By Diane Baker Mason
I’m not a car person. I don’t understand the thrill of a newly-released line of imports, or the sound of a particularly sporty engine shifting gears. I don’t care about shiny, red, or topless, or mag wheels or leather interiors. To me, a radio that works is a sound system. If a car gets there and back successfully, without noticeably losing bits of itself en route, it’s a luxury vehicle, and I’m a happy motorist.
So it’s a hard fact of life to face that the days of my mini-van “Mom-mobile”, like my days as a mom, are numbered. I no longer need all that room for hockey gear and sticky hordes of teenage boys. Nor am I that interested in (or capable of) tossing a canoe onto the van’s roof and hauling my not-so-physically-fit butt up to Algonquin Park. When I got the van, I was still in good enough condition to wrestle the “noo” onto the roof-racks all by myself — as if that’s ever likely to happen again.
I didn’t even buy the van I’m driving, to tell the truth. My father did. Dad couldn’t stand to see me wobbling around town in a beater of a Hyundai Excel, and after a brief donation of a Buick the size of a – well, of a Buick – he replaced it with a 1991 mini-van. I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t really know if it’s a 1991. And I think it’s a Plymouth. No, wait, it’s a Dodge. Nope. I’m really not sure after all. But I am reasonably positive it’s white. With a grey interior. That smells like fetid dog, thanks to my fetid dog.
Unlike my father, who collects cars like Dinky toys, I treat my cars with what can only be called disrespect. I drive them too fast, service them too infrequently (except for the brakes and tires and squeegee-juice for the bugs and/or freezing rain). I can’t remember the last time I washed the Mom-mobile. I keep forgetting to, and then before I know it, it rains. Problem solved.
It has always been thus, as the saying goes. My first car, a Ford Torino station wagon, was as big as a double-decker bus and chock-full of the things I used to need, back when I was 19. In short, it was usually chock-full of friends and cases of beer being carted from party to party. When the Ford’s stereo croaked, I substituted a battery-operated tape deck balanced on the dashboard. The strains of the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack would whisper from its little speaker, as my girlfriends and I performed endless Yonge Street Cruises.
The Mom-mobile now boasts some 225,000 kilometers, and has been through a transmission, a radiator, multiple sets of tires, and one set of twins from ages 8 to 18. Now it is occupied mostly by myself and my big black dog, who usually rides shotgun, thereby rendering the front passenger seat a risky sitting proposition for any subsequent riders.
About a month ago, in a fit of financial optimism, I considered replacing the old bucket of bolts. Spontaneously I visited the local Toyota dealer. The saleswoman was supermodel-beautiful and knew more about cars than Henry Ford. She used words I’d never heard before and showed me parts of the car that I should clearly be impressed by. We went for a test drive. It was only when I realized this car would cost me $500 a month – $500 more a month than the Mom-mobile was costing – that I rethought my spontaneity. Did I really need to buy something, which only fundamentally differed from my loyal mini-van, in that it wasn’t full of dog hair and personal effects?
So the Mom-mobile is still with me, rattling as it rolls along, its brakes groaning, its doors loosing a rusty wail when opened. But if you and I ever go out for coffee, trust me – let’s take your car. Especially if you’re wearing white.