The Man-Van

Part of the reason for making the 35-hour-trek-by-car to our beloved Indiana is to sell our too-small-station wagon. When we moved to Calgary we chose not to ‘import’ our vehicle, in order to avoid paying taxes on it. Which allowed us to keep the Indiana plates and effectively prevented us from ever being able to sell the car in Canada.

Thus, in order to upsize our vehicle, we’d have to come to A-mur-ica. But first we needed to figure out vehicular possibilities – that could contain three Johnson boys and their parents. And all the extra outfits and shoes the men need when traveling anywhere. The obvious choice was a minivan, but, of course, a minivan was out of the question. For reasons undoubtedly documented in various public forums (i.e. on my Facebook wall.)

Suffice it to say Mr. Johnson has a serious bee in his bonnet about driving a minivan. And I, not exactly dying to get into one, have been content to oblige him. After some online research and informal polling, we settled on the tentative plan of selling our station wagon and finding a used Honda Pilot of similar value. A plan that seemed perfectly reasonable, except our ‘car guy’ seemed fairly certain that he could not find a Pilot for the price we wanted to pay. Problem number one.

Problem number two was something called the ‘troubled world economy’ which, in our case, has translated into making two house payments each month. As I contemplated buying a car within the context of our current financial situation, it seemed to make more sense for us to find the cheapest vehicle out there to drive until such time as our ‘vacation home’ in Indiana could be sold.

I came to this conclusion in mid-May. Mr. Johnson came to the conclusion several weeks later. He finally saw the writing on the wall during a late-night conversation at his parents’ house last week. The writing effectively said: ‘we need to find a cheap minivan.’ But, oh, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

‘I just want to drive a car that is FUN to drive,’ he remarked sadly last Wednesday night. As if he was excited to get in the car whenever I asked him to go to the grocery store – because the station wagon is so much fun to drive. He even suggested that if we drove a minivan back to Calgary, it would take substantially more time than it did coming here…because he wouldn’t be able to pass other vehicles on the road. ‘We’ll be driving along and you’ll get all mad at me, saying, why don’t you pass that car….and I’ll have to say because I can’t.’

Heartbreaking, really.

And then, as is his habit, he had to move the discussion into the realm of the ridiculous. ‘I mean, marital vows were made…you pretty much promised me that we would never get a minivan.’ Granted, our wedding day – nearly 13 years ago – is something of a blur, but I’m pretty sure I’d remember it if I’d made any promises about the kinds of vehicles we would drive. ‘I mean..I’d rather you have an affair than drive a minivan,’ he disclosed. I may not have stifled the urge to snort loudly when he said that. ‘Did you really just say that – out loud?’ I questioned him. ‘Well, you know what I mean,’ he muttered.

I guess.

Having somewhat settled the matter of what KIND of car to get, we had to work on actually finding the car.

We emailed our ‘car guy’ that we’d reluctantly concluded we needed to find a very cheap minivan. Did he have any options for us? Actually, a woman had just brought in a 1995 Pontiac minivan with fairly low miles for about $3000. Were we interested? While I was certainly enamored with the price, there was no denying that this particular model was the ugliest of minivans. In addition to the fact that it only had a sliding door on one side. Jason, seeing a chance to injure my own pride as much as his, wanted to pounce on it. Gleefully and right away.

I’d had visions of captain seats and sliding doors that opened with the push of a button. A fourteen year old dinosaur with one door just didn’t fit the bill. Luckily my brothers and sisters-in-law came to my aid. ‘You can’t drive a minivan with just one door,’ they cautioned, having dabbled in minivan land for the last several years. ‘Don’t do it – it’s not worth it.’

So we decided to go on a recognizance mission in Muncie. We spent over an hour driving around the parking lots of car dealerships, in an effort to see if there was anything out there that was cheap and not hideously ugly. Getting out of the car and talking to a sales person was simply not on our agenda – we were in drive-by mode, only. Though Jason took it a little seriously.

