Raise a smile, but not cash

19th December 2008 at 00:00

Some day I might write about my infallible revenue-raising idea of a Stupidity Tax. I'd do it now, but every time I think of something that should go, my list of products or services that are so pointless, self-harming or wasteful that their purchasers deserve to subsidise the rest of us, I realise just in time that I will offend someone I like.

So private number plates and private education are out the window. I should really keep quiet as, were the plan to be adopted, no doubt some of my favourite things would end up being hammered. Can't think of any just now, though.

Staying on the list for ever more (along with alcopops - don't get me started) will be designer labels. Will I ever wear a T-shirt with a strange mixed-up sweary-word logo? Will I hcek.

For many years, I have used this attitude to my advantage with cars, buying something secondhand with an unloved badge and letting someone else take the early depreciation hit.

Things have changed recently. I've bought something quite mainstream, a Nissan Tino people carrier, but it's not the current model. So I'm still playing by my rules, sort of.

The makers claimed, at the time of the Tino's launch, that it was designed with the help of people with children. This may be true, but I think the dashboard instrumentation was conceived by the folk at King's College who originally brought us formative assessment.

Sitting above the heater and stereo controls is a postcard-sized LCD screen which can be set to display fuel economy. At first, I became slightly obsessed by this, casting myself as a male Sandra Bullock in an eco-friendly version of the film Speed, where my car would explode if I dropped below 40mpg.

The constant feedback would inform my driving style, I reckoned. Should I spend all the money I would save on an in-car DAB radio system (0 per cent Stupidity Rating because of BBC7).

Ultimately, the end-of-tank summative test results were disappointing. I could now end this piece with a homily on the dangers of relying too much on informal feedback, but that would be disingenuous.

I think what actually killed my fuel consumption was that long trip to Dumfries in the snow.

Gregor Steele could be tempted by the numberplate PHY 51X.

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