Take That, OPEC!

2005 Toyota Prius electric-gas hybrid sedan with Lloyd Garver
My wife and I recently bought a hybrid car. The way it works is sometimes its gas engine powers it and sometimes its battery powers it. The car automatically "decides" when to switch to which engine. The car usually gets 40-something miles per gallon. So, now we only have to risk spilling gas on our shoes every other week.

We bought the car because we wanted to pay less for gas and we wanted to help the environment. The car is on the cutting edge of what is available to us consumers today. It even has "Bluetooth technology" which, I'm told has nothing to do with poor dental hygiene. One of my favorite things is that you don't need to put the key in the ignition to start it. You don't even need to put the key in the door lock to open the door. As long as you have the key in your pocket or your purse or your briefcase or your sock, you can open the door, get in, and push a button to start the car. I love that. Of course, I'm a sucker for gadgets. Keep in mind, I got that robot vacuum cleaner.

Hybrids are pretty popular where we live. In fact, some dealerships have a six-month waiting list. I knew I couldn't handle that. I'm someone who changes lines at the supermarket when I see the person in front of me reach for the checkbook. So, we drove to a dealer in one of those areas beyond suburbia where they have these mini-towns that consist of every car dealership that you can think of and a Denny's. After learning more about the car and driving it, we went home and thought it over for a day or so. Then we went back out there and bought it. Yes, I'm aware of the irony that we drove to a location 35 miles away — twice — because we were concerned about wasting gasoline.

When you have a car that gets great gas mileage, you become obsessed with your car's gas mileage. When you have a gas guzzler — maybe because of denial — you really don't pay any attention to the mileage at all. But my wife and I pay a lot of attention to it with the hybrid. Anytime it dips below 40 mpg or rises above 45 mpg, whoever drove it lasts gets the credit or the blame. "How was your day?" and "You look good in that shirt" have been replaced in our house by, "What kind of mileage did you get?" and "I noticed you got it up to 45.3."

We've found that, like any car, if we press lightly on the gas pedal and drive the car smoothly, we'll get better mileage. Unfortunately, there are other ways to improve the mileage. I will go out of my way to a street that has a hill on it, so I can coast down to improve the mileage. My wife will take a longer route just so she can get in some highway driving. So, there are times when we actually drive more miles just so we can be happy that we're getting better mileage.

OK, so we're not using the car as efficiently as we could. But when I drove it off the lot that first day, I wasn't just happy that we had a new car. I was proud that we were doing our part. A big smile came to my face when I realized that the foreign interests who control our energy and the American companies that keep raising the prices at the pump are going to be pretty upset when they hear that the Garvers bought a hybrid.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver
By Lloyd Garver