Whatever Happened To the woman who wouldn't apologize for her Hummer

Mary Williams with her H1 Hummer in 2006
Mary Williams with her H1 Hummer in 2006 (Robert A. Reeder - The Washington Post)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Kris Coronado
Sunday, January 2, 2011

When Mary and Harvey Williams strolled onto the lot of Capitol Hummer in 1999, manager Glen Cardelino directed his sales pitch at Harvey. It was a mistake Mary quickly corrected.

"Five minutes into this she said, 'Young man, if you would like to sell one of these trucks today, you should consider addressing your comments to me, because I am going to be the buyer," he told The Washington Post in 2006 in an article on Williams and her ride.

For those who expected the driver of the 200-horsepower H1 to be a beefy fella who enjoys off-roading, Williams was an anomaly. The sassy 69-year-old drove the 3-ton SUV nearly every day -- using it to shuttle between her North Potomac home, her job at a credit union in Gaithersburg and personal trainer sessions in Georgetown.

Sometimes Williams attracted more than just puzzled looks. In an increasingly eco-conscious world, there were confrontations ("How dare you drive this vehicle?") and even a message on the Hummer scrawled in soap ("Jerk! Jerk! Jerk!"), Williams did her best to ignore the negativity. "I'm just a person who worked real hard and said, 'Now I want a truck,'" she explained.

Given the recent recession, it's easy to assume that Williams, now 74, may have given up the boxy, black utility vehicle or that strangers' ire toward it would have increased. You'd be wrong on both counts.

Williams's self-proclaimed "love affair" with the Hummer remains unwavering. In 2006, Williams even traded in her seven-year-old H1 for a second Hummer, an H1 Alpha, a model made that year only.

Williams compares her attachment to her Hummer to that to her home. "I'm very conscious of the economy -- I don't have a boat," says Williams, who still works full time. "I don't have a yacht. I just have an H1 Hummer." Today, she spends $45 a week on diesel fuel. As for those who think she must get single-digit miles to the gallon, she'd like to set the record straight: "If I am on the road, and I drive not more than 70, I can get 16 to 18. Around town, I get 14."

And Williams hasn't heard one negative remark about her choice of vehicle since 2006. Maybe, Williams muses, "they're a little bit surprised when they see a little old lady climb out of it. Maybe that catches them off-guard." Maybe, since General Motors dismantled the Hummer brand earlier this year, they see it as a reminder of less troubled times.

Even so, Williams concedes that she will stop driving it at some point. Her reasoning, however, has less to do with finances and more with advancing age.

While she has had no fender benders or scrapes to date, once Williams clips one of the Hummer's mirrors on her garage door, she'll take that as indication that it's time to downsize.

Until then, she'll keep enjoying it. With the wintry season approaching, she'll have plenty of opportunities.

During last year's "Snowmageddon" Williams asked the man who came to clear her driveway to wait. "I said, 'Don't plow it until I go out,'" she recalls. "I just want to see what it feels like to drive through three feet of snow."

Like a butcher knife slicing a cake, the Hummer plowed right through.

Read the original story: Colossus of Roads (June 5, 2006)

© 2011 The Washington Post Company