Breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day. McDonald’s breakfast however, is as important as it is cheap. We visited one morning with the oldest child in tow. Popular destination among the minivan set, as moving children through their morning routine is a taxing one. Pulling into this particular destination, we had a near collision turning into the drive-thru as this Honda Odyssey driver cut us off. Profanity followed. Poor lady was getting cursed out seven ways to Sunday and didn’t know it. To add further insult to injury the Odyssey driver held up the line at least twice as the efficiency of the McDonald’s crew moved the line quicker than expected. This inspired more profanity, however biscuits were consumed shortly thereafter.
While the minivan was not purchased as my primary vehicle, rare is the occasion that I find myself riding as opposed to driving. As the occasional passenger, the better half navigates the minivan through the City of Houston’s guerilla-type traffic with a winner take all strategy. When she is in this mode, it is best to egage in some sort of activity (ie. reading book or magazine, checking voicemail, playing one of the kids PSP’s), or practice the art of saying absolutely nothing. Friendly conversation can sometimes be a good way to smoothe over the nervousness of the endeavor; but the problem of speaking ones mind might come too freely while chattering about whatever.
When riding shotgun, I find myself conveying the importance of fastening ones seat belt while riding in a vehicle to my children. Other thoughts that pop in the head from time to time?
- this is not a sports car
- that car had the right of way
- this is not a Hum-V
- that was a curb
- this is how people get shot
- that was a pedestrian
Verbalizing these thoughts are things an amateur would do. Agitating the Mrs increases the chances for more erratic driving. Saying something can trigger frothy mouthed arguements and petty insults to be tossed into the atmosphere without notice. On a bad day the kids may have to be brought in for an impromptu poll on who actually drives better? (will not comment on the results) These sort of things are not common occurences. However, they are not infrequent enough to say that they never happen. But on a good day, we ride together, and we ride in peace. We all ride, knowing that The Big Kahuna is riding with us. (at least I hope he is)
Buying a minivan is a soul-crushing-end-your-dreams type of event. It is a moment in time when practicality trumps appreciation for any type of automobile aesthetics. It is also a moment when you realize that you have just gone headlong into the deep end of dorkiness. Once the line into minivandom has been crossed there is no turning back. Captains chairs, automatic sliding doors, stow ‘n go seating, third row seats and plenty o’ cupholders. All other vehicles begin to pale in comparison.
But lately, the Caravan has lost a little of its luster. Cut scene to the actual purchase of this minivan. We were all enamored with the relative newness of the interior and the wonderful detailing job the dealership had done. But what struck me most was the room in this thing. We were on the Beltway driving out to the boonies (where the dealer was) and I turned around and looked at how far away my children were from me. My son had leaned his chair back. My daughters were on the back bench. The wife and I were engaged in polite adult conversation without any interruption. It was as if the sudden introduction of so much space meant familial peace.
Two years have passed since those initial days of bliss; and the kids have grown up (as they tend to do) so quickly. As the great Riley B. King has so aptly stated, the thrill is gone. The minivan doesn’t seem so minivast anymore. My children, most notably my gangly teenage son have grown in size and sense of sarcasm.
My eldest daughter and only son have turned their backseat bickering into something of a sport. Vitriol is volleyed towards each other as if it were their job. It is mind rattling. Their disputes in the back trigger the kind of maniacal rage from yours truly that ’causes not fear, not respect, but a quizzical look and a redutive response of “calm dowwwwnnnn”. I am the father whose fits become fodder for conversations starting with ‘remember when…’ and they all laugh and reminisce on how they used to send me into tantrums on the way to school.
The minivan all of a sudden has become mini. The Caravan doesnt feel as cavernous as it used to. The kids poke their heads up into the ‘captains quarters’ (driver/ front passenger seat) and start conversations regarding after school snacks, fast food eateries, after school activities or the location of their PSP. I need a bigger boat. Either a bigger boat or kids who don’t talk. Somethings got to give.