Doing less with more: it’s been the strategy of American print magazines since Baxter, Setright, and the other legends wandered off into the sunset. It’s hard not to be envious. Consider our friends and roamin’ countrymen of AutoWeek. Charged with the task of assembling thirty pages’ worth of content — equivalent to a few days of TTAC articles — they had no fewer than eleven manufacturer-and-owner-provided cars and motorcycles to review, plus a couple of all-expenses-paid junkets to far-off places.
What did they produce? Three full-sized stories, a couple of hasty paragraphs tossed off at the other cars to justify their continued “long-term-test” status, a two-page “Father’s Day Gift Guide” full of worthless garbage, and, of course, a bizarre rant about how fat and stupid Americans are.
Let’s talk about that last item, shall we?
The column in question, written by Dutch Mandel and entitled “Culture Crisis: Why We Don’t Drive Well”, is not yet available online, so you will have to suffer through the relevant excerpts here. It begins thusly:
It was a middle-finger salute that hinted I was no longer in Italy. My first clue could have been the oversized woman shoveling a breakfast sandwich into her maw… No, this isn’t Tuscany
There are no fat people in Tuscany? I know for a fact there was at least one fat person in Tuscany when Dutch Mandel was there. Mr. Mandel is exceptionally cautious about being photographed, but take it from me: this guy is on the wide side of chubby. This copyrighted photo gives you an idea, but it doesn’t convey the full rotund majesty of the way Dutch wobbles around the auto shows, and I mean wobbles around the auto shows. He looks like he went to a Goodyear press event and accidentally ate the blimp. His waist is so big, his press cars have to be followed by a second press car with a “Wide Load” sign on it. He has so many chins that Bertel Schmitt accidentally wrote an article on his financial prospects. His face is so fat that his eyes look like a two-player game of “Marble Madness” in a particularly difficult maze stage. From a distance, he appears to be a confused hippopotamus that has wandered into a pinstriped tent and is struggling desperately to escape.
Did that paragraph make you a little uncomfortable? It should. This is the twenty-first century and it’s ridiculous to judge people solely based on their appearance. It’s even worse when you consider that your humble author is 6’2″ and 230 pounds, certainly no lightweight himself and perhaps not ideally suited to make fun of other fat people. So why did Dutch start off his article that way? Well, it’s one of the oldest tricks in the hack’s book: Create the “us-and-them” situation from the jump. We, the readers, immediately feel superior to the fat woman “shoveling a breakfast sandwich into her maw.” How dare that obese bitch have breakfast? Fat people are supposed to be self-loathingly jolly in public and miserable in private! I’m glad I’m with Dutch, the ladies’ man and world traveler of Tuscany, and not Chubbosaurus in her (ugh, so declasse) minivan.
Let’s movie-montage through the middle of the article.
the best drivers might well come from Italy… we were embraced as if we were driving a Ferrari… they move out of the way when you race up behind them… we were escorted by superbike-riding polizia… it became a rite and a right… to drive with gusto, with brio, with purpose, while shooting gaps at triple-digit speeds… this is the law of driving well, and the Italians appreciate it.
To quote the least-talented Zappa, “Gag me with a spoon.” But we only have five paragraphs left, and this is supposed to be a column about why “we don’t drive well.” Thankfully, Dutch brings the knowledge.
We do not applaud the elegant fluidity of the double-clutch or that two-lane country-road pass into incoming traffic… we tuck behind the bumper of a honkin’ sport-ute
Us versus them again. Not only are we superior to fat people in minivans who are stuffing a fuckin’ breakfast sandwich in their fat mouths and probably on the way to take their kids to school or some other white-trash pursuit, we are better than the honkin’ sport-utes.
with room enough to slide an Arby’s roast beef melt between the two cars
Uh-oh. Talking about food has got Dutch worked up, and now he’s thinking Arby’s. Or is he showing off his manufacturer-paid cultural superiority to regular Americans? Let’s all laugh at those fat losers who have to pay their own money for three-dollar sandwiches on the way to work while we’re enjoying a gourmet trip to the Mille.
and say we’re “riding a cushion of air” in the draft
We’re soooo superior to NASCAR people! Wait… doesn’t this rag do NASCAR coverage? Let’s skip to the end.
