It was Friday afternoon. My cell phone rang as I was walking home from school with the three boys. It was the professor.
‘So, how important is having a car?’
No greeting, no introduction.
This was, of course, his outoftheblue way of telling me that our Venture’s visit to the mechanic had shifted from a $300 water pump replacement into….something greater. I wasn’t really in a position for repartee. Trying to corral three boy-children whilst talking on the phone does not lend itself to quick-thinking or smart-talking. Especially not in response to faux-philosophical questions.
‘Can you just cut to the chase,’ I insisted, steeling myself for whatever bad news he was about to send my way.
He rambled off some details. ‘Leak between the gas tank and [something else]…’ ‘Seventeen hundred dollars to replace the part.’ ‘Plus labor.’
And just like that, our weekend was spent contemplating ‘how important is having a car.’ Or, more accurately, ‘what are we going to do about a car.’
My brother-in-law had recently posted an article on Facebook about a woman in Portland who uses a cargo bike as her sole method of transporting herself and her [six] children. At first glance, this seemed like an admirable thing to do. And, with fifty percent fewer children, I might even be a prime candidate for a bakfiets cargo bike.
However. I have difficulty envisioning myself hopping on a bike to get groceries – with all my children – in good weather, never mind in the middle of a snowstorm. Portland and Calgary aren’t exactly equivalent where weather is concerned.
So yes, having a car is important to me. Preferably a car where wind doesn’t blow through some rusty opening onto my feet, and one that doesn’t reek of gasoline.
Clearly, I don’t have high expectations when it comes to automobiles. A fact I was reminded of when I turned practically giddy on Saturday morning at the thought of finally having a [newer] car with two keys. Two keys! One for me and one for the professor.
Unfortunately my better half doesn’t share my [low] expectations. He doesn’t want to drive a minivan. Or a Ford [unless it’s a Ford Flex]. Or a Chrysler. Or a Dodge. Or a [fill in the blank]. ‘What about that one,’ he asked on Saturday as we ventured in our hazardous Venture towards the land of car dealerships. He pointed to the large Mercedes station wagon-y SUV thing that had just passed us. The one that probably starts at sixty grand. ‘Mmmh, I’d probably have to get a job [of the high-paying, illegal variety],’ I noted. ‘Well, I did see an ad on Craigslist last night for a ‘friend’, the car snob replied. ‘I wonder what kind of friend they had in mind?’
His stellar line of conversation trailed off as we slowed for three firetrucks tending to an accident on Crowchild. ‘Well, at least if the van bursts into flames, there’s a firetruck right there,’ he mused dryly.
Eventually we made it to a bonafide car dealer with a whopping 30 minutes to look at
cars minivans, i.e. the Dodge Caravan. The best-selling minivan in all of Canadaland.
Why? Probably because it’s cheap and will fit many of those over-sized stinky hockey bags.
We took the bottom-of-the-line SE model for a test drive accompanied by Ian, our single, childless car salesman. His eyes grew wide, watching and listening to the three boys in the back. ‘I love this car!’ the Gort enthused, running his hands over the pristine but very cheap upholstery and cupholders. ‘Does it have military time?’ he called from the back, staring at the clock in the front.
‘I’ve never heard that question before,’ Ian replied, slightly perplexed.
As we drove along Stoney Trail, I suddenly realized every other car on the road was a Dodge Caravan. Red. Black. Grey. They were everywhere.
‘So are we going to get this car?’ the peanut gallery in the back hoped aloud. We laughed the polite laughs of adults who’d been asked a question they don’t wish to answer.
Back in our Venture, the Gort weighed the pros and cons. ‘I think we should get that car. It doesn’t have a lot of features [he’d heard me say that – I’m not sure he knows what a ‘feature’ is] but it’s pretty nice.’