I’ve ruined my 14-year-old son’s life.
For over a year, Jacob’s been asking when we would get rid of our more than gently used Toyota minivan.
The van had carted us through a dozen European countries and at least as many states here in the U.S., covering close to 140,000 miles in the process. The beast kept running, but it was showing its age (I can relate).
“We need a new car, and we’re not getting another minivan!” Jacob insisted each time we buckled our seatbelts. The van was a serious cramp in his style.
It came to a head a few weeks ago when part of the passenger door panel fell off.
“Help me with the duct tape, please,” I said calmly to my exasperated son.
The Coexist bumper sticker was bad enough; the duct tape door fix brought our coolness to new lows.
Ego in the Driver’s Seat
The duct tape finally wore me down.
“You and Dad don’t want to be seen driving a minivan when Cody and I are in college!” Jacob argued while we discussed next car options.
I had to laugh, remembering how opposed I had been to getting a minivan when our family was starting out.
Usually it’s the guy who wants something manly like an SUV for a family car–something about that truck chassis seems to trigger a testosterone response.
But in our case, it was my husband, Mark, who insisted that we test drive a van soon after kid #2 arrived on the scene.
For me, owning a minivan was one of many things I had once sworn I’d never do (in addition to living in the suburbs, rubbing smudges off my kids’ faces with the help of my own spit, and trading in my business suits for soccer sideline attire).
My ego was still in the driver’s seat in those days. I couldn’t reconcile my professionally minded, feminist, cosmopolitan wannabe self with my preconceived notions of a minivan driver.
But I had two kids and a 90-pound dog and his crate to cart around, as well as accompanying grandparents to squeeze in from time to time. Not only that, there was simply no comparison when it came to comfort on long drives and no SUV at the time could come close to the minivan’s gas mileage. The economist in me couldn’t deny those efficiencies.
So here I was, almost 15 years and two minivans later, explaining the virtues of the vehicle to my teenaged son, who, not surprisingly, couldn’t have cared less.
It’s All About the Energy — MPG and Personal Chi
As a self-described “seeker of positive energy,” I dreaded the probable tsunami of negative energy that would come if we chose anything other than a man car.
I told Jacob that if he could find a non-minivan that met these four criteria, I would test drive it:
1) comparable gas mileage to a minivan (requiring a V6 engine);
2) seats 8 people (with some storage behind the third seat);
3) enough cargo space to move furniture (which happens more frequently than you’d expect) or 20 bags of mulch;
4) comparable in price to a minivan.
Much to my surprise, he found a crossover (that new category of car that’s not quite as trucky as an SUV, but still isn’t a minivan) that met those requirements. The Honda Pilot satisfied the four conditions. But once the crossover category was opened, we had to test drive other options in that class of cars. Ugh.
While trying out the GMC Acadia, I heard various voices in my head trying to convince me it was time for a new type of car. It wasn’t only Jacob. A friend had also recently said, “You can’t get another minivan at this stage of your life!” She was trying to help me get my mojo back.
My ego, though, seemed to be on sabbatical. Visually, I could barely tell the difference between the newly styled Honda Odyssey minivan and the crossovers I was test driving. I squinted and looked from different angles, but I only saw slight differences in their outlines. The distinction seemed to be in the label more than anything else.
Still, I was willing to compromise in order to boost positive energy flows in the family.
The Acadia failed the mileage test by a long shot. I have enough other habits that are bad for the environment, like throwing away too many Ziplock storage bags and using too much hot water for my baths. Plus, the Acadia’s massive width made me feel fat.
We’ve loved our Toyotas, but none of their V6 crossovers could handle boxy cargo (like the TV cabinet I recently moved out of my mother’s place). And none had storage behind the third row of seats, critical for piling up soccer bags, folding chairs, and extra water bottles.
The Honda Pilot had the best mileage and great cargo space, but was noisier on the highway. I could deal with the noise, I supposed (my hearing is going downhill anyway). Sure, the third row of seats only had one very upright setting (which was the case in all of the crossovers and SUVs we looked at), but I wouldn’t be the one sitting back there.
And, sure, my aging dog wouldn’t be able to jump up into the higher car by himself. But I work out, and lifting all 90-pounds of him into the cargo area would only be a minor inconvenience, as long as my back didn’t give out. (This is not the same dog we carried in the first minivan. We just like 90-pound dogs.)
At least the Pilot didn’t make me feel fat.
The Final Decision (and the important condition I forgot about)
I was ready to sign on the dotted line, hoping that buying the Pilot would demonstrate the art of compromise to my kids. Hoping I would maximize positive energy flows.
Now, I think I may have mentioned in a previous post or two that Mark’s nickname in high school was “Logical.” “Logical” was happy to go with whichever car I chose, but he did have one demand. We weren’t buying anything until I had also test driven a minivan.
I set up my final test drive with the Honda Odyssey. I was hoping it would be about equal to the Pilot when it came to the driving experience. But as soon as I sat in the driver’s seat, I realized I had forgotten one important condition.
Comfort. I settled myself behind the wheel, and that car caressed me. I heard angels singing (only possible because the ride was so quiet). I imagined Cody, my 17-year-old, 5’10” son, reclining comfortably in the adjustable third row of seats when the van was stuffed with family members en route to soccer tournaments.
In that moment, I realized that my own positive energy generated by driving the minivan would outweigh anybody else’s negative flows.
And as for my friends, well, seven of them piled happily into the van with me yesterday to pick up our race bibs for the 3.5 mile mud run obstacle course we’re doing this Saturday. On Sunday I’ll pack my bike in the back for the mini-triathlon I’m signed up for. I’ll need all the positive energy I can get to make it through this weekend, and I’ve got just the right car for it.
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