AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 But even with all that good stuff, I was still a reluctant hybrid owner. I bought a 2005 Toyota Prius only because my 50-mile-a-day commute was killing me, my finances and the clutch of my 9-year-old Camry. In fact, the commute almost did kill me one harrowing morning last March when I wrecked up the Camry on the 101 Freeway. I knew that it was either time for a new car, or a new job. Many folks have asked how many months I had to wait for my Prius, how much over the retail price of $22,251 I had to pay and whether I had to kill or maim anyone to finally get it home. So many stories had been circulating about the difficulty of buying one of the popular cars that everyone assumed the purchase must have involved drama. The truth is much less interesting: The day after I wrecked my Camry, I went to a local Toyota dealer, test drove one of the five Priuses on the lot, figured the cheap silver one would do and bought it – for slightly less than the retail price. It was about as eventful as buying a minivan. I was immediately filled with buyer’s remorse. I had loved, loved my Camry more than it was reasonable to love an inanimate object. It was my first noneconomy car and, even used, it felt indescribably luxurious compared with the old Honda Civic. So what if it only got 25 miles to the gallon? Gas was cheap! Yay for America! And I loved the confident and smooth ride, the plush velvety seats, the power steering, the power windows, the keyless entry. I even liked the color, a dark red the exact color of dried blood on steel. This was my adult car, and I never wanted to go back. By comparison, my hybrid feels like an economy car, even with power everything, cruise control, the CD player, the interior light that gently fades off and the helpful computer I like to call “Hal.” (“Open the hatch door, Hal.”) It is economy, though; that’s its very point of being. And it doesn’t help that every other hybrid sold is silver, just like mine. There’s seems to be an unpleasant stereotype of hybrid owners among the nonhybrid driving public and conservative talk-show radio personalities. In their minds, we are all a bunch of ultra-hippie, Birkenstock-wearing, nonarmpit-shaving, self-righteous envirogeeks who are plotting the demise of all fossil-fuel burning forms of locomotion, starting with Cadillac SUVs. Mwahh-ha-ha! There probably are a few who fit that bill, just as I would bet there are some who only drive a hybrid because fortune – or their spouses – forced them into the car. But I would guess the bulk of hybrid owners are regular folks like me, attracted to the idea of saving money on gas, owning cutting-edge technology and getting to drive in the car-pool lane at any time. Oh yeah, and not polluting the air as much. Honestly, as smug as we lot can be about our “green” cars, if we were truly committed to saving the environment, we would quit our jobs, open a mail-order business selling hemp clothes and do errands by bike. The hybrid only allows us to continue our reckless motoring ways with less guilt and lower Chevron bills. If I was hesitant to let myself care about this new car, strangers in parking lots were not, often instantly smitten. “Don’t you just love it?” people would ask. I’d look at it askew, almost annoyed by its boxy frame and shrug my shoulders, saying, “Yeah, it’s OK.” But the Prius grew on me, not unlike a fungus. After the first 1,000 miles of sluggish responses, my Prius suddenly came to life and learned to drive like I do – fast and purposefully. I learned to work all the various gadgets and to check the current consumption graphic on the computer screen as I tore through rush-hour traffic. Gasoline prices kept creeping up, but my monthly costs did not. If I wasn’t a lead foot who likes to blast the A/C with the windows open, I’d probably do better than my average of 47 mpg. I realized my feelings for the car were changing when four large, yellow DMV stickers allowing me to drive in the car-pool lane arrived in the mail, and I considered not putting them on for aesthetic reasons. And last week, when I dreamed that someone had taken my Prius and replaced it with a generic car (maybe a Camry), I knew I had finally let myself love again. Mariel Garza [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!