Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Of Minivans and Men


NOTE: The legendary Minivan of Manliness -- as of this past December -- 'tis no more. Fifteen years and nearly 170,000 miles -- all in good service. Well, mostly good. Things got a little hairy those last few years. Various battery/electrical issues, wonky doors and a strange penchant for developing flat tires on long journeys: college trip to Baltimore, the night we moved -- seriously, drove three hours in the pouring rain and next day, flat as my singing voice; and, lastly, on the interstate the day I was driving to the dealer to test drive a new car. It's nice one of us knew when our time was up.

Here's a piece I wrote about the ol' girl back in 2008 for DadCentric.

Of Minivans and Men

Whrrrrrr -- CHUNK. Whrr -- CHUNK-CHUNK.

Hmmmm, I mused. The garage door track could have shaken loose from the ceiling again. Let's punch in that remote code two, neigh, three more times to be sure.

Whrrrrrr -- CHUNK. Whrr -- CHUNK-CHUNK.

Frickity-frick on a frickin' stick.

I had left the minivan tailgate open while it was inside the closed garage. Now the arm extending from the roller chain to the door was welded into the gate. 

It was the first true damage done to the Honda Odyssey, aka The Minivan of Manliness, since we purchased it on Memorial Day weekend 2006. Somewhere in the Heartland of America, a VFW Hall fills with laughter at the thought.

This shouldn't have upset me. I didn't even want the minivan. When My Love first broached me with the idea of minivan-ness in 2003, I applied some classic guy defense logic:

"I'm not driving that big frickin' tub 50 miles up and down the tollway into downtown to work every day. You're minivan ga-ga because every baby-totin' couple we meet on vacation had one. You want it so bad, dump that crappy Ford Explorer that bounces over every ant it hits in the road and drive it yourself!"

This surprised even me. Not because I'm above giving the wife an undeserved tongue-lashing because, shamefully, I'm not. It's because -- shhh -- I'm a not a car guy.

Oh, I know how to drive one. I maintain proper tire inflation, never miss an oil change and monitor those there fluid levels as best I can. I can even instantly deduce the reason we have suddenly lost power while doing 70 on the highway is because the timing belt has snapped. Because it's happened to me twice.

Aaaaaaand that's all I got. 

As I told my 6-year-old son once, wearing the knees out of your pants from playing with Hot Wheels does not translate into a working knowledge of real automobiles when you are older.

My minivan opposition, I now conclude, was solely because it would be the symbolic crumbling of the last bit of my manly fa├žade. If you don't include my perpetual three-day stubble, beer-induced love handles and overcompensating size of my CD collection, natch. 

Then Mark explained it all to me.

Mark is the male half of one of the baby-toters we hang with on our annual vacation. He's known for annually jumping off the second-floor balcony of the rental and into the pool. He also managed to father one child born in January and another in December. Of the same year. His wife and her naughty bits still haven't forgiven him.

I confessed my fears to Mark. My old Accord was nearing 200,000 miles and some recent steering issues, while giving the kids a thrill ride far more enjoyable than the last rollercoaster I suckered them onto, gave me some concerns. 

"Dude, nothing is more manly than the minivan," he said, as he gave me the tour of his Odyssey. "It's huge. Look at the room, especially when you fold down the seats. What says 'man' more than having all this room to haul ... STUFF!" 

He showed me the navigation system. The moonroof. The rear-seat entertainment system for the kids. The factory installed satellite radio. We talked four-wheel ABS, variable valve timing, multi-point fuel injection, power-slide doors.

Dang. I had a woody … and I was taking it to Surf City where there are two girls for every boy. Yeeeaaah.

(Later I learned Mark failed to disclose that his wife was the prime driver of the mini. He has a motorcycle. And a pickup truck.) 

So here it is, two years later, and I'm looking at the God-awful gouge I had just created in the tailgate.

The minivan, I admit, is a pretty good vehicle. Crappy going up the slightest incline in the faintest dusting of snow, but overall a pretty good car. Keeps the Things entertained in their car seats for hours with Radio Disney or the 67th viewing of School of Rock blaring in the wireless headphones. Holds the dog crate so you can insert the big yellow fuzzy one within, then place bags of edibles (chips, panties, you know) safely next to said dog. It's also great to transport your drunken buddies to and from major sporting events. All ... STUFF worth hauling.

I ran my finger along the jagged metal edge that I had created through my absent-mindedness.

I cursed my stupidity.

I swore at some unseen deity.

I got in, cranked the AC/DC and started working on a real good cover story for later.

2021 update: Now I have a big-ass SUV like the rest of the suburban world. While I love the security of a vehicle that's not gonna crap out on me randomly, I occasionally still miss all that cargo space. You know. For ... STUFF.

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