Ahh, springtime. The wonderful season each year that brings us blooming flowers, and gorgeous sunshine, and warm temperatures, and potholes the size of cargo elevators.
Actually, the potholes haven’t been that bad. When I first moved to Philadelphia, I was warned about the potholes. “Be careful of the potholes,” people would say, ominously, as if the potholes are carrying knives. “I once bent a wheel on one.” Or, similarly: “Watch out for the potholes,” people would tell me. “They stole my identity.”
But I’ve found that the potholes in the Northeast are actually quite tolerable if you know where to look. For example: if you are sitting home alone, watching television, you are unlikely to encounter a pothole. Whereas you are very likely to encounter a pothole if you are driving your vehicle on a street, a boulevard, an avenue, an interstate, a gas station, an airport runway, a sidewalk, your own driveway, the lunar surface, a giant mound of industrial waste, etc.
And like anything, it’s all about perspective. For example: the roads here in Philadelphia are nowhere near as bad as the roads in Boston. And the roads in Boston are nowhere near as bad as the roads in New York. And the roads in New York are nowhere near as bad as the roads in Chechnya.
So I don’t think that the roads are that bad. What I mean by this is, I have yet to experience any pothole so large that it has made me stop singing along with Jimmy Eat World and instead wonder if I’ve just run over a school group.
And this brings me to the point of today’s column, which is that I am absolutely sick of people in SUVs desperately trying to avoid potholes.
Allow me to cite an example that will help explain my point. In my area, we have a lot of construction. So much construction that this area kind of looks like we’ve just been informed that my neighborhood will be hosting the Olympics, and oh by the way they start in three weeks.
So what happens you have construction is, you get potholes. I have no idea why this is. I’ve never understood it. These people are building a house, or a building, or a school, and yet somehow, magically, potholes develop around these construction sites, as if they accidentally went to work one day and said: “I’ll dig here!” before realizing: “Oh, nope, wait, that’s a public road.”
So I’m driving along yesterday, past one of these construction sites, and I’m behind a guy in a 4Runner. And we get to a pothole, and he comes to a crawl. I don’t mean the dude is driving slowly, like some people do when they encounter bumps. I mean a crawl. Like I could’ve been going faster if I were sitting in a wheeled office chair and using an umbrella as a sail.
So I’m sitting there behind this guy in my own SUV, and I’m getting a little pissed off, because by God this guy is in a 4Runner. He’s not in a lowered Accord with neon lights that could get damaged by this pothole. He’s in a body-on-frame SUV with four-wheel drive, and locking differentials, and crawl control, and selectable terrain settings, and a bunch of other stuff that should make the thing capable of traversing Middle Earth, let alone a pothole.
Fortunately, he eventually made his way over the bump, and then I attacked it at full-speed in an effort to drive up my Carmax repair bills.
But I’ve been noticing this phenomenon more and more when it comes to people driving SUVs. What seems to happen is, they go to the dealership, armed with all the consumer knowledge they can muster, certain about exactly which vehicle they want, convinced they need an SUV to tackle all of life’s challenges, eager to get that extra ground clearance, excited by the additional ride height, ready for four-wheel drive, pumped to get a brand-new, off-road-ready four-wheel drive terrain tackler. And then they get to a pothole and drive over it at the same speed as a parade float.
It isn’t limited to potholes. People in SUVs brake for all sorts of things they don’t need to slow down for: Speed bumps. Curbs. Cyclists. Hyundais. It’s inexplicable. Believe me: when I’m in my SUV, and I see a speed bump, precisely two things happen. First: SPEED!!!!! And next: BUMP!!!! And then I drive on, happily, as the suspension bounces around for the next six blocks.
Now, I want to stress here that this is NOT an anti-SUV rant. On the contrary, I happen to love SUVs. I’ve owned six, and I currently drive one every day, and I’d like to think I’ll have an SUV for the rest of my life, except when I go to Europe and sign up for a rental car and they give me a hatchback the size of a floor lamp. But by God, when I’m in my SUV, I exploit its capabilities! Whereas everyone else seems to drive like the cargo area contains a giant piranha-filled bathtub that’s just one millimeter away from overflowing.
So my lesson here today, ladies and gentlemen, is simple: if you buy an SUV, you can drive it like an SUV. You don’t need to slow down so much for potholes, and speed bumps, and little tiny curbs when you’re pulling into gas stations. And another thing: if you want to transport piranhas, for God’s sake get a lid.
@DougDeMuro is the author of Plays With Cars. He owned an E63 AMG wagon and once tried to evade police at the Tail of the Dragon using a pontoon boat. (It didn’t work.) He worked as a manager for Porsche Cars North America before quitting to become a writer, largely because it meant he no longer had to wear pants. Also, he wrote this entire bio himself in the third person.