After months of debate, my wife Kara and I have finally narrowed down our new car search to the three contenders that best fit all of our requirements: the Chevy Tooth Fairy, the Subaru Free Lunch and the Honda Basement That Doesn’t Flood at Least Once. Which is to say, the car we’re looking for does not exist.
All we want is an automobile that can seat two parents, two children (one real and one extremely hypothetical) and two visiting grandparents, with room to squeeze in a stroller and a dog, while still getting at least 25 combined mpg. We’d also like it to look, if not cool, then at least not painfully uncool. And we’d also like onion rings that make you skinnier.
Plenty of cars have more seating than Carnegie Hall, but the extra room always comes at the expense of fuel efficiency, making me feel like the bad guy from “The Lorax” just for looking at them. But our current fleet of one small hatchback and one smaller two-doored baby-hater just isn’t conducive to a baby-hauling lifestyle, so we’ve started considering our alternatives. We knew it would be tough to find an Earth-friendly large car, but we’re finding it nearly impossible to even be Earth-cordial.
This isn’t the first time we’ve experienced the clash of parenthood and treehuggerism. Since our son Evan was born just over a year ago, I’ve thrown away so many diapers and plastic bottle liners that when I try to high-five a tree, it leaves me hanging.
“Sounds like you need a minivan,” my buddy Johnny said over the phone recently.
“Yeah, we might. We’ve been looking,” I said, surprised to hear a friend advocate what is clearly the most logical choice for us. In general, our friends without children seem to harbor a deeply felt animosity toward minivans, as if they spent their respective childhoods receiving atomic wedgies from Dodge Caravans.
“Dude! I was kidding. I can’t be friends with you anymore,” Johnny replied.
I didn’t tell him that Kara and I have gone so far as to look at some minivans at a local dealership.
“We prefer to call it a swagger wagon,” the salesman said, parroting a line from a Toyota commercial I’d unfortunately seen, one that tried to make minivans seem cool, and which ultimately failed worse than a BP top kill.
Sometimes, I suspect Toyota’s marketing department of secretly trying to steer people towards SUVs. Just today, I saw an Internet banner ad with a picture of the newest Toyota minivan featuring this slogan underneath: “Mommy like.”
Seriously, “Mommy like”?
Are they trying to make it impossible for a fair-to-moderately self-respecting dude to buy a minivan? This seems like purposeful sabotage. Daddy no like.
The only car we’ve seen that meets our requirements for space and fuel efficiency is the hybrid Toyota Highlander, the biggest tease of the automotive world.
“It costs $9,000 more than the comparable non-hybrid Highlander,” Kara said, researching on her computer after we got home.
“But we’d save on gas,” I said.
“At $4.00 a gallon, we’d break even in 25.4 years,” she replied, helping us both to locate the boundary between idealism and reality.
Fortunately, we’re not in a huge rush, so it looks for now like we’ll just keep wedging ourselves into the cars we have now.
Also, with all this talk of upsizing, I hope it was clear to any of Evan’s grandparents who might have been writing their own stories between the lines that the above-referenced second child is more hypothetical than the Higgs boson, and will remain that way for some time. Kara’s not pregnant, is my point. But if she gets that way, we might need your help knocking out a windshield to make room.
You can stow Mike Todd behind your third row at firstname.lastname@example.org.