In my last blog entry, The Sand Crab Theory, I explored the motives behind the reactions of friends and acquaintances to my decision to replace a perfectly fine, older Mercedes with a Smart Cabriolet. I’ve now been driving the car a couple of weeks, and while those reactions are no less interesting or entertaining, they are nowhere near as enlightening as the reactions I’ve had from people I don’t know. I think, quite simply, driving a Smart will eventually make one a better person. Don’t think so? Well let me explain.

I am a rather boring 53-year-old grandpa with a sorta corporate job, a sorta corporate look, and a sorta corporate personality. If you passed me on the street, it’s unlikely you’d even notice me much less muster any significant reaction to my presence. There’s really nothing wrong or unusual about that... it’s probably how most regular sorta folks feel about themselves. When driving my Mercedes (or maybe at the car wash or someplace people can connect a others with their car) I’ve had people compliment me on the car or express some degree of jealousy or admiration. Occasionally I’ve even felt I was the subject of a scornful look, and that too I accepted and chalked up to human nature. I was absolutely aware that people were judging me by the car I drove, and it’s probably fair to say that my own self image was shaped by the knowledge of that judgement.

Then I started driving the Smart. Overnight I realized that I was being smiled at constantly. (Okay, some of those smiles might have been the byproduct of overt laughter, but they were smiles nonetheless.) Strangers come up to me and start conversations without invitation or provocation. I get the thumbs up gesture from teenagers and moms as I drive through the neighborhood. People speed up to wave or slow down to gawk (usually with a big smile on their faces). I’ve been drawn into conversations about my carbon footprint and my part in slowing global climate change. I even think my de-facto political party affiliation changed in the eyes of others... kind of like having a kinder, gentler persona bestowed on me rather than automatically being pegged as a grumpy old capitalist.

Another grumpy old capitalist (Dale Carnegie for those of you old enough to remember the name) used to teach people to put a smile on their face and pretend they’re having a wonderful day, even when circumstances were grim. His theory was: if you smile long enough and convincingly enough, others around you will smile back... and before you knew it, you really WOULD be having a wonderful day. I believe his advice was sound, and if so there is really no question that Smart drivers are destined to become happier, more friendly people.

Maybe the company should advertise “Buy a Smart and Get a Great Attitude at No Additional Cost.”

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Comment by Don Goforth on December 26, 2008 at 9:16pm
Alan, just remember, It takes a BIG man to drive a little car! I am a much older great granpa than you.
Comment by Gary Bryers on December 1, 2008 at 8:28pm
Interesting observations, and though I will debate whether or not I am defined by my car (and if you look at the long list of cars I have had, you would have a hard time pigeon-holing me into anything understandable), I will admit that, unlike any other car I have owned (including those that I have modded significantly), this car has impacted my life more than any other vehicle I have had. (I hate run-on sentences...)
With other vehicles, I would sometimes get comments, but mostly from friends, or someone that owned a similar model. This little sucker gets comments right and left. Young, old, rich, poor -- it doesn't seem to matter. I have not had any real negative comments. I have had one or two "safety concern" inquiries, but overwhelmingling they have been positive. I have even given away about 60 of those posterboard 5x8 bi-fold cards they give you at the dealership.
This car has caused me to violate my own rule of "no stickers on the car" - I didn't have the car a week before I got the tongue and eye brows (plus the "actual size" sticker) put on, and have since added a number of others. I have also never spent the time I am currently spending, networking with other owners, sharing experiences and ideas (granted, with many of my cars, that would have been difficult, since they pre-dated the internet, and even the older BBSes, of which I ran one).
But does it define me? I can't agree - others may think it does, and they are entitled to their opinion. But since none of them know me, or don't know me well, it is a mis-formed opinion.

Keep up the great writing!
Comment by Luke Philippsen on November 30, 2008 at 7:06am
Alan, thank you for writing about the unique Smart Car experience. I am an average 53 year old grandfather and usually pay a lot of attention to car reviews and technical things. This time, when buying the Smart car, I just said, "What the heck, I'm getting this car because it looks like a lot of fun". And guess what? It is! It's young, interesting and different. Kind of a Ying and Yang thing going on between this driver and the Smart car.
Comment by SailorJ on November 26, 2008 at 8:51pm
That's a great article... belongs in a Smart Car Magazine. Hey, do we have a magazine for us Smart Car enthusiasts? :D

Anyways, I know that people who drive Smart Cars are individualists. We're not afraid of what other people think and don't mind being the center of attention no matter what. We're independent thinkers. We like community. Our car is an extension of ourself and the true expression of who we are.

Every Smart Car seems to smile, it has been noted to me now many times. Just like our cars, WE too become irresistible.
Comment by PGroff on November 23, 2008 at 3:00pm
Alan; I would agree with much of what you say. The real thing is that the smart is unique, not just another econo box, it drives great, and makes every one who owns one or sees one smile, and just feel happy, and it has changed people, where once they couldn't care all that much for what we drive they now engage us in conversation, nice gestures, and they want to know every thing that we know. This has forced us as owners to become more communicative and expect that from people.
smart is a great total life experience.
Comment by JIM AND JACKIE LINTON on November 23, 2008 at 11:10am
Alan, I, like you have found my smart experience to be just that...."an experience". I have owned most every type of vehicle from Mercedes sedans, SL'S, classic Mustangs, street rods, hot rods, pick up trucks, BIG trucks, motorcycles, and almost every other type of vehicle with motor and wheels. When I was visiting friends in Canada I saw my first smart and knew instantly I HAD to have one for myself. It was not long after that it was announced that they would be released in the USA and my deposit was instantly in for two, but they would only accept one deposit. Ever since my smart has been delivered has been a joy for me. I love to drive it and everyone that comes to my home that needs to go anywhere always wants to take the smart. My sister from DC was in town and she now has her own on order. I have always said I would own one even if it got 10 mpg. I just love to drive it around. My "big" truck gets 10 mpg and if you tow a trailer, which I do most all the time, you get the same mileage. I have just totally enjoyed my smart experience and feel that will continue for many years to come.
Comment by Wally Gullang on November 23, 2008 at 9:03am
Alan, could you please resend you message to me? When I tried reading it I did something and lost it before I could read it. Also, where did you get your smart? Did you get it at the Lake Bluff dealer?
Comment by [ART4-1] on November 22, 2008 at 7:59pm
Great blog.

The first car to come along that lets me be myself and not to pretend to be what we are supposed to be. Other vehicles are like miniature monopoly corporations demanding attention and conformity to their capabilities and capacities. But in this car, I'm just me.
Comment by Wally Gullang on November 22, 2008 at 7:33pm
Alan, I like you. Just what you wrote, I like you. I am 14 year older than you and also a grandpa but I don't have my smart yet. But just reading your blog, you made me feel better, Thank You
Comment by tommyk on November 22, 2008 at 6:52pm
i agree 100 % when people ask me what the best thing i like about my smart my answere is always the same. "the best thing about this car is it makes people smile." and me to!!!!!

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