Misty with Clementine
2000 (Late in the year): BMW introduces its Mini Cooper, the name and body design derived from the British Motor Company rally car, shortly after the cessation of BMC production.
2002: Misty and Me. Manchester, NH. We pretty quickly know this is the real thing and I thoroughly appreciate Misty’s non-materialism and pragmatism. Personally lacking the latter, she’ll keep me in check. She is also clear-thinking and decisive on most matters– the exception perhaps being anything she might deem a personal extravagance. However, in these early days of Us, not one Mini Cooper is spotted without an exchange similar to:
Mini Coopers are really cute. Don’t you think? Probably fun to drive. I really liked my manual Honda during college.
Yes, they’re pretty cool. You’d look good in one.
2003: My new ride is a Saturn wagon coming off a 3-yr lease with only 12,000 miles. We know the folks are retired, garaged the vehicle, and it’s in pristine condition. We do the transaction through the dealership for a very fair deal. Between the Saturn and the 2002 Ford Escape, we are comfortably prepared for Sam’s arrival and semi-suburban lifestyle (at least as vehicles are concerned).
2003-2009: Mini Cooper sightings on roads and in driveways accompanied by:
I want one. Do you like that color? But, I think I’d do different stripes and hardtop color.
She continues: But it’s really not a practical family car, especially with Sam in a car seat.
We move to Kerrville, Texas during this period. Driving around Kerr, Bexar and Gillespie Counties, a handful of Minis seek new homes via private sale.
What do you think of that one?
Do you want me to stop so you can check it out?
No, the price looks right. In one breath: But private sale makes me a little nervous, but our mechanic can look at it, but it’s really not practical.
As time passes and the grass in hard-to-mow places begins to envelop the roadside Minis’ bodies, we drive by with eyes straight ahead, the silent sadness of their plight palpable. Methinks Misty toggles between these two thoughts: “Good thing we didn’t waste our time. Obviously, something wrong with it.” And, “Well, this is ranch country and big vehicles are practical. Those Minis aren’t made for caliche roads and driveways.”
One day she comes home from work and unsettles me with a semi-faux faux-tantrum. She laughs hysterically, jumps up and down, stomping her feet. Shin splints take up a microsecond in my mind.
No fair! It’s not fair!
Honey, did the IRS roll out code revisions? Wrong-minded regulations at Treasury? I ask.
No! Patrick rolled into the office parking lot in a Mini! He’s got MY car.
I’m sorry, honey. What colors? (I stupidly ask.) Isn’t Patrick kinda tall for a Mini? You’ll look better in yours.
2009: One Tuesday, during my new bi-weekly drive to Austin, with the burnt orange sunrise in the rearview, on the outskirts of Fredericksburg, I feel a brief clunk and disruption in the Saturn’s body. Engine stalls. Dashboard lights up like a Christmas Tree. A Goodfellas tree, with way too many colors and bulbs talking. I’m able to turn over the engine and pull into the Lowe’s lot. In the cab of the tow truck to Kerrville, with the AAA driver as stumped as I am, Misty jokes through the cell phone: Maybe it’s time to test drive a Mini. Later that day, our mechanic stuns us with the news that our Saturn, with 70k miles and nary a dime spent beyond routine maintenance, has had some odd catastrophic event, doesn’t pay to fix, not a manufacturer’s issue.
We go to San Antonio to test drive Minis. She looks inside:
The back is pretty small. We have a tall kid still in a car seat. Sometimes a second kid in a car seat. How will the knees fit?
She gets behind the wheel and morphs into a kid at Disney World. She quickly gets over the fact that she hasn’t driven a manual for many years. She shifts carefully, deliberately, and pulls us out of the parking lot and into San Antonio traffic. Like an Earnhardt, she begins moving through gears smoothly and confidently, playing Pac-man with the traffic on Interstate 410. The salesman in the front passenger seat interrupts his own shpiel a coupla times to remind her of the speed limit. Her smile keeps broadening, and methinks all she’s missing are Italian soft leather handstitched driving shoes and gloves.
