Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Mini-Love, Mini-Hate

I picked up Daughter at gymnastics today, and girded my loins for the conversation ahead of me. We got to the parking lot, and her eyes widened in delight.

“Yay,” she crowed “you bought a mini-van!”

“Rental, sweetie,” I snapped. “Don’t get too comfortable”

My daughter is a lobbyist for the Ugly Auto PAC. For the last year, she has been on a tear to get me into a mini-van, and I simply cannot figure out the appeal. Why would a girl who is a founding member of the Church of All Things Should Look Cute respond so profoundly to a car that looks as if it should be transporting shut-ins to podiatric appointments? Is it the square footage heretofore unavailable to her, the opportunity to create a moving museum to Hello Kitty? Or is it evolution? The mother driving this might be spotted by Viggo Mortensen at a stop light, but he certainly won’t follow her home and convince her to move to Tahiti. He might, however, ask her where the nearest Target is -- she would know.

It’s not as if I drive a Porsche Boxster the rest of the time. My own car inspires no adjectives beyond “Practical” and “Generic”, but at least it doesn’t suck all of the life force out of me when I'm behind the wheel. You can drive my car and, I sincerely hope, retain a shard of cool. It might, conceivably, be possible to retain a teaspoon of cool in a mini-van, but you would have to start off with buckets of cool to begin with.

Pools of cool.

The Sargasso Sea of cool.

Would Johnny Depp retain a degree of heat behind the wheel of a Town & Country? Possibly, but are we willing to take that risk?

If you drive a mini-van, and your windows are open, you cannot listen to Beyonce. If you listen to “Crazy in Love,” you will sing and car-dance to “Crazy in Love”. People in other cars who see you singing and dancing will not be reminded of Beyonce Knowles; they will be reminded of high school and finding their mother singing along to “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”, which made their feelings about Sting all blurry and weird for several months. The only music that can come from your stereo in a mini-van is either Radio Disney or “Last Train to Clarksville”. If you like, you may listen to “The Bridges of Madison County” as a book on tape.

If you drive a mini-van, you may not wear anything stylish. You can certainly try, but it will be futile. You will step into the driver’s seat wearing an edgy little Helmut Lang suit that somehow references the fall of the Berlin Wall in the cut of its lapels; you will leave the mini-van wearing light blue denims, white Reeboks, and a cardigan that announces you went to Disneyworld and have a special affinity for Goofy. You will suddenly own a theme sequined sweatshirt for each major holiday. Your husband will open his closet to find that everything in there has now been designed by Docker.

If you drive a mini-van, your bumper must not remain unadorned. The world wants to know that one child was citizen of the month at his school, another plays soccer, and your daughter enjoys riding quarter horses. If you don’t put on a bumper sticker that is about your child one will be applied for you. But be warned, they will probably give you the I my Irish Step-Dancing Son sticker.

If you drive a mini-van, you must coach something. No one cares if you are a great coach; you don’t even need to know the rules. What is incumbent upon you is to roll up to the parking lot next to the field of play at some ungodly early hour, and bound out wearing a whistle. You may wear clothing, if you like, but the whistle is the key element. You don’t even need to let a team know that you have decided to coach them; just find a game in progress and yell “Let’s see some hustle!” Having seen you come out of a mini-van, each team will assume that you belong there. Later, you can share orange slices with the real coaches and compare Dockers.

On the other hand, the mini-van has one magical power: it renders you completely harmless to the outside world. The driver of a mini-van gives off all the “threat” vibe of a newborn guinea pig. I might think about buying one if I were a felon. I could be dealing cocaine out of the sliding side panel, Daughter sitting in her car seat waving a Glock at people, and any cop driving by wouldn’t even slow down.

“Huh,” he would think “must be some Girl Scout thing”.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's wrong with "Last Train to Clarksville"?

10:58 AM  

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