Tuesday, July 6, 2021

One day, lad, all this minivan will be yours

NOTE: After my unearthing of last week's piece about the Minivan of Manliness, I remembered that I had written another piece about it in 2017 for the fish wrapper that eventually let me go this past December. This one is about Excitable being, well, excited, about inheriting my ride when he started learning to drive. More on that after the story:

My son asked if we could give one of his high school teammates a ride home, so I hit the button to slide open the passenger-side rear door to the minivan. As the two of them climbed in, Excitable told his friend with what I knew to be more of his own brand of goofy pride than sarcasm, “Dude, this here is gonna be my whip.”

Don’t look it up; I already did.

“Whip” is slang for car. Your ride, your wheels, your horse-and-buggy. Preferably a tricked out, luxurious model. And when we bought my minivan – yes, MY minivan – in May 2006, 'twas as tricked out and luxurious as they came.

Built-in navigation with touch screen display.

Rear entertainment system with DVD player with wireless headphones for rear passengers.

Satellite radio.  

Far more cup holders than seats because who doesn’t get bored using the same ol’ cup holder time and again.

My son was 4 years old then. Now – about half a year out from getting his driver’s permit – my minivan is pretty much the only car he knows. Or least it’s the one he knows best. My wife’s Volvo convertible, with the hard top that retracts into (and then takes up the entire) trunk, is fun for a summer’s ramble now and again; however, a backseat with leg room only ample for teacup pigs is no place for a teenage boy. Just as the white leather interior was no place for him as a juice-box swilling kindergartner. For that last one, I blame the dearth of cup holders.

Eleven years and 136,000 miles down the road, my minivan is no longer the pinnacle of luxury. Looks aside, assuming you think a vehicle designed to transport an adolescent soccer team had any looks to start, it lacks Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity, real-time traffic navigation or a nuclear fusion drive train. Rear-facing camera, yes, but none on the passenger side. Parking sensors but no self-parking ability.

But it still gets you from point A to point B. For a guy and homebody like me who never got into horsepower, rear spoilers or even pin-striping, that’s all that counts.

Still, like most men, I fought the original purchase. A minivan? What a blow to what little testosterone a 30-something has left after years of exposure to environmental toxins and tighty-whities. 

Then, one day, while driving the kids to pre-school, the power steering went squishy in my 14-year-old Honda Accord. Maybe providing for the driving safety and comfort of your young family is the true definition of “manning up.”

The supposed emasculating stigma of my new ride wore off shortly after I first sat behind the wheel and settled into my “captain’s chair.” (I had forgotten this term for “bucket seat with armrests” until a month ago when I gave a lift to my old college roommate – now a BMW-driving college professor who I hadn’t seen in 19 years. He climbed into the passenger seat and quickly remarked, “Ooh, captain’s chairs. Nice.”) It never returned, not even once.

So my son talks about the day he will get his license and, with it, the keys to my minivan. He says there eventually will be a racing stripe down the middle of the hood and Christmas lights strung around the roof rack (good thing I sprung for the optional crossbars). All his friends and their stuff will be piled into the back because there’s always room in a minivan for one more.

Even me. You know, when my jet pack has to go into the shop.

POSTSCRIPT: As promised, Excitable inherited the Minivan of Manliness. He never tricked it out but he really did enjoy driving it, though I learned he knows even less about cars than I do. So I at least got to put on my dad hat and teach him essentials like how to use a tire gauge, how to jump a car battery and "no, that sound is NOT normal."

So I drove Li'l Diva's Honda CR-V while she was at college, but when she came home in summer of 2019, it left me with no transportation. Which is how for the one summer I ended up driving The Raspberry.

The Raspberry -- an homage to The Blueberry, the tiny Toyota Echo that Gus drove on Psych, and a reflection of both its color and the pbbbbbbbbbbbbbt sound it make when going up hills -- was an underpowered compact (I know, repetitive) with an awesome sound system I rented for the summer. It wasn't too bad. I actually liked driving a car I could easily get in and out of tight spaces, sipped gas, and let me favorite 100 satellite radio channels. Honestly, I kinda miss the little pbbbbbbbbbbbbbt.

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