Tuesday, May 13, 2008
My Little Minivan, Now in Big People Size!
This weekend we decided to test out the theory, heretofore unproved, that three car seats (a booster, a toddler, and an infant) will fit in the back of our Passat W-8 wagon.
They no fit.
Well, there was one way they could have fit: Have the four-year-old climb into the booster in the middle, then go and fetch the Britax and install it, before asking the 2 1/2-year-old to climb in. I could see my husband considering this possibility, faced with the dire knowledge of what the alternative might be. A dreaded, emasculating minivan. Then he asked sadly: "Can't we just always go places in two cars?" I sadly replied: "No."
The next day we went to what I affectionately referred to as "The Minivan Store" to check out the rambling, rolling storage facility/ aka mobile megaplex known as the Chrysler Town and Country. This car has everything! According to the ads, your kids are going to want to take their Thanksgiving dinner out to the vehicle while it sits in the driveway, and eat it at the table that you can install in the middle of the van. (The seats swivel around so that your entire brood can face one another!) There they can watch multiple DVD screens, play a game of Monopoly, or indulge in some light aerobic activity.
The storage capacity in this beast is so vast that you could open the back hatch, roll in your double/triple stroller with babies strapped all over it hither and thither, and drive off. I really wanted to love it, because of things like the doors that slide open automatically when you press a button. That's cool, when one is a mom. The doors also shy back when they sense little paws in the opening, preventing squished fingers. Also cool!
Sadly, it's on the road where the minivan starts to reveal its true lameness. If only it could just sit in the driveway, providing entertainment for the kiddies and extra seating for those busy holiday affairs. Driving around, it feels oddly like a big bucket of American plastic--almost like a toy car devised by a child and zapped to super-size via a ray-gun. The stuff inside, like the so-called fancy three-tiered console, looks flimsy, like it wouldn't last one incident of an exuberant toddler clambering over it. The turn signal seems to click the tune "rinkydink, rinkydink, rinkydink" as the minivan ponders its elephantine way around a turn. The sales rep wouldn't let us take it on the highway (he said that was saved for "special circumstances"--huh?) but we really felt that punching it up an access ramp onto 95 would not be a confidence-inspiring experience. (Maybe that's exactly why they don't allow highway test-drives?) All I can picture: Oofh, oofh, OOFH, like a fat lady trying to hoist her way out of a really soft mattress.
I wanted to love it, so I was sad. It had no verve, no oomph. During the test drive, I felt the onset of Frump. Mom haircut and bad jeans, included with package!
So, we went to look at the Mazda CX-9. Yeah, it's an SUV. What can I say? It may still be a gas-guzzling automatic, but it drives nicely and has enough power and control so that one doesn't feel trepidation at driving anywhere but the Stop 'n' Shop. I rather liked it, actually. After all, a vehicle is for driving first and entertainment second, right? We have a DVD player at home, and it works just fine. (The Mazda has a DVD option, but we've decided to decline it. Do we really want to be subject to Thomas and Friends on the road, too? How about learning to read, kid?!)
Plus, the Mazda seats seven and still has a fair amount of cargo space. Not as much as the minivan, but at least it allows you, as the husband says, to retain at least one ball. And one ball is better than none!