What riled that breakfast-gobbling woman?
That bitch. I hope she dies and every kid in her minivan burns to a crisp. Sorry. I got ensnared by Dutch’s prose for a minute. Oops.
While making my commute, I saw ahead of me a garbage truck stopped with its flashers on, so I dove to my left in behind another car. As I made this move, I checked my mirrors to see her race to close a three-car gap. I eased into “her” space. She did not like this.
HOLD UP A SECOND. Let’s go back and understand this. Dutch was driving to work. His field of vision was so poor, and his eyes were so low on the road, that the fat, fat, fat, fat, fatty fat fat breakfast sandwich woman in the minivan SAW THE GARBAGE TRUCK IN HIS LANE BEFORE HE DID AND CLOSED THE GAP! Son, you just got hosed. If that woman had been packing as much motor as your press Bimmer or whatever it was, she would have pulled your size-24 big-girl panties down in front of the whole world.
She convulsed. She quaked. And she shot me the bird.
Yeah, because you swerved in front of her at what was probably the last minute. I repeat: fat minivan woman was in action before Dutch was. This woman, this exemplar of American’s bargain-basement NASCAR driving, had better situational awareness than a guy who had just been “shooting the gap at triple-digit speeds” in Italy. Tell you what Dutch should have done. He should have pulled over, apologized, and offered her a job doing international road tests. May I remind you all that this woman out-drove Dutch despite simultaneously committing the aggravated vehicular felony of breakfast-sandwich consumption? In a minivan! Put ol’ Roseanne there in a Daytona Prototype and she’d probably work her way up the pack!
What’s really going on here? It’s simple. Dutch got a trip to the Mille. He wanted to write about it. The problem is that stories like “Auto Editor Son Of Former Auto Editor Takes Free Trip Through Italy” tend to be universally despised by the breakfast-sandwich chompers who actually buy the magazines and patronize the advertisers. The only way Dutch was gonna get you on his side was to come up with a common enemy. Sadly, pathetically, unfortunately, his idea of a common enemy is the average American.
Dutch, if you’re reading this, take the biblical advice of removing the cheesesteak from thine own mouth before criticizing the breakfast sandwich in thy neighbor’s. Oh yeah, and read this: Americans don’t suck at driving like you think we do. Yes, our fatality rate is higher than the European countries’. There’s a reason for that. Motoring isn’t the province of rich people or Mille-Miglia jerkoffs here. It’s for everyone. It’s affordable, it’s nearly universal, and it provides Americans with the freedom to wander their country like no other subjects or citizens on Earth. We don’t live in a country where cops wave proles to the side so the wealthy can shoot the gap at triple-digit speeds. We live in a country where the guy working at the breakfast shop owns a car, too. You may not like that. You may not like the poor, fat people who clutter the road and keep the rich fat people from swerving into lanes without consequence. Too bad.
Don’t forget, too, that America leads the world in real, affordable, amateur motorsports. I firmly believe that there are more amateur competition-licensed drivers here than in the rest of the world combined. I’ve never seen you at a club race, but I’ve seen plenty of fat, sweaty guys shovel breakfast sandwiches into their gaping maws and then hop into a Civic or Porsche to lay down laps that would humiliate any “automotive journalist” in the world. We don’t sit around applauding the elegant fluidity of a double-clutch. We just do them because that’s how you get an AIX Mustang into a corner two-tenths of a mile per hour faster than the next guy.
The car culture of the United States is equal to, or superior to, that of any country in the world, and we have the racetracks, the autocross courses, and the vintage festivals to prove it. Sorry, I forgot to include the last sentence of your column:
What a great way for both of us to start off our week.
Well, Chubb Rock, it was better than the way my week started: I had to read your column.