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.