Reality collides with minivan fantasy

November 04, 1999|By KEVIN COWHERD

SO THE FAMILY'S getting bigger, and you're wondering if now's the time to buy a minivan, modern symbol of fertility and suburban well-being.

Whoa! Not so fast.

First, say these words to yourself: Dodge Caravan.

Does this sound sexy to you?

It does?

Do you picture yourself rolling up to a stoplight in your Dodge Caravan and catching the eye of the attractive member of the opposite sex in the Porsche next to you, who then lets out a low murmur of approval?

You do?

There is something seriously wrong with you, my friend.

But you may well have what it takes to own a minivan, we'll see.

Let's explore some more of these fantasies you've been having.

In this minivan you're buying -- it doesn't have to be a Dodge Caravan, let's say it's a Ford Windstar, a GMC Safari, whatever -- do you see yourself pulling up to a soccer field or Burger King and hitting the power sliding door to disgorge four or five happy, whooping kids?

I thought so.

People, people, people don't you understand that when the little monsters return from soccer, there will be mud and grass in their cleats, and it will get all over your minivan's interior?

Don't you see you'll need the same kind of heavy-duty steam-cleaner they use at blood-spattered crime scenes to get it out?

Why does it take me to tell you that when kids come out of Burger King, they have ketchup all over their fat little fingers? And that they will proceed to rub this ketchup all over your nice new captain's chairs?

Is this what you really want out of life? To be sitting in your minivan at 10 at night, with a sponge and a bowl of soapy water in your lap, scrubbing ketchup stains off the seats?

Fine, maybe it is.

Or maybe you have a screw loose, which is more likely.

Look, I am not a psychologist. But it doesn't take one to see that you need professional help.

All right, I want to ask you a few more questions.

And I want you to be straight with me.

Because, frankly, I don't think you've been honest about this issue -- with me or yourself.

When you were a kid, and you imagined yourself barreling down the open highway as an adult, your long, flowing hair blowing in the wind, it was in a hot Corvette, wasn't it? Or a Ferrari or a Jaguar or one of those cool British sports cars.

It sure wasn't in a Nissan Quest with three screaming kids in the back and a spouse smacking you over the head with a road map while shrieking: "They're hungry! I told you we should have stopped at the last rest area!"

And you still want a minivan?

I don't understand you.

I really don't.

A boxy Plymouth Grand Voyager with power option package, rear window defogger, integrated child safety seats, roof rack -- this does something for you?

A clunky Oldsmobile Silhouette with cargo net, sunscreen glass, VCR and 5.5-inch TV monitor built into the overhead console -- which will show only Pokemon videos for as long as you own it, sport -- this arouses the sensual inner being in you?

A plain-Jane Honda Odyssey with third-row, foldaway bench, individual AC and heat vents, plus individual reading lights -- this is why you bust your butt for 50 hours a week?

What is with you, anyway?

OK, let's get to the bottom line. (Please. Work with me here.)

Are you buying a minivan because you feel pressured to buy one, because all your neighbors with kids have minivans, and you stand out, a vital couple in your late 30s or early 40s with three young children, still getting around in, oh, a Ford Taurus wagon?

Is that what this is all about?

Boy, are you pathetic.

But, hey, knock yourself out. Buy a minivan. You seem bent on self-destruction anyway.

So go visit your friendly Chevy or Toyota or whatever dealer and let some fat guy with a loud plaid jacket and a bad comb-over sell you one of those refrigerator cartons on wheels.

Just don't come crying to me when you hate the stupid thing.

And don't even think about borrowing my Taurus wagon.

Because that is entirely too cool for you, my friend.

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