The Journey to Sainthood

It’s a strange feeling when you’re in the midst of a decision making process and you realize that you have no idea what the outcome is going to be. It happened to me earlier this week when I realized I didn’t have a clue about what car we would actually end up with at the end of this arduous journey: brand-new minivan, used minivan, suv, bizzarro crossover vehicle…..I had no idea.

And that’s the understatement of the year.

We got up on Wednesday morning – day 6 of ‘we need to find a car now‘ – and headed straight to a dealer in Inglewood that had a few used Chevy Uplanders for sale; the slightly newer, even weirder looking version of our not-so-trusty Venture.

Based on my comprehensive internet research (i.e. a cursory glance at cars.com) I determined we needed to look at the LT model, not the LS. Shortly after 9am, we stepped onto the lot and made our way toward the Uplanders parked side by side. One van had a spare tire instead of a real tire, another had obviously been in some sort of accident and the third was the dreaded LS. Without bothering to inquire about details, we walked away. Just as one of the mechanics  – sporting the same hairstyle as Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber – headed towards us. ‘He’s just getting his price list,’ he informed us, motioning towards the ‘sales room’ where the associate appeared to be making his way outside. ‘I told him, you better hurry up because they’re leaving.’

‘That’s okay,’ the professor declined the offer of untimely assistance and we hopped in the Venture and drove away. We happened to pass another used car dealer and, since we were already out, stopped. We passed on the sketchy-looking minivan, but they happened to have two Ford crossover-type vehicles, that look like station wagons but have a third row of seats – the Freestyle and the Taurus X.

‘I know you have your thing with Fords,’ I approached my sensitive husband, ‘so if that’s a dealbreaker it’s totally fine, but it’s not a minivan.’ He stood beside the two non-vans, considering his Sophie’s Choice. The dreaded Ford? Or the dreaded minivan?

He decided his aversion to the minivan outweighed his aversion to Ford products, rooted in the unfortunate blue Mercury Topaz with the droopy ceiling fabric he drove in college.

As we needed to head back across town to pick up the Hen from Kindergarten, we expressed our tentative interest to the salesperson and left. After the late-morning school pick-up, we checked out a twelve-year-old Toyota 4Runner.

The professor was in used-car heaven. ‘This is our honeymoon car,’ he reminded me of the 4Runner we had rented when we went to Seattle sixteen years ago. ‘Yes, it probably IS the car we used on our honeymoon,’ I smirked.

We headed home, no closer to having a car than we were six days before we began our search. Facing vehicular uncertainty, the professor recalled his favorite car. Ever. ‘That [1994 Volvo 850] was the best car ever. We should have never gotten rid of that car,’ he sighed nostalgically, as if the boxy sedan with the non-functioning radio and odometer would have seen us through the last four years, and three boy-children, and four 6000 km [round]trips to the heartland.

[At this point in the non-story, I should add that the Gort came home early from school on Monday with a stomach ache. Tuesday morning Percy woke up, thoroughly afflicted, and Wednesday afternoon the Hen was felled along with his father. So in addition to the mind-numbing process of finding a vehicle, we had three people who were quite under the weather.]

Just after 4pm, we crossed our fingers that everyone would be okay, and got back in the car-van for more….shopping. There was a white Dodge Caravan. Perfectly fine except for a little bit of chipping paint and the awful black upholstery. There was a Chevy Uplander LT. Perfectly fine except for the bad upholstery and the lack of back-up sensor.

Apparently our model of the rusty, untrusty Venture is ‘fancy’ – with power sliding doors (sniff) and the [occasionally overzealous] back-up sensor that alerts spatially unaware people like moi when the car is in danger of hitting something. I wasn’t entirely confident that I could be trusted to reverse a van that is four inches longer than my current one without the aid of a back-up sensor.

Still, we decided the Chevy Uplander was our best bet and left the dealer, fully intending to return in the morning and do the paperwork. And then, just as we were eating our celebratory Timbits in our garbage-littered minivan, we passed another dealer.

‘There’s a Freestyle,’ I alerted the professor; sympathetic to the anti-van-man’s plight. It was shiny blue, had leather interior (black, but still). It was priced well. It came with a DVD player. ‘This is it,’ I thought to myself, ‘we’ve found our car!’

A critical button was broken – the one that depresses the second row seat so people can get in the back. It was a setback, but still we forged ahead. With all three boys sitting right behind us, our ultra-close family headed south on Macleod Trail for a test drive. The car smelled and the professor began hyperventilating. And then he found a bunch of repair papers in the glovebox. ‘Well, at least you know all those things have been fixed?’ I tried. But to no avail. The shiny blue Freestyle was dead to us.

With three tired, cranky children we climbed back into the Venture. Defeated. This may or may not have been the moment when Percy handed me his pacifier. ‘It’s a little bit wrecked, can you get me a new one?’ I looked at this singular pacifier that has been his best friend and closest companion for a very long time. There were a couple of teeth-induced slits at the top. Much like the Venture, it was done.

Obviously, the time had come to say goodbye to the ‘dummy’. But now? In the middle of this wretched week? While he is ill?

Four blocks from our house, Percy vomit-christened the van one last time. The smell was, of course, horrendous and the professor desperately rolled down his window and tried to cover his nose whilst driving.

I concluded this, best-day-ever, by laundering all carseat covers and scrubbing the carseats with a toothbrush.

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