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April 26, 2015

The Great White

Fortunately, I am not one of those people who cares much about what I drive.  My first car was a green, four door, Plymouth Sundance.  The rear seat could fold down making it easy to transport boxes, small furniture, etc.  I am all about function and sensibility.  The day I arrived at the dealership to purchase my first car, I initially selected a Plymouth Laser.  It was on order from another dealership, so I could come and pick it up later in the week.  It was sporty, but not much for space.  I awoke the next day in a sweat.  One quick, nervous call later and I cancelled the order and arranged to pick up the versatile Sundance the next day. 

After a few kids we bought a maroon Cirrus from my father-in-law.  This transitioned us into a minivan, because I had been driving around for a few years forcing the door closed.  The Cirrus wasn't made to accommodate three car seats across the backseat, so the seats would shift a little every time we secured the door.  I drove the minivan for years.  I still remember how far away the kids seemed when I first started carting them around in it.  We still own the minivan, but it is now referred to as our small car. 

We spent a little over a year transporting all eight of us in a minivan that offered seating for seven.  Double buckling might sound cozy, but to a sibling it is the same as sharing a bed with two brothers in an overcrowded hotel room.  Our kids will probably grow up needing therapy after suffering from personal space deprivation.  Of course distances farther than Church and nearby cousins' houses dictated driving two cars.  At least this was back in the day when gas didn't cost as much as a week's groceries.  When Curly was about 15 months old, we buckled down (no pun intended!) and bought a used Chevy express van with seats for twelve.  I begged the dealer, who is also a good friend, to locate a van that was anything but white.  Despite his best efforts, the van he found for us is indeed white.  Thanks to a large number of basketballs banging into the sides, orange streaks give it a little flare.  When Curly was three, she pointed out all of the painter's trucks in neighboring lanes with chubby little fingers.  "That looks like our car!"  Our version of the painter van differs in that it has windows.  My sister doubled over laughing the first time she saw my 'new' car, because there is a sticker in the driver's window that says: 'Thank you for not smoking.'  Yes, it's true . . . our white van formerly functioned as an airport shuttle for a busy hotel. 

So maybe I don't drive a Mercedes or a BMW, but I really do enjoy my car.  Space is no longer an issue.  Large grocery purchases don't spill over into the kids laps any more.  Locating my noticeable car after a busy day at the mall is no big deal.  Bring on the large furniture hauls.  My car pool options are endless.  The size of my car permits me to utilize the road the way I see fit - don't mess with the great white.  If I want to merge, you better move your cute, foreign, itty-bitty car out of the way.

There are downsides to operating such a large automobile.  Parking my van should be a segment on Fear Factor.  My least favorite way to park is when the car adjacent to a vacant spot is occupied by a human being, specifically an awake, anxious looking human being.  I try to avoid eye contact, because if they look scared then my confidence starts to waiver . . . maybe my ride isn't going to fit into this spot?  I end up jockeying it back and forth ten times just to make sure that I don't get too close to their shiny paint job. 

Easy recognition is another drawback to owning such a unique car.  There isn't much that I can get away with in my town when driving our visible van.  Everyone knows the Shenanigan's car.  I occasionally become concerned that I just cut off someone that I know or that I'm following too close . . . and if they didn't know me before, they know me now.  On the other hand, on the rare occasion when I drive the nondescript, navy minivan, I wonder why I am not more recognized by my friends.  Then I realize they are ignoring the car, not me.  Friends in neighboring cars just stare at the stoplight, or fiddle with the radio while I sit waving from my 'other car' - a run of the mill mini(van).
 
I laugh at how far away the kids felt on my initial outings in the minivan.  Now in the big van, they are downright distant.  The kids' friends marvel at the van, and they debate which row of bench seats might appeal most to them.  Having so much space has led to a new issue.  I may be able to smell that there has been some improperly disposed of food item somewhere in the van's vicinity, but I can rarely see what is back there.  For awhile last year we discovered that we were hosting an unwelcome family of moths.  The kids would cheer each time they killed one.  Forget texting and driving, swinging at months is a slightly distracting past time for a driver.  Were they nesting in the rip in the seat?  A few kids reached into the exposed foam cushion but found no evidence.  Just when we thought they had disappeared for good, I would crank up the heat and a moth or two would stumble out of the vents.  So unpleasant. 

Last summer the van came in handy once again.  We missed our Thursday garbage pick up.  Translation:  Coach didn't write 'garbage stickers' on my shopping list, and I didn't get out of bed early enough to race up to buy the stickers at the store before the freakishly early garbage men.  These sanitation employees have disposed of our trash without the necessary stickers a few times in the past, but perhaps our grace period ran out.  At any rate, who wants a couple of rank garbage cans fermenting in the garage in the middle of July?  The next morning, I had Coach load the cans into the back of the van.  I raced up to the grocery store and dropped off prescriptions (love killing two birds with one stone), purchased stickers, and drove with windows down to my folks house.  They live in the next neighborhood.  Their garbage day is the day after ours.  I yanked the cans out of the van, slapped the stickers on them, and sped off to my exercise class - all between 8 and 8:30.  I was even on time for the class.  (I find I am so much more punctual when I am on a mission.)  This adventure introduced a new problem:  fruit flies.  Fortunately, this issue was short lived, because I begged the kids not to leave a banana peel back there for at least a week.

I definitely prefer utilizing the great white to shuttle kids around, to stock up on groceries, and to hog the road compared with the glamorous task of hauling garbage across town, but what a lucky woman I am to have the option.

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