More Dogs on Main Street
February 5, 2010
We Americans are a strange people. We get upset at the most unusual stuff. For example, the news has been swamped with stories about how our trusted Toyotas have suddenly turned on us. Toyota has had two massive recalls for safety problems. The first was that the floor mats in several models would scrunch up under the gas pedal sometimes. That had the unpleasant and surprising result of applying the gas when you were merely moving your foot to a more comfortable position. Clearly a problem, but something you might be able to solve by taking the floor mat out (yes, I know the sleazy salesman charged you extra for the floor mats) and putting them in the back of the garage. But no, we have panic and litigation.
And just when we thought we could trust our Corollas again, they have an even bigger recall dealing with gas pedals that stick. Apparently something in the linkage between the pedal and the engine is weak and will, under certain conditions, bend, causing the pedal to stick in the "go" position. Again, it’s something that is clearly dangerous and needs to be fixed.
But exactly how much mayhem has the sticking gas pedal problem caused? What sort of devastation has Toyota wreaked on the American people? Well, in the last decade, 19 people have been killed, and maybe 10 times that number injured. I don’t want to sound callous. This certainly made a big difference to those 19, and the people who loved them. But everybody take a deep breath and think about it. We’re talking about 19 people over a decade. Less than two a year. The other 350 million of us somehow survived.
I’d be willing to bet that more than 19 people in this country die every day getting out of the bathtub. Nobody is refusing to use the bathroom, but people all over the country are parking their Toyotas and refusing to drive them. It really points to the deficiencies in our math education more than car manufacturing problems. If people really understood math, they might come to the conclusion that they are a whole lot better off yanking the bathtub out of the house, putting it in the back of the Toyota, and hauling it to the dump.
In the meantime, $21 billion in Toyota’s stock value has vanished, and dealers have stopped selling eight top-selling models. For the first time in history, Toyota was selling exciting vehicles, and now they’re going to "fix" them.
Toyota owners are just not used to recalls. I drive a Volkswagen, and while I really like it, it gets recalled pretty regularly. The VW recalls are for stupid things like the windows not opening or closing. I also have an old Ford truck that gets recalled regularly because some of them spontaneously combust in the garage. It’s a major inconvenience to deal with recalls. Toyota owners just need to man up and get it fixed.
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In other statistics news, the Associated Press reported this week on a very strange weather phenomenon. Apparently it always snows more heavily in Eastern ski areas on Fridays and weekends, or so their snow reports suggest. The AP story said that ski-resort marketing departments generally over-reported weekend snow falls by as much as 100 percent. The weather statisticians called it the "weekend effect." Midweek reports seemed to match up with reality, but the weekend reports were consistently inflated. Exaggerated snow depths might entice people from New York to drive 10 hours on slick roads to ski in the rain. The gist of the story was that now that people have iPhones and an application called "Skireport.com" installed, every customer can make his or her own ski report, and the variance between customer reporting and the marketing department becomes embarrassingly clear. What isn’t clear is why anybody would ski in the East under any circumstances.
But we know that would never, ever, absolutely, positively never happen here. Especially not on KPCW at 7:34 every morning. Actually, things seem pretty accurate these days. It used to be that whoever called in first always had the least snow. If resort A called in and reported 6 inches, resort B, one minute later, would have accumulated at least a foot. The reporter from Deer Valley would always have turkey chili. When American Skiing Company, from Maine, took over The Canyons, they seemed to have 3 feet every morning no matter what. It only took one season of that for them to figure out that most of us can look out our windows and know whether it snowed or not. Their reporting now is as accurate as the rest, and there are certainly variations in the direction of the storm that will hit one local mountain or another a lot harder.
But what really matters is that we finally got some.
Tom Clyde served as Park City attorney in the 1980s and is the author of "More Dogs on Main Street." He has been a columnist at The Park Record for more than 20 years.