Las Vegans are seeing a lot of things they are not used to.
There's the $65 bill to fill up our vehicle's fuel tank. More people are taking public transit. And, in the last few months, some pretty small cars are motoring around the valley.
I'm referring to Smart cars, which have only recently become available in the United States.
Not soon enough for some folks.
The Mercedes-Benz built, two-seat automobile is already insanely popular in strapped-for-space European nations.
The 61-inch-wide, 106-inch-long and 5-foot-tall vehicles have been popping up all over the valley, causing as much staring as a broken down bus carrying Hawaiian Tropic swimsuit models.
(Just to give you an idea how small the car is, a Ford Explorer is more than 20-inches wider, almost 100-inches longer and a foot taller.)
A few weeks back, I had a chance to sit down with one of these intrepid Smart car owners.
Buying a Smart car was just a smart move for Bill Trigg. Retired and single, Trigg said everything he needs is within 10 minutes driving distance.
"I don't drive but two or three miles," he said."Instead of three empty seats, I have one."
Environmental concerns played a part in his car buying for years.
Trigg is a responsible environmentalist. By that, I mean he's not out in a speed boat throwing himself in front of harpoons being flung from whaling ships.
Instead, Trigg lives his life aware of his impact on the environment. And he believes he can do things, no matter how small, to lower that impact.
He uses reusable cloth bags when he goes shopping. He also doesn't like wasting fossil fuels. And he doesn't run out to the store if he needs one thing; he waits until he has a list of six items.
"I'm concerned about the environment. I try to use less of everything, and that includes using less gas," he said.
So, when Trigg first saw the Smart car a few years back in Hamburg, Germany, he fell in love with it and the 40 to 45 miles per gallon the car gets.
The Smart car does use more expensive oil, and it must be filled with 91 octane gasoline.
But Trigg insists it's a small price to pay. Literally.
Even at today's prices, a Smart car's 8.5 gallon fuel tank can be filled for less than $40.
And with rising fuel prices, Trigg said, the Smart car seems to have come along at the right time.
I went for a ride with Trigg in his Smart car; and I have to say, it was surprisingly roomy even for a guy of my width -- technically I'm wider than half the Smart car.
"I'm having more fun driving this car," Trigg said as he turned onto Aliante Parkway.
What I noticed was all the people in other vehicles staring at us.
I also began thinking about safety as a pickup pulled up next to us.
The average-sized pickup looked like one of those monster trucks, at least from inside the Smart car.
That made me think that I would be more comfortable in a Smart car if everyone else was driving one.
I asked Trigg if he felt safe. He did, explaining that the frame of the car is made of steel and it has air bags in the front and on the sides.
The one drawback, Trigg said, is the Smart car doesn't handle bumpy roads that well.
"On a bad road, you're going to feel it" if you're traveling more than 35 mph, he said.
One thing that surprised Trigg was how fast his little car can go.
Trigg purchased his blue Smart car in Riverside, Calif., because there are no dealerships in Las Vegas yet. One is expected to open in July, he said.
On the drive back to the valley, Trigg said he looked down to see he was going 80 mph.
"I had to watch it," he said with a smile.
Even at that speed, he found a friend who had come along for the ride was sound asleep.
For Trigg, the price tag wasn't bad either. The Smart car starts at about $12,000.
By comparison, the Mini Cooper has a suggested retail price beginning at $18,000.
Trigg knows the Smart car isn't for everybody. Car-size matters to a lot of people.
But I wouldn't be surprised if, as the price of driving continues to rise, Smart cars become common enough that other motorists don't feel the need to stare.
If you have a question, tip or tirade, call Francis McCabe at (702) 387-2904, or send an e-mail to roadwarrior@review journal.com. Please include your phone number.