While at one of the dealerships a young man dressed in a tell-tale polo shirt walked towards our moving car, with his hand held out like a traffic cop. Basically, he ordered Jason to stop. We paused and Jason reluctantly rolled down his window, explaining we were ‘just looking’.  The enthusiastic gentleman was still speaking to us when Jason released the brake and the car started moving forwards.

A move that would be described as ‘rude’ in most countries. ‘You didn’t have to be rude about it,’ I chastised once the salesman was out of earshot. ‘Well, what does he think – that his polo shirt gives him some kind of authority to order me to stop?’ came the indignant reply.

And so, the search continues, and time is running out. Will the Johnsons find a suitable vehicle before they have to leave for Canada..(i.e. within the next 4 or 5 days)?

Only time will tell.

10 thoughts on “The Man-Van

  1. Oh boy, so concession was made!!! Glad the marriage will stay in tact and you can all fit in one car. It is a sad truth for us financially deprived folk that a mini-van is in the future!

  2. Here’s some unsolicited advice from an old Music Building buddy. I wouldn’t get a Honda Pilot with 3 kids. We drove one for over 3 years. It was fun and looked much “cooler” than a minivan, but really isn’t convenient. The kids couldn’t move the seats to get into the back. With a minivan, Oliver can hop in the back and have himself buckled in before I even get out of the house. You might want to investigate Consumer Reports before committing to a domestic minivan. You can also go to and read reviews. Don’t I sound like a nerd? I researched like crazy before settling on a Honda Odyssey for $4700. We bought it in February and no problems so far.

    Alright, enough advice from me. I still have my 1965 Mustang in storage that I can get out if I need to feel cool for an hour. Unfortunately, I don’t seem to find the time for that!

  3. I so hope it works out for you!! Looks like you all are having fun with the family!! We miss you up here in the tundra…we are meeting in your honor tonight…for coffee only…but alas, I have you marked on my calandar for coffee on the 18th before we leave!! Be safe!! Drink a sonic beverage for me!

  4. a minivan? ewww, i feel for you guys, i truly do. hopefully it’s only temporary!

    just my opinion, but the way jason treated the salesman is considered quite friendly in my books…the last few times josh and i have looked at new cars or furniture…anywhere the vultures are lurking about, i won’t even talk to them, i make josh do all the talking and i nod or shake my head…cuz if i open my mouth, i’m sure i would scream ‘leave me alone, we’re just looking!!!!’ at them…is that considered “nice” in any country???

  5. Carrie – would you believe I’ve never been to Sonic? There’s not one in Muncie. Brandi – perhaps you and Jason should shop for the minivan together, haha! Danielle, some friends of ours just got an Odyssey as well and our youngest loved climbing around in it – I’ll take it as a good sign. Now if only I can find one for $4700!

    1. We opted for a 1998 because I refused to have a car payment. Still a reliable vehicle, but probably a bit old for your family taking 35 hour trips!

  6. I was adamantly opposed to giving up my Jetta in favor of the so-called kid-friendly minivan. I reluctantly gave in shortly before Claire was born and I have to sheepishly admit that it really is so convenient. And when we take long road trips, I really love having the minivan. We also have an Odyssey and have had no problems…

    Good luck finding that minivan…

  7. I think you & Jason are clearly not looking at all of the ways you could ‘man-ify’ or ‘cool-ify’ your minivan. Just think of the possibilities. Start looking at the backs of semis or pick-up trucks for all of the man-ified adhesives you could add to the van: profile of hot naked chick posing seductively, a ‘my other car is a pick-up truck’ or ‘guns don’t kill people, stupid people kill people’ bumper sticker, flames painted over the wood paneling on the sides, etc. etc. The possibilities really are endless. 🙂

  8. Oh Vicky, you think you’re joking with the flames…but trust me, it has been mentioned….


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