Cars are as much a status icon as they are a form of transportation. Since many people base their first impressions of you based on what you drive, I’ve had an interesting time being categorized by my unusual vehicular situation.
Before I got married, people wondered why I drove a minivan around. The reason was simple. I needed a car in college and a relative needed to get rid of an extra vehicle. My Dad asked if I would be okay with a van. “It’s free, right?” I asked rhetorically. Since my dad was buying the vehicle for me, I wasn’t going to be picky. Besides, I thought, I may not be cool, but I can carry a lot of people and a lot of things. Chalk one up for usefulness.
Fast forward four years, a hole in the bumper and 40,000 miles later this minivan is still going. And the question I am still asked when people see me drive up in it for the first time is: “You drive a minivan?” Usually I’ll get a followup question about gas mileage, or I’ll get a chance to explain that I had no choice of vehicle, but kept the van because it has been extremely useful (especially moving around during summers in college).
Now that I’m married, I get fewer amused or confused faces when I pull up, but as soon as someone learns I don’t have kids it’s back to the same “why?” question and my short elevator pitch on the utility of a minivan. With the minivan, people are trying to figure out what lifestyle choices I have made. Am I a hippy, a parent, or cheap?
Last month my wife and I (mostly me) decided to get a second car. So a few weeks later I bought a Mini Cooper. I imagined people would ask fewer questions but I was wrong. “Isn’t that a tiny car?” “I hear it doesn’t get great gas mileage.” “Why did you get a Mini?” “It doesn’t seem all that practical.” None of the questions I’ve been asked or the comments I’ve received have ever bothered me. But now that I’m on my second ever car I’m starting to notice how much people question your vehicle decisions based on how well they know you and how similar your vehicle choices are to theirs.
So what if I bought a Ferrari California instead of a Mini Cooper? Other than more expensive car payments and high insurance, not much would be different. People would still ask me roughly the same questions and I would still have fun driving around. People will try to categorize you no matter what you drive, where you live, how you act, or what you wear so you might as well do your own thing. Oh. And by the way, for her second car, my wife said she’s thinking about another minivan.