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Be Better

January 7, 2009

I am not hugely into New Year’s resolutions. But, usually there are goals I set to start the year off – sort of the notion of approaching the year with an intention. That intention generally involves some sort of growth process. For instance, this year, I really want to work on my Spanish comprehension. That’s so I don’t end up with a ginormous whole chicken for an afternoon snack when I thought I was ordering vegetable empanadas in Costa Rica. Or so I can hold my own when I am well aware I’m being screwed out of a ridiculously high cab fare because I’m “not from around here.” You know, useful, practical stuff.

My husband has this great friend from back home whose motto in life is to just simply be better. I think we could all use that phrase from time to time. Be better with choices in life. Whether it is allowing a moment of pause before reacting (om before ape shite), driving a bit off the beaten path for an authentic roadtrip meal instead of hitting the Arches, or not being as wasteful (Is it normal to go through a box of tissues in a week? Would Kimberly-Clark’s stock plunge to all time lows if I stopped using Kleenex?). Whatever it is, this year should be about being better across the board.

Nissan – the Japanese automaker is potentially embracing the be better mantra. I came across an article about a prototype they have for a new car concept called the Nuvu (new view). It was unveiled in 2008 at the Paris auto show. To say it’s slightly cartoonish is an understatement…it’s beyond something George Jetson would commute to work in, but perhaps our picture of a vehicle should advance alongside technology. The buzz around Nuvu is that it’s being touted as the future of urban transportation. It operates through solar panels on its glass roof and the power generated is fed through a battery, allowing the car to function electrically with a top speed of 120 km/h. While the nuts and bolts of the car are impressive in design, so is the interior, which uses natural, organic and recycled materials. Pretty sweet.

It’s similar in concept to the Smart car and the Toyota iQ and I suspect in all three vehicles, the chief complaint is space. The Nuvu holds three passengers comfortably, as research shows that 90% of Americans drive alone in their car, and therefore, presumably, have little need for more seating; a statistic I find fascinating and feel pretty sheepish about since SUVs dominate the American highway landscape. That would lead one to believe that we Americans drive only when we are transporting whole soccer teams or the entire cast of a Broadway production.

I think the Nuvu reflects a larger global trend in consumer products – the notion that we as individuals only need what we need. We don’t need bigger, better, faster and overtaking the Joneses. Think about it, we live in a country where everyone has improbably white smiles, McMansions with entire rooms that go unfurnished and $2,000 gas barbeque behemoths in the backyard. So, let’s just stop; let’s all, dear reader, make a vow this year to use what we need, need what we use and simply be better.

Stepping off the soapbox. Happy 2009.