I live in Chicago, so I don’t really need to own a car. But when I do need a car, I use a car-sharing service called Zipcar.
Generally, it’s pretty great. If you need a car for a couple hours, you can reserve one online, then pick it up from a parking lot and bring it back when you’re done. Gas and insurance are included. There’s plenty of variety in your car options. Sedans, SUVs, trucks, whatever.
But a few days ago, due to a lack of other options, I drove a Mini Cooper. And let me tell you this: Fuck the Mini Cooper.
Here’s what struck me as ridiculous:
- The speedometer’s in the center. And while this isn’t awful on its own, it just means that the stuff behind the steering wheel is all the shit you don’t care about with an automatic car. I just kept glancing down where all the important info normally is and looking at the RPMs. Maybe they couldn’t put the speedometer and fuel gauge on the driver’s side because the steering wheel is so tiny?
- The window controls are in the center, below the air controls. When I was leaving the parking garage, I checked all the places I’d found window controls in the past - on the door, in the center console - to no avail. With someone behind me, I eventually just opened the goddamn door and reached around it to wave the parking pass in front of the exit machine. I found the window controls a few minutes later. Between the speedometer and the windows, it was as if the car was saying, “Take everything you know about cars and throw it out the window, assuming you can figure out how to open it! Maybe you can just open the door and throw it out that way.”
- The door handles were unintuitive. And I wasn’t alone on this. After I’d parked the car at Home Depot, my girlfriend sat in the passenger seat. “I don’t know how to get out.” Then, a second later, “Is this how I get out?” as she reached for the quirky door handles that didn’t look like door handles.
- The heat controls used colored dials instead of regular knobs. Like, part of the dial is blue, and when you spin it up it shows the red side. But when you first get in the car you just think “oh, blue dials” not “that’s clearly for the air.” This is the type of thing I’d assume people who own the Mini Cooper would have to tell friends riding in the passenger seat all the time. “Oh yeah, the window controls are down there, and those dials work like this.” Then you’d have to reach down and show them how the dials work. “See? I fucking hate myself. I make bad decisions. I bought this car because it’s pretty but it doesn’t make sense and now I hate myself.”
Now, I realize all these complaints make me sound like a petty jerk, but here’s the thing: Cars shouldn’t make you feel like an idiot. They shouldn’t have bizarre learning curves. If something that should be simple makes you feel stupid, it was probably designed poorly.
Using Zipcar has gotten me to feel pretty confident about getting into any car and knowing how to drive it, but holy shit, this car is just so goddamn quirky. Granted, I shouldn’t have been driving it anyway (I’m about 6’ 2” and every time I hit a bump my head would bonk against the ceiling), but never have I been in a car that went out of its way to say good luck figuring me out, asshole. You ever driven a fucking riddle before?
On the upside, I guess the Mini Cooper’s kind of a reverse Hummer. As in, you get a Hummer to compensate for having a tiny wiener. “Whoa, look at that man in the big car!” people will think. “I bet his wiener’s huge, like his car that is huge. I want to get in that big car, because that is a metaphor for sex, but not really because I’m a lady.”
But the Mini Cooper is so tiny! It’s hardly even practical, but if you were a grown man driving a Mini Cooper, and then you whipped out your junk and showed it to a lady, she’d be all like, “Wow, that junk is so large by contrast! Your entire body looks gigantic. Look at your hands on that tiny children’s steering wheel! Pick up your tiny car and put it in the trunk of my regular-sized car so I can take you back to my place, baby. (For sex!!!)”
WIth the Mini Cooper, your regular-sized wiener can look like a big, novelty-size wiener, and ultimately, this sort of reverse compensation is the Mini Cooper’s greatest strength. And if you’re a lady, I don’t know what to say. It’s probably pretty practical, assuming you prefer to travel with short men and/or other ladies, and you don’t have children. Honestly, this car seems like it was built for a wealthy dwarf who lives alone in the forest and has never used another car before. Maybe the car is his wife???
Anyway, this concludes a rambling blog post in which I start by analyzing a car’s interior controls and finish by talking about wieners too much.