You step outside your ranch house in Hayward, keys in hand. The sun is already bouncing back up to your eyes, shining off the acres of gleaming hood stretching out before you, bathed in Sport Gold Metallic. You’re getting into your Pontiac Firebird, you’re off on vacation, and it’s 2006.
Today I had to write up that Americans are not only driving less than they have in the past because of COVID-19, we may continue to drive less even after quarantines (self-imposed or otherwise) are lifted. We’re keyed in to online shopping and working from home — COVID isn’t causing that, it’s accelerating these existing trends.
Our peak driving years, as it turns out, were in the midst of the Bush Years, in the 2000s, when we were told to consume as much as we can to keep the economy strong, to borrow and buy and spend and burn.
I went looking for photos of what traffic looked like at the time and found some from 2006, around San Francisco. I grew up in NorCal, not far from the Bay. It’s possible that I knew people in these photos. I had to double check that I wasn’t in one, spending something north of three bucks a gallon.
In any case, I have seen these pictures, and they have vigorously triggered the nostalgic portion of my brain, so it’s time for you to see them, too.
This is also an excellent chance for me to present you with these photos with a choice. See each photo, and put yourself in the driver’s seat of one vehicle. For instance, here is that Firebird photo in full. Are you a Sport Gold Metallic kind of person, or are you taking your time in the brown C-10 with the camper shell and the aftermarket steering wheel? Maybe you’re sending yourself back in time to when four-door Accords had pop-up headlights?
Maybe it’s time to slip into your Saturn and hit up some creeks? Take the Magnum out? Put some more miles on the 323?
Maybe you are looking forward to taking your three Jet Skis on vacation this year, maybe hit up Tahoe.
I myself can’t make a choice here, but I am amazed at the CRX-240SX-Del Sol parade going on. Where are these cars now?
I also cannot imagine the pain felt by that dually driver at every gas station. Did that old Chev survive the Great Recession?
The BMW cabrio driver was already grousing that E30 prices were getting out of hand, I’m sure.
I’m also fairly sure that’s one of those tail-end two-door Avengers. Hard to say no.
Is that a two-door Legend, actually? I think it is!
Turning off the freeway, it’s hard to tell you how much everyone else must have hated this guy:
Wait, hold on.
Wow. Well, none of these hypotheticals can be true. It’s 2006. It’s time to take your Hummer H2 out with your matching boat. It is the only way.