Americans have a love affair with their cars and I’m no exception. My relationships are long-lasting and satisfying. I celebrate anniversaries and milestones, like hitting 100,000 miles, with appropriate gifts: a complete detailing, a celebratory drive across a soaring bridge. But when it’s over, it’s over.
My Honda CRV brought me from Connecticut to my new home in Massachusetts. It was my post-divorce car that became part of my new relationship. It settled, somewhat self-consciously, next to its flashier step-sibling, a BMW 318 ti. It endured the check-ups and surgeries of the aging–new brakes, exhaust system, alternator. It is now approaching 180,000, not failing but chugging along with doggedness.
I took a Mini out for a spin yesterday at Mini of Bedford, NH. Not a lot of dealers for them, yet. Salesmen Bill Lepene at Mini Bedford gave the breed a good name though.
The upstart imports have caught my eye, day after day on my morning commute. Sassy, fresh, young, dressed in bold colors. The one I drove sprinted down the road with hip swivelling turns. Its dashboard grinned at me with an oversized speedometer and rally guards over toggle switches. The sunroof opened to reveal a filmy net to protect against….what I’m not sure… but it provided a semblance of personal responsibility to the Minis-just-wanna-have-fun attitude.
This was a test drive only, I told myself. Yet when I got home, I went to the internet to search for more. At Mini USA you can build a Mini like ordering up a mate by e-mail. I started with the new model, the Countryman (ignoring the Euro sexism of the name). It’s the one that will hold a chocolate lab, lhasa apso and my husband. It will accommodate trips to Costco or the annual pilgrimage to our beach house in Maine. It runs on all-wheel drive, a necessity should snow ever return to our region. And of course, there is the fun stuff like racing stripes or checkered flag painted on the roof.
I remember every car growing up, from the ones with broad seats, sans seatbelts, that carried our family on trips and around town. Sunday afternoon entertainment consisted of loading us all in the car and cruising at a sedate speed for hours through the countryside. My parents had a woodie with a canvas roof that had to be tarred, and a bullet-shaped Henry J (briefly). There were the station wagons with the third seat, which we called the “wayback.” My first car was a hand-me-down from an aunt. It was a giant ugly gold Chevy BelAir. Then came marriage and kids and Subarus. And eventually, my faithful Honda. Now, I’m looking at changing it up.
Minis appeal to my literary taste. They have an Agatha Christie model and a Strangelove. I gave my character, Phred Rivers, a Mini long before I considered one for myself. For her page on Facebook, her profile photo is the famous Mini dashboard.
Is a Mini me? Maybe.