Ever since the car crash we’ve been driving around a rental car and trying to figure out what kind of car to buy. Oh, I know, First World Problems, but we hadn’t been planning on buying a car and haven’t come up with a budget for it. Here’s the point where I admit I still think of myself as a somewhat hip adult with taste and a modicum of concern about appearance. Even though we have two kids, my wife and I have made a blood pact, Bowie-knife-and-bloody-handshake-style, to never ever own a minivan. It’s reasonable to have a five-seater car when your family is four people. It is reasonable to want a vehicle that is capable, stylish, and doesn’t look like a beached manatee. It is unreasonable to think you can find said vehicle then start adding conflicting and non-negotiable qualifiers: it must have a third row of seats but be easy to parallel park, those seats must be accessible and split-folding, it must be high up for visibility but easy to get into, it must get good gas mileage but also have plenty of power when loaded with people and cargo and climbing up the side of a mountain, it must have quality build and be inexpensive, and must have a nice exterior color. Based on our criteria, my wife and I want an aqua blue $1000 electric bus that can change shape like the double-decker in Harry Potter.
In the last week our wish list has rammed up against the wall of reality like a rocket sled fired into a concrete abutment. We’ve looked at the Volvo XC90, the Kia Sorrento, the Honda Pilot, the Mazda CX-9, the Toyota Highlander, and even what my wife thought was a Toyota Rav4 with third-row seating at a local dealer which turned out to be a Honda CR-V with an aftermarket seat bolted in the back which was actually at a dealership a hundred miles away. It’s like fishing by standing in a pond and slapping your arms around hoping to stun the exact fish you want.
Add in the delusion that you can go car shopping with a five-year old and a toddler, both of whom want to leave dirty footprints all over the inside of a brand new car with cream-colored calfskin seating before bursting into tears because they are moved from one carseat to the next without ANY snack, and you can see why we’re considering going native and walking everywhere like pilgrims.
Enter the minivan. It’s like the practical friend that waits in the wings as you go through one horrible girlfriend after another. Sure, it’s not flashy, it disappears in a crowd, and it confronts you with the reality that you’re not as hip as you thought. But it carefully knocks down every objection with the patience of a Tibetan monk. Ease of getting in and out? It’s like stepping onto a Swiss train. Third-row seating? Three husky adults can sit side-by-side without their sweaty arms touching. Features? How about electric doors and more storage than a container ship. Flexibility? The seats fold up like eager-to-please contortionists. Every argument against the minivan sounds vain and childish when given voice, then withers under the bright glare of practicality. Cost, safety, reliability, convenience, these things matter. Coolness? How much is that really worth?
[sigh] So why do I expect to feel like a deferential eunuch when I’m sitting at a stoplight in this thing and some cool guy pulls up and…see, I can’t even finish the sentence. Coolness just doesn’t matter that much. Fine, minivan, YOU WIN! Now the Manhood Alliance can come claim my membership card.