Glass Half Full: Too many white vans in Incline Village |

Glass Half Full: Too many white vans in Incline Village

There are too many white vans in Incline Village. I say this as the driver of one. I say this as somebody who, with embarrassing frequency, has started to climb into someone else’s white van before realizing (1) it’s locked and doesn’t respond to my key, or (2) things piled on the passenger’s seat are not remotely familiar.

White, silver, black. Almost all vehicles appear to be one of those colors. Or non-colors. What happened to the brights of our younger years? My husband and I owned a distinctive yellow Volkswagen pop-top camper for fourteen years. I could leave it anyplace in a parking lot with just a general sense of where and find it again easily.

The same cannot be said about the white Highlander — or the silver Mazda Miata, which is my fair-weather mode of transportation. The latter would be visible, were it not for the fact that tucking it between white vans or pick up trucks of any color renders it virtually impossible to see unless I am right on top of it. Thank goodness for key clickers that chirp.

I find it fascinating that, in an era where the demand for individuality and differentiation is so dominant, our cars are so similar. Add tinted windows, and it’s virtually impossible to tell who is driving what.

When I was a girl, my family drove from Ojai, California, to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, every June and the reverse at the beginning of September. A few of those years were in a red and white DeSoto, pulling a matching red and white two-horse trailer.

As we three kids grew older, the need to include our horses demanded expansion to a four-horse truck, pulling a four-horse trailer. Ultimately, Mom and Dad kept the trailer and “downsized” to an over-the-cab camper atop a crew cab pickup.

Suffice it to say, we did not travel in disguise. My older brother and father competed in a longstanding contest to help pass the time crossing the seemingly endless Mojave.

The goal was to be able to identify the make and year of a car when it first came into view: ‘59 Chevy Impala; ‘60 Buick Skylark, etc. The distance at which they were able to make distinctions was astounding.

For forty years, I have helped students out of their cars every morning. Those on carpool duty across the nation could recognize a family by the color and make of their car.

Once when we drove to Florida from Maryland over spring break when our girls were young, we came back to our yellow VW bus after dinner to find a note on the windshield say, “If this van belongs to Mrs. Glass…” That would never happen in the white van era.

I write this from Kona, Hawai’i, where I notice the white van count is reasonable, but there are too many red mustangs. I say this as the driver of one…

Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at

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