Kermet Apio would do anything for parenthood. Even buying a purple 96T-Dub.
There are moments along the path of your life where the road diverges, and when you decide on which road to take, you begin a new journey. For me, one of those important moments happened in 2002 when I chose the “buy a 96 Taurus Wagon” fork in the road. On purpose. For real. And it’s purple. Definitely the road less traveled.
A few weeks after the birth of my first child, I began to realize my 2-door 83 Chevy Monte Carlo with the semi-broken speedometer, -4 miles per gallon, and the lingering smell of microwave burritos was probably not the best car for starting a family (and for those of you who figured things like this out BEFORE your first child was born, well LA, DI, DA. Congrats on your “responsible thinking” and your “401K”). My wife and I started to car shop, which at that point in our lives meant asking friends if they knew of anyone who a) had come into lots of money and was looking to get rid of their “poverty days” car, b) had developed an expensive addiction that made the bus seem like a viable option or c) was running from the law and needed to ditch a car/evidence. What I learned was that entrepreneurs, addicts, and felons rarely consider child safety while purchasing their vehicles.
Then a friend of mine said he knew a couple whose youngest was in college and were looking to sell their family car. As we were on our way to see the purple Taurus Wagon, it dawned on me that we were on our way to see a purple Taurus Wagon. Mere months before that, the idea of buying a Taurus Wagon would have snapped the imaginary pro/con seesaw, catapulting the imaginary pro side right out of that imaginary park. Before my daughter was born, if I had bought a wagon, chances are I had either joined the CIA or lost a drunken bet. And now I was test driving one, excitedly. The day I officially signed the papers of purchase, I kept looking over my shoulder because I knew if college me had a Delorean with a flux capacitor, he’d use it to come to that moment in time and punch me in the face.
I’m guessing that you (like me in 2002) don’t know a lot about the 96T-Dub (as it was nicknamed. By me). It wasn’t exactly the car Ford would buy Super Bowl ad time to promote. And it wasn’t exactly on the list of cars that Vin Diesel would use in movies while escaping from Tokyo police and three syllable words. But Ford thought enough of it to put a car alarm in it. Yes, a car alarm. Now I have little to no experience with the criminal element in our society, but I’m pretty sure the market value and street cred of the stolen T-Dub is about equal to that of the Unicycle and Bobblehead Doll. When I park it I love setting the alarm and when people around me hear the horn beep, we all have a good laugh. Also, Ford made it available in purple, which is all part of their “Fraction of a Niche” marketing concept. And no, I’m not being paid by Ford to say all of this.
What I’ve come to realize is that the wagon represents one of the great parts of parenthood. It’s never been embarrassing. From the minute we bought it, it’s kind of been a source of pride. All of a sudden what mattered wasn’t what everyone outside that car thought, but what I could do for that one tiny person inside the car. For the first time, I bought a car with someone else in mind. That was huge.
One time I parallel parked the car near a café and among the people eating at the outside tables were a father and his daughter, about 4 years old. As I walk by the café, I hear the little girl say “Daddy, look. It’s a purple car. Wow.” The joy, the wonderment, the beauty as seen through the child’s eyes. Yes, I am the Willy Wonka of second owner, small budget vehicles. And the stickers all over the side windows are my Oompa Loompas.
It’s almost time to say goodbye to that car. It’s been a good run. I should probably cremate it and dump its ashes at the fork in the road I took in 2002. Or the zoo parking lot.
Photo: greggjerdingen / flickr