Jewish World Review Oct. 26, 1999 /26 Mar-Cheshvan 5760
One way to cut road
rage down to size
THE WORLD GETTING too big for you? Too massive and
conglomeratized and obsessed with size and power?
Is society's love affair with everything overblown,
everything larger-than-life, making you wish for
something more scaled-down and sane?
The answer is at hand.
For so long now we have been living in a country
that celebrates inflated egos, inflated pocketbooks,
inflated advertising claims, inflated political rhetoric,
that the virtues of smallness have not only lost out --
they have been obliterated.
The man in the stretch limousine, the man with the
billion-dollar bank account, the man whose company
was huge yesterday but will become ever huger
tomorrow when it takes over its also-huge chief
competitor -- he is the man who is praised, envied,
That man -- and every gigantic thing he represents
-- defines our society. If only we could be the ones
in that block-long limo. . . .
Well, here's how to change that.
No -- we're not all going to get limos.
This is even better.
We're all going to drive King Midget cars. Even the
man in the limo -- he's going to ride in a King
All it will take is a series of regulations by the
government -- by the agencies that set the
safety-and-fuel standards for the auto industry.
Those agencies have the power to revise the rules
so that only one kind of car will be legal on
America's highways: King Midgets.
And when everyone is forced to drive a King
Midget, life will become immediately sweet,
The King Midget was a kind of car manufactured
from 1946 to 1970 in a factory in Athens, Ohio. The
tiny car -- and it was a car, not a golf cart or a
child's toy -- was the invention of two Civil Air
Patrol pilots: Claud Dry and Dale Orcutt. Their idea
was to take a single cylinder off an airplane engine
and make it power a small car.
That car was the King Midget -- and it's difficult
even to describe just how small it was. You didn't so
much drive it as wear it, like a snug-fitting suit.
Think of the original Volkswagen Beetle. The Beetle
looked like a stretch limo when placed next to a
The King Midget was around 100 inches long -- it
held the driver (later a seat for a passenger was
added), it had a speedometer and windshield wipers
and turn signals, although no exterior door handles
(you just reached inside and pulled on a rope). It
was originally marketed as the $500, 500-pound car.
Later the weight went up to 690 pounds, and the
price to $870. The King Midget traveled 50 miles on
a gallon of gasoline, and on the open road could
attain speeds of 50 miles per hour. People bought
them -- not in big numbers, but the King Midget had
its fans. It was perfectly legal to drive a King
Midget on the highway, right alongside Cadillacs.
King Midget owners reportedly loved to do just that
-- it made them feel. . . .
Well, good. The King Midget was the ultimate
What killed it? A lot of things: safety regulations,
expressways on which bigger, brawnier cars could
easily wipe out a King Midget, shipping costs that
exceeded the cost of the car itself.
But lovers of the King Midget still live; they
occasionally gather to celebrate the car (a King
Midget reunion was held in its Ohio birthplace last
summer), and they contend that a world filled with
King Midgets would be a more joyful place.
Which it would be. All the federal government needs
to do is create an even playing field: everyone in
King Midgets, or cars built to King Midget
specifications by other companies.
Outlaw those trucks-disguised-as-family cars that
dominate the streets today. Insist that all cars be no
larger than a King Midget, and that all engines look
like King Midget engines. Slow life down -- for
That's the secret -- for the good of the nation's
mental health, make sure that every car on the road
is a King Midget or something like it. Road rage?
Come on -- when you're puttering along in a King
Midget, and you're surrounded only by other King
Midgets, how can you be angry? Rage? You're
more likely to burst out laughing.
Safety? The roads would be perfectly safe -- the
King Midget was unsafe only when caught in the
midst of bigger, faster cars. Too slow? Not if
everyone else is driving one. Your King Midget isn't
going to make you late for your next business
appointment -- the person you're negotiating the deal
with is driving a King Midget, too, so you'll both get
to the meeting at the same time.
The CEO in the big limo? Nope. That CEO may rule
in the corporate boardroom -- but on the public
highways, he's no better or bigger than you are. On
the road, his King Midget would make him life-sized.
Or slightly smaller than life. Finally, a happy use for
the concept of downsizing -- put us all in King
Midgets, cut us down to size, and the sun will shine
every day. Or at least it will seem to. Always does,
JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.
10/22/99: Asking all the right questions takes a special pitch
10/18/99: The signs are talking to you; Are you listening?
10/12/99: Even Capone would be disgusted
10/08/99: Don't ever look your neighborhood bear in the eye
10/06/99: Land of the free and marketplace of the brave
10/04/99: German warplanes in
09/30/99: While you fret, something is sneaking up on you
09/28/99: In these busy times, why not bring back a certain buzz?
09/24/99: The storms whose paths no one can track
09/21/99: Who's minding the store? Oh . . . never mind
09/17/99:Here's another place where you can't smoke
09/14/99: As certainly as `lovely Rita' follows `when I'm 64' . . .
09/09/99: Why is patience no longer a virtue?
09/07/99: Once upon a time, in an airport close to you . . .
09/03/99: The answers? They are right in front of us
09/01/99: Up the creek with a paddle--and cussing up a storm
08/30/99: $1 Million Question: How'd we get to be so stup-d?
08/27/99: Fun and games at Camp Umbilical Cord
08/25/99: How life has been changed by the woodpecker effect
08/23/99: If you don't like this story, blame the robot who wrote it
08/20/99: A four-letter word that has helped both Bob and Rhonda
08/18/99: They have picked the wrong country
08/16/99: From paperboy to stalker--how the news has changed
08/12/99: Why wasn't anyone watching his brothers?
08/10/99: Come to think of it, stars seldom are the retiring type
08/05/99: The national gaper's block is always jammed
07/29/99: 'Can you imagine the gift you gave me?'
07/27/99: A view to a kill -- but is this really necessary?
07/23/99: Some cream and sugar with your turbulence?
07/21/99: When your name is JFK jr., how do you choose to use it?
07/19/99: The real world is declared not real enough
07/15/99: The real victims of cruel and unusual punishment
07/13/99: A 21st Century idea for schools: log off and learn
07/09/99: Are life's sweetest mysteries still around the bend?
07/07/99: Of great minds, cream cheese and Freddy Cannon
07/02/99: The perfect spokesman for the American way
06/30/99: 'He's 9 years old . . . he trusts people'
06/28/99: A $581 million jackpot in the courthouse casino
06/25/99: A nighttime walk to a House that feels like a cage
06/23/99: At least give men credit for being more morose
06/18/99: On Father's Day, a few words about mothers
06/16/99: If work is a dance, how's
your partner doing?
06/14/99: Should a dictionary ever tell you to keep quiet?
06/10/99: A story of Sex, the SuperBowl and your wife
06/07/99: Take a guess where "California Sun" is from
06/03/99: Of summer days, summer nights and pebbles in a jar
06/01/99: Putting your money where their mouths are
05/27/99: Pressed between wooden covers, the summer of her life
05/25/99:The lingering song of a certain summer
05/24/99:We could all use a return to the Buddy system
05/20/99: Now, this is enough to make James Bond double-0 depressed
05/17/99: It's midnight -- do you know where your parents are?
05/13/99: And now even saying "thank you" creates a problem
05/11/99: The answer was standing at the front door
©1999, Tribune Media Services