A matter of size

By Carol / May 23, 2011 /

The first time I saw a Smart Car, I was charmed. How could a car be so darn cute? I wanted to put it in my pocket and take it home. Maybe I’d even get a set of six. They’d fit in the same space as my current mid-sized car.

In the U.S., Smart Cars are a novelty. As the price of gas rises, people may see the fuel efficiency as more desirable, but even then, given the size of our roads, the distances we travel, will these little jewels ever really be mainstream?

It’s a different case in Europe. Roads built hundreds of years ago to let two horses pass are no wider today. The streets of Massa Macinaia narrow as they round curves, requiring drivers to beep their horns as they approach, lest they run head on into someone coming from the other direction. The Roman aqueducts run right through towns and cities, so two-lane streets go to one lane to accommodate the arch. Traffic lights in the walled city of Lucca regulate traffic going in and out because the old city gates are only wide enough for one vehicle at a time.

Smaller cars are the norm. So are small trucks. When the garbage trucks hit the streets on Monday morning, I stood on our patio and watched. The truck was proportionally as small as the Smart Car, navigating the same narrow gravel lane Mary and I use as a shortcut to get to the grocery.

How does the truck accommodate all the garbage? Not to worry. The garbage is also smaller. The recycling bins accept everything except organic matter. Imagine how small your bag of garbage would be if it only included banana peels and coffee grounds! Does that make the recycling bins huge? Nope. Smaller. Less food packaging all around. Except for our wine bottles. Those are the same.

The truck equivalent of a Smart Car is the three-wheeled utility truck our landlord drives. This morning we met him as we walked. He was taking a load to the dump in his little Piaggiotruck. It’s easy to handle, hauls just enough, and doesn’t take much gas.

I wanted one. I bet my husband would like six.


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