Along the Tracks

Friday, September 19, 2003

King of Uncool

I was poking around earlier, avoiding real work now that STAND UP FOR MONTPELIER 2004! is put to bed and awaiting insertion in next week’s Leader. Anyway, I happened across John Scalzi’s post from Monday about his tacit admission that his “cool” days are over: He and his wife bought a minivan.

Well, anyone who reads my stuff knows my “cool” days ended sometime between second and third grade - but what does my driveway say about me? Let’s see ... ‘94 Ford Aerostar (but it’s a Jimmy Bauer edition!) ... ‘87 Dodge Dakota (only partly rusted out, and just 220,000 miles!) ... and, of course, the ‘84 Subaru wagon, decked out in that beautiful pale-yellow you usually see only in flooded early-spring cornfields or at the bottom of an unflushed toilet.

Good Lord, I’m a hillbilly!

Oh well. Anyway, I actually kind of like to drive the pickup. It makes me feel like I’m following the dirt road of my ancestry - my dad’s pickups were always about 15 years old and approaching the quarter-million mile mark. I remember how sad I was when we finally traded in the ‘66 Dodge for a ‘72 Dodge - in 1982. Of course, it wasn’t necessarily loyalty to nameplate that cause that particular purchase. We had built a stock rack for hauling hogs and cattle to market, and the rack needed minimal changes to slide into the ‘72’s slots. Eventually, that truck was traded in ... on a ‘78 Ford. I think that was 1987.

So, now I cruise about in my red Dakota (gently, of course), which I got from my pal Mayor Runkle. Every time Runk sees I’ve driven it, he tells me how surprised he is the thing’s still running. Makes me wonder if he beat on it or something ....

The Subaru is a classic case of thinking too much. Jeanne and I looked at it right after my dream car, my ‘92 Eagle Talon (excuse me while I wipe away the tears), was totaled in an accident - which proved small cars can indeed be safe (no one was seriously injured in our car or the other). “Subaru’s are so well built!” we thought. “This one only (!) has 100,000 miles on it.” “An old couple drove it up from Arizona - there’s no rust at all!” “It’s a four cylinder and gets 30 miles to the gallon!” “It’s roomy enough to carry the whole family!” “It’s just $1,400! - We’ll use the rest of our insurance payout to get the roof done.”

And so on and so on.

What we should have said is, “Uhg, look at that ugly thing!” “It doesn’t have rust now, but give it just one Ohio winter!” “How much power did four cylinders have back in ‘84?!” “Sure, the kids might technically fit, but this is really a subcompact with an ugly back hatch.” And, of course, “It’s a Subaru, for goodness sake!”

Well, four years later, I’ve spent at least as much time under the hood as behind the wheel. If anything could possibly go wrong with that hunk, it has: battery, alternator, brakes, exhaust system, oil pressure gauge, oil pan gasket, coolant hoses, serpentine belt, radiator. We’ve put two new tires on it. And, as if it weren’t already hideous enough, we’ve got a nicely dented front-left quarter-panel. The hatch opens very hard. Somewhere, there is still a small oil leak - not enough to cause real problems, just enough to make any air from the blower cause nausea.

If you’re wondering ... yes, that’s the Subaru that’s advertised weekly (419-636-9142) in the Leader - going on 78 weeks now. People haven’t exactly been beating down our door. It’s a “go to work” car, and nothing more. I don’t have the energy to try to fool anybody - besides, all they have to do is look at it. Best offer, folks. Any takers?

And so, I find myself really liking the minivan - not just accepting grudgingly, like I do my 36-inch waist jeans as a birthday present, but really liking it. The high seats are far more comfortable than any car. It’s pretty easy to get the kids in and out - especially now that Clair is out of the child seat. The van gets reasonable mileage - around 21 mpg. It is starting to get a little cancer along the bottom, and it does have 170k miles, so we’ll be looking to trade it in soon. Even so, I’m pretty comfortable as a minivan owner, and I don’t fear getting the next one.

... Although, it sure would be nice to get a car, a real car.

I can dream.

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