Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Gimmie Five

So, against the advice of our family and friends, we bought a minivan.  Kinda.  On Saturday we said "good-bye" to our old, reliable, and cramped Toyota Corolla, and "hello" to a new, but almost as cramped, Mazda5.  It's like a minivan, elf-sized.  To see what I mean, take a look at this picture, which I took as we were still researching vehicles:

The auto on the right is a regular, whale-sized minivan.  The one on the left is the Mazda5.  From bumper to bumper, it's practically the same length as my old Corolla (as least it looked that way when they were parked next to each other), and yet it still has third-row seating.  Some reviewers have called it a "microvan," and right now there are no other vehicles like it on the market (I hear Ford is coming out with one later this year, but we couldn't wait that long to check it out).  Mazda's website says the 5 "refuses to be categorized."  That refusal, though, apparently had no impact on the vehicle's own window sticker, which categorized it as a minivan. 

So, yes, technically, the Mazda5 is a minivan, but at least it feels like I'm driving a regular-sized car, and not a mobile home.  I can park it on the street without having to put two wheels up on the car behind it.  Its passengers will still eat their knees, just like they did in the Corolla, but now we can seat six knee-eaters, instead of four-and-a-half.  That was important to us, since two spots will be permanently occupied by car seats.  There was no way that the Corolla was going to be able to handle two car seats, especially a rear-facing one, which, according to the new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, is now recommended for children up to the age of 25.  Kyle already likes his new seat by the window, and he's pleased with the color, which is not red (see my earlier auto-themed post).  Plus, the Mazda5 does come with standard features that I couldn't afford when I purchased the Corolla, back when I was still eating ramen noodles for lunch regularly.  Among those features: power locks, power windows, automatic climate control, and intermittent windshield wipers.  Yes, for ten-an-a-half-years, every time I drove my Corolla through a drizzle storm, I would have to hit the wipers on-and-off every now and then, as if my arm were having spasms.

A decade is a long time to own a car, and it was probably time for the Corolla to go, anyway.  I can't say it was an easy decision, as there are a lot of memories associated with that car.  I purchased it a day before my first date with Jennifer, in fact.  The car is the reason why I almost didn't get a second date.  I was so excited about my newly-discovered haggling skills that I wouldn't stop talking about the whole purchasing experience.  She wondered if she could put up with another night of that, never mind ten-plus years.  Fortunately for me, she didn't listen to her conscience, and I wowed her by the sixth date. 

Not too long after that, Jennifer and I took our first of many road trips in that car.  It eventually traveled the entire east coast, from the shores of Destin, Florida, to the wharfs of Boothbay Harbor, Maine.  In 2003 we drove the Corolla from Atlanta to North Carolina, and then drove it back three weeks later, as newlyweds.  A few months after that we drove it from Atlanta to New York City, arriving at night and seeing the dazzling skyline through the windshield, realizing, with a bit of anxiety, that this would now be our home.  In August of 2008, Kyle would sit in the same car and take his first road trip to see his grandparents.

We drove the Corolla from New York to Boston late one October night in 2004 so that we could the Red Sox World Series victory parade the next morning.  In March of 2007, we spent six hours in it with our friends Matt and Amanda, when a snow/ice storm turned a two-hour drive to Mohegan Sun into a traffic nightmare.  The car provided an escape for Jennifer and I each year, as we would take it to the Catskills to celebrate our anniversary.  And on September 11th, 2001, I was in the Corolla, driving to my job at CNN, when I first heard that we were under attack.  I was so stunned, I don't know how I kept my foot on the gas to keep moving on the Atlanta freeway. 

The Corolla made it through countless storms, blizzards, and even a tornado.  It survived poorly-maintained roads in Atlanta and New York, and it muscled its way through three years of law school, getting Jennifer there and back safely.  It was infested with ants only once, and it had never been in a crash, although it came close when an entire bumper from another car flew into our lane during a trip to Massachusetts.  The Corolla had excellent steering and brakes, and I certainly was grateful for that.  I also appreciated its cassette player, which was still working as of last weekend (we had used it with an adapter for the iPod).  Most likely I will never again have a car with a cassette player.  There goes one more connection to the 80's and 90's, and my youth.  Dear God, did I just buy a minivan?

So, yes, we will miss the Corolla.  I'm not even sure what to call our new car: the Five?  the Mazda?  the Insane Asylum?  (after all, we will be traveling in it with two young boys)  We definitely won't say it's the "minivan," as I, too, refuse to categorize it as such, and am probably in denial.  We are awfully excited about the vehicle and