Empty promises

Q: I have two questions along the same vein, but I'll split it up. Part One: My Honda Civic's speedometer reads a theoretical maximum speed of 130 mph. Knowing that my car starts to shimmy violently after 70, I've never tested this limit. Even if I did, I'd be crazy to try (not to mention way past lawful limits). So why does every car list a speed you can't reach?

A: Why do people buy mountain bikes when they don't even intend to hop over a curb? Why do tiny little women buy enormous SUVs? Why do suburbanites in the South buy 4-wheel-drive vehicles?

It's because Americans figure that if a little is good, a lot is much better. This is why you can't buy regular Tylenol anymore, just Extra-Strength! In a few years, if you want an Aspirin, the only kind of pain killer you'll be able to find is what they give to crash victims with compound fractures.

This principle applies to things that really aren't as robust, too, as long as they seem to be. Don't you feel cool looking at your speedometer and thinking, "I could go 130mph. I just don't want to." Vrooom. How would you feel if the speedometer stopped at 65? Not much like a Ferrari driver, I'll bet. I get a thrill just seeing how many kilometers per hour I can get my little sub-compact to burn up. It's not any faster, but seems faster.

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