I've worked as a classroom teacher for nearly twenty years, and I have loved my job, but it should come as no
surprise I have some regrets. One that comes to mind is one of my more, shall we say, creative assignments. In this instance, I tasked tenth graders to write an essay comparing Legally Blonde with Macbeth. Groundbreaking, I know. While the particulars of the assignment are lost to me, a former student I ran into reminded me of how ridiculous the whole endeavor really was. We both had a good laugh, and we wondered what I was thinking.
Behind my nostalgic jocularity, I was secretly proud of the assignment--even if it was pretty ridiculous. If you've read my past posts, you've likely noticed that I still enjoy a forced a connection once in a while. This post will carry on that particular proclivity which I hope you enjoy.
So join me while I compare two vehicles I've recently driven: the GMC Terrain and the Hyundai Kona N. Extra credit to those who recognize my penchant to mix metaphors.
First, the GMC Terrain. My wife was recently rear-ended on the highway (on her birthday, no less) and was uninjured but demoralized. Thankfully, she was granted the Terrain while her car was repaired. See, the Terrain was some much needed chicken soup for the (tiny) automotive portion of her soul. It’s comfortable and inviting and is more than happy to get you through a weary, drizzly afternoon like the day she dropped off her CR-V at the body shop. Mind you, this is Campbell’s we’re talking here, not some Michelin Star interpretation of Mom’s classic or even a cup from that new comfort food truck set up in front of the office. I drove my family from Connecticut to Boston and back, and it was perfect. Comfortable, quiet, and efficient on the highway, it was large enough to fit our vacation stuff yet small enough to get around town. And we got close to 30 MPG, which was a nice bonus after sitting in traffic for more than a little bit. To me, it is a steadfast, loyal soldier—not one likely to excite (or usurp) but someone to be counted on to complete the mission faithfully.
And for the Hyundai? Drop some kimchi into that bowl and buckle up. Choosing the Kona N over the Terrain may be the easiest enthusiast choice, but I think I prefer it for different reasons. The Terrain wins easily on practicality, comfort, and economy. It’s a great family hauler. It’s perfectly and completely fine, and I wouldn’t fault anyone for buying it—enthusiasts included. The Kona, however, is ridiculous in the best possible ways. Like a valley girl attending Harvard Law, it raises more questions than answers. Reviewers sometimes question why it exists, assuming market pressures forced Hyundai to make a performance CUV while abandoning the Veloster N. This may be true, but I think there’s something more here. What they’ve done is to take a staid, economy-car platform (like the Terrain) and crank the enthusiasm. Yes, the same thing is done with cars sitting at the top of the class like the Civic Type R and GR Corolla. But these hatches are more bespoke than they seem given they’re not manufactured alongside their inferiors. Not so with the Hyundai. The Kona N feels like it was thrown together on the weekends in some garage on the outskirts of Seoul. I love it for that. The rough ride, the torque steer, the brilliant, underdog character, is what makes it great—not the attempted blend of practicality and performance it claims to offer. (If it only came in pink!)
Looking back, maybe my biggest regret isn’t that one weird writing assignment I concocted but the fact that I haven't dreamt up enough of them. Maybe I would have devised more and better ways to exercise students’ thinking and creativity—and my own. Sometimes keeping a clean kitchen and serving a neat table is the best way to dine. Other times, throwing noodles on the wall is the only way to go. Both have their merits given the occasions. Both tragedy and comedy can inspire. And the best inspiration is sometimes found in the weirdest combinations. They're worth striving for.
Bill hosts a blog and YouTube channel that lead him to think more deeply about what it means to drive. The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.