I would describe my political affiliation as slightly left of center, but I get aggravated with people on the far left—particularly those whom I call PEECHES (Progressive, Educated, Eco-Conscious, Holier-than-thou Elitists). So when my wife asked me to pick up her vitamins at the Whole Foods in Evanston, Illinois—one of the most liberal cities in America—I knew I was in for a blood-boiling episode. Welcome to Prius Land.
Driving through rules-rife Evanston (or Heavenston, as the locals call it) is infuriating enough. “Do this, don’t do that” signs are everywhere. Parking “within 8 feet of driveway” when there’s “more than 2 inches of snow” on a “street-cleaning day” “after 6 p.m.” without an “Evanston parking sticker” would probably land you in jail. Once, while my car was stuck on an unplowed Evanston street during a snowstorm, I looked up to see a nature-loving, middle-aged woman in all her glory, cross-country skiing down the sidewalk in an Eddie Bauer outfit and a blissful smile on her face, her arms goin’ up and down, up and down.
And on “vitamin” day, I was just as annoyed. As I pulled into the Whole Foods parking lot, a Toyota Prius—the pricey-for-its-class hybrid car of the earth-worshiping left—was pulling out. Then, after I parked my car, I noticed that three of the four cars to the left of mine were Priuses! Or correction: Prii, as the plural of Prius is now officially known. (Meanwhile, a Volkswagen Beetle featured the vanity plate “UMLAUT E,” while a bumper sticker on another car scolded: “What Are YOU Doing to Change the World?”).
As I entered Whole Foods, I made a beeline for the vitamin section—but not before I noticed organic cherries priced at $9.99 a pound—or a hundred bucks for a solid 10-pound bag. (Writer Noreen Malone noted that Whole Foods ingredients for a fine tuna salad could set you back $152.) After I made it through the checkout line—in which a 5-foot-9 waif was buying nothing but assorted greens and a handful of Think Thin Bars—I bolted out of Whole Foods, screeched out of the Prius-riddled parking lot, and high-tailed it out of Heavenston.
Later, as my blood pressure dropped back down to a livable level, I pondered the meaning of Whole Foods and Prii. Do the degreed-up-the-wazoo Evanstonians shop at this store and drive these cars solely to bolster their image, or are they truly the smart things to do? Maybe the former is true . . . but so is the latter.
Though many of Whole Foods’ items are pricey, some—particularly store-brand items—are actually reasonable. More to the point, the vast majority of the foods and beverages in the store are healthy—and consuming them would save Americans big money in the long run. A recent report by Trust for America’s Health found that if the country reduced its obesity rate by just 5 percent, Americans could save more than $600 billion in health care costs over the next 20 years. And that’s just 5 percent! Imagine how many trillions we’d save if we traded in ice cream sandwiches for Think Thin Bars.
Similarly, when you do the math, Prii are true money savers. The average mpg of all new passenger vehicles bought in the U.S. in February 2012 was 23.7 mpg. Prius gets 50 mpg, by far the best mileage of any non-plug-in car on the road. And that’s not just in EPA testing but in real-world driving conditions, as demonstrated by Consumer Guide. If everyone bought a Prius (yes, I know that’s not feasible), but if everyone bought a Prius, Americans would save at least $250 billion on gasoline per year—which is $23 billion more than the interest we paid on our national debt in 2011. Driving Prii is like not having a national debt!
Prius is also a sensible purchase for individuals, even though it starts at $24,000. After driving 100,000 miles at $4 per gallon, you would spend $8,000 on gas for the Prius as opposed to $16,878 for a car that averaged 23.7 mpg—a savings of $8,878. Or if gas averaged $4.50 a gallon, you’d save $14,981 over 150,000 miles.
With that kind of savings, you could buy a whole lot of organic cherries.