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.”