching. My own Mother has even expressed apprehension about riding in my new smart because it is so small, it is "probably" unsafe. This is despite my informational discussions with her and others who question this. I look forward to taking ownership of my smart and will drive it and have fun with it. I bought it only because it is great on gas mileage and terribly cute. I guess as you get older, you don't care so much about others and their opinions. I think they are jealous ! (but don't really care)..
Comment by Sandi Eldredge on November 15, 2008 at 6:49pm
I think they are all JEALIOUS of us! LOL
Comment by [ART4-1] on November 15, 2008 at 10:22am
I understand the criticism that owning a smart is "selfish" as a direct result of marketing of other cars that always show some image of a proud driver carrying a load of grateful passengers, whether they are family members, friends, or a soccer team. The message is that it is a contribution we can make by providing transportation to others, or at least to be able to offer it. And yet in reality such scenarios are rare (even in families). Most driving age people have cars of their own (also suitably capable of carrying others) and if given a choice would take their own car "because they have some place else to go to" after the common event. Thus, the road is full of empty vehicles pretending to be taxis or buses. And as a business of carting folks around, they would all have gone out of business years ago. Thus the selflessness of them for continuing to pour money into their imaginary bus/taxi business for the possibility of demonstrating their being a good friend by being able to offer a ride.

Earlier someone mentioned a comment by a pickup truck driver that the smart can fit in the back. In this light, the comment is the expression that his vehicle is capable of providing me a service. As with the others hoping that some friend will need a ride they can offer, it is an offer that will be rarely accepted.

My car has no back seat. The passenger seat is folded down all the time -- it makes a nice armrest. But I get to park more easily and have a more enjoyable drive than the super-sized vehicle carrying just as many passengers. I can drive alone, and not feel the need that I should be offering rides to others.
Comment by Foothill on November 15, 2008 at 8:59am
Contrary to this being a "selfish" choice, this is a selfless choice, when anyone gives you grief about driving a smart car just say "you're welcome" . By driving a smart you helped the grief giver because you have made a contribution toward reducing the demand for gas in this country when oil prices were skyrocketing ( not to mention reducing your "carbon footprint") and this selfless act ( okay I know you are saving major bucks on gas) has been part of the reason gas prices dropped dramatically for all the other "sand crabs" that still like to line the pockets of the Arabs and the oil barons.
If you take the sales estimates for smart and assume that the buyers probably double their gas mileage by driving a smart it isn't hard to figure that we have reduced gasoline usage by nearly 20 million gallons in the US.
Comment by Richard E on November 14, 2008 at 10:43pm
Here, here tommyk !
I was part of the latest collateral damage in the silicon valley and got layed off from my tech job last month.
Wouldn't you know it....more free time to take those nice long drives.
Comment by tommyk on November 14, 2008 at 10:25pm
it's just so much fun to drive!! and i love it on so many levels. but in the end it's just so much damn fun to drive!
Comment by [ART4-1] on November 14, 2008 at 9:40pm
This vehicle is very liberating and validating that I can think for myself and realize that this is the *perfect* choice for personal transportation -- all other vehicles belong in rental companies where I can borrow it for the rare times I really need it.

I am not sure if I can credit the car with changing my life, but I do credit it for encouraging me to follow what I always felt inside: and that is to simplify!

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