It’s really not practical, and we’d have to bring it all the way to San Antonio for service, she says on the drive home. How tight was it in the back?
Not bad, and we’re all short, I say. I agree that the car seat and Sam’s knees probably limit our longer trips to the Escape. We buy a Chevy Equinox at the Kerrville dealership. She mulls, Maybe we’ll reconsider the Mini at some point, and while the Escape still has trade-in value.
At one point I suggest the Clubman, if space is the issue. My bad.
NO! Cooper or nothing! Why would I want a station wagon?!
2013: The Equinox, the non-AWD version, just doesn’t cut it in Maine’s winter conditions. We get a Ford Explorer, a sweet ride, but 180 degrees from a Mini. It seems more practical, somehow.
September 17, 2016: We drop Sam off at Heifer International’s Rutland farm early Saturday morning, where he will experience global poverty with his church youth group. We will head to Manchester, where we will enjoy a bountiful and chef-quality homemade brunch with the Varleys. We know in advance they have commitments later that day. On the ride to Manchvegas, Misty puts her iphone in front of my driving eyes and shows a photo of a light blue certified pre-owned Mini. Do you mind going over to Mini Cooper of Bedford later, to check it out, if we have time? Sounds good, I say. She reiterates a thought we’ve agreed upon before: Sam should learn to drive a manual. It’s important. 3 ½ years until he drives. It’s important and practical to know how to drive a stick. Yes, honey, it is.
It’s a beautiful sunny day, pushing 80 degrees. We overeat and enjoy a nice walk-and-talk with Laura and Sean around Livingston Park and its pond. We leave our friends, pop on over to Bellman’s where we can ooh and aaahh and reminisce while they clean our rings and check Misty’s settings. It’s pushing 4:00 pm for a 5:00 close by the time we get to Bedford and meet our new friend, Leo. The sky blue Mini looks good. As Leo goes to the office for dealer plates and keys, another salesman appears and puts plates on her as a mother and daughter get in. We all laugh as Leo shows us some other cars. Misty drives a couple different models and options. I sit in the passenger seat and thoroughly enjoy her happy experience. She eventually gets into the sky blue 2013, which the girl is no longer interested in, as she’s decided she wants an automatic transmission. We glee-up on our insides, but quickly discover that the upgrades done in 2014 are super noticeable. As Leo said, pre-2014, a little more go-kart. Yup. Still pretty good, but the juxtaposition of the rides is hard to ignore. Misty insists that I give my honest opinion on whether I can live with the orange color of the car that has been customized as if the first owner knew her. It’s your fun car, and it’s growing on me, I say. She insists I drive it then and there. Now I catch on that no laws of physics can slow this momentum.
I know it’s IMPULSIVE. (She is serious when she says this.) But the timing is right. We’ll have appropriate break-in mileage prepping it for Sam.
I love the ride, and while I felt she actually drove it better, I find my reintroduction with manual tran. fun and easy. The dash actually displays the gear and recommended gear, which is almost too much, and Leo concurs that we should ignore that and drive by feel. It is well past 5:00 and all the finance/paperwork folks are gone. Deposit down.
Friday, September 23: Our insurance agent expresses genuine Happy to Misty on the pending purchase. Misty tells me she asks if we’re retiring the Escape. She then enthusiastically proclaims that Misty has a “pleasure vehicle.” New to both of us, this is evidently the nomenclature for a personal vehicle beyond the number of drivers in the household.
Saturday, September 23: We shock Sam as we say we’re going to the Varleys and pull into Mini of Bedford. Fifteen minutes later, Clementine’s a family member. Leo gives us the lesson. I drive the Explorer while Misty and Sam take off in Clementine.
Sunday, September 24: I take the Escape for a drive and muster words of assurance. She is beyond retirement age, but is healthy, energetic and maintains an active lifestyle at 170k miles. But methinks she is fully aware that she is in a precarious position as my CPA carries a “pleasure vehicle” on the household books.