It is time for our popular feature "Stuff That Guys Need." Today's topic is: The Humvee.
Most Americans became aware of the Humvee (military shorthand for HUgely Masculine VEEhickle) during the Gulf War, when U.S. troops, driving Humvees equipped with missile launchers, kicked Iraq's butt and taught Saddam Hussein a lesson that he would not forget for several weeks. After the war, a few wealthy Californians got hold of Humvees. This led to some mishaps, most notably when Arnold Schwarzenegger, attempting to open his garage door, accidentally launched a missile. Fortunately, it landed in a non-celebrity neighborhood.
But once the "bugs" were ironed out, the Humvee became available for civilian purchase. I test-drove one recently thanks to my co-worker Terry Jackson, who is the Miami Herald's automotive writer and TV critic. That's correct: This man gets paid to drive new cars AND watch television. If he ever dies and goes to heaven, it's going to be a big letdown.
When I arrived at Terry's house, there was a bright-yellow Humvee sitting in his driveway, covered with puddles of drool deposited by passing guys. In terms of styling, the Humvee is as masculine as a vehicle can get without actually growing hair in its wheel wells. It's a big, boxy thing with giant tires and many studly mechanical protuberances. It looks like something you'd buy as part of a toy action-figure set called "Sergeant Bart Groin and His Pain Platoon." Terry told me this particular Humvee model cost $101,000, which sounds like a lot of money until you consider its features. For example, it has dashboard switches that enable you to inflate or deflate your tires as you drive. Is that cool, or WHAT? In a perfect guy universe, this feature would seriously impress women.
GUY: Look! I can inflate the tires as I drive!
WOMAN: Pull over right now, so we can engage in wanton carnality!
Unfortunately, the real world doesn't work this way. I know this because when I took my wife for a ride in the Humvee, we had this conversation:
ME: Look! I can inflate the tires as I drive!
MY WIFE: Why?
Another feature that my wife did not appreciate was the winch. This Humvee had a SERIOUS winch in front ("It can pull down a house," noted Terry). There's nothing like the feeling of sitting in traffic, knowing that you have a MUCH bigger winch than any of the guys around you. Plus, a winch can be mighty handy in an emergency. Like, suppose some jerk runs you off the road, into a ditch. After a tow truck pulls you out, you could find out where the jerk lives, then use your winch to pull down his house.
The Humvee also boasts an engine. Terry offered to show it to me, but I have a strict policy of not looking at engines, because whenever I do, a mechanic appears and says "There's your problem right there" and charges me $758. I can tell you this, however: The Humvee engine is LOUD. I picture dozens of sweating men under the hood, furiously shoveling coal as Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet run gaily past.
As for comfort: Despite the Humvee's ruggedness, when it's cruising on the highway, the "ride" is surprisingly similar to that of a full-size luxury sedan being dragged across a boulder field on its roof. But a truly masculine, big-winched man does not need comfort. All he needs is the knowledge that he can take his vehicle into harsh and unforgiving terrain. And I gave the Humvee the toughest challenge you can give a car in America. That's right: I drove it to a shopping mall just before Christmas.
Perhaps you think I was foolhardy. Well, people said that the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was foolhardy, too, and do you remember what he did? Neither do I. But if he had not done it, I doubt that Portugal would be what it is today: A leading producer of cork.
And thus I found myself piloting the Humvee through the mall parking structure at roughly the speed of soybean growth, knowing that I was competing for the one available parking space with roughly 20,000 other motorists, but also knowing that ALL of them would have to stop their vehicles if they wanted to inflate or deflate their tires. The pathetic wimps! I could not help but cackle in a manly way. My wife was rolling her eyes at me, but by God I got us safely into and out of there, and I doubt that I used more than 300 gallons of fuel. So Saddam, if you're reading this, please send more.
Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald.