Cort Ruddy on the existential crisis inherent to being a two minivan household.
I once asked a wise and salty sailor friend of mine the difference between tequila and mezcal. The question arose moments after he retrieved a bottle of mezcal from a hidden corner of a dark room and plopped it down in front of me and several fellow revelers on the tail end of a long night.
He held up two weathered fingers and replied, “Mezcal has two worms.”
Two worms: twice as potent; twice as frighteningly hallucinogenic; twice as cool.
This definition of mezcal ended up being based more in folklore than fact, but it illustrated a point. Often, two of something good makes it a little better. Two dollars are better than one. Two Pizzas. Two Touchdowns (sorry, Denver). You get the drift.
Years later, however, as I look out the front window of my house and see the two vehicles in our driveway, one relatively new and one slightly older, I realize the rule of twos does not apply to minivans. Two minivans, to be precise. Two minivans that belong to me.
Many formerly cool feeling new parents have a moment when they realize they’ve become the suburban dwelling, soccer game attending, lame-ass people they never imagined they would. It usually happens when buying their first minivan.
We had a moment like that six years ago. It was about then that my wife was pregnant with our third child—very pregnant—and we realized that with a third kid, and the necessarily ginormous newborn car seat that comes with it, there was no way our entire soon to be family of five could fit in one of the cars we owned at the time. Back then, my wife drove a Subaru Outback L.L.Bean Edition, and I had a fuel-efficient crossover sport utility vehicle with 4-wheel-drive and a stick shift.
I’m not a terribly materialistic person, and I certainly don’t judge people by their clothes or the cost of their cars. I could give a crap about designer purses, expensive shoes, or foreign luxury vehicles. But I also know that cars—with so many varieties, utilities, styles, colors—can be a form of outward expression. And both of these vehicles said something about who we were.
Yet, neither of those cars could fit more than two car seats or boosters. One had to go. And we had to get a vehicle that could serve as our primary family transportation.
We knew then that we needed a van, no matter what that might say about us, so we traded in my sport-utility vehicle. We surrendered ourselves, turning in our “cool cards” and accepting our lot as suburban, soccer parents.
The van was great, as was the third child. We loved it, after we got used to the tricky handling and the sheer size of the thing (the van, of course). With the new van, we could easily get our whole family places without taking two trips, or two cars. And that was essential. If nothing else, it proved extremely practical.
We also noticed almost everyone we knew had either a minivan or a really stinking big SUV that got 2 miles per gallon and was pretty much akin to flipping the bird at the environment. For our part, we like the environment. As the fictional superhero The Tick used to say about the Earth, “That’s where I keep all my stuff.”
No, we were fine being minivan owners. We really were. It was all good.
In recent months, as the Subaru aged and began to show it, we started talking about the next car. Our choice was either to get a replacement run-a-bout vehicle, like a Jeep (I’ve owned Jeeps in the past and have a “thing” for them), or get a new van and keep the old van as our other car.
A Jeep would be cool; I could keep my fishing gear in it and use it to travel for business. But getting a second van seemed far more practical, eliminating the need to do the old car switch-a-roo, or the car seat swap, whenever the parent on backup-call needed to do dropping-off or picking-up duties.
We couldn’t decide. So we waited.
Then, about a week ago, I wrecked the Subaru. Don’t worry, I was unscathed. And no other cars or people were involved. But the decade-old Outback with 150,000+ miles on it was … well, the opposite of unscathed. Scathed? No, it was totaled.
Suddenly, we needed a new vehicle (new to us, anyway) and had to decide. Our deliberations came to a conclusion on a drive with all the kids in the old van, right after I banged the dashboard with my palm to stop the radio from popping—one of the multiplying quirks of our 2007 Town and Country, which has carted the family around for the past 6 years and shows every bit of the wear.
“It’s decided then?” I said to my wife.
“I guess,” she replied.
“It just makes the most sense right now.”
“It really does.”
“Would’ve liked a jeep, or something.”
“So, we’re going to be a two van family.”
With that, it started to sink in. I don’t think life could wring anymore of my former coolness out of me. But, then again, maybe there is something cool about being practical. Right?
Fonzie was practical, wasn’t he? Oh God. I just used Happy Days as a reference point for what’s cool.
I am old, and my daughters are right: I am not cool.
But I do have two minivans if anyone needs kids driven some place…or two different places at the same time, even.
Having one minivan is good. Having two, it’s just practical.
Thinking back on it, there is one other thing I’ve learned related to twos. If you’ve eaten one worm out of a bottle of mezcal, it’s probably not a good idea to eat the second one.
Because, two of a good thing isn’t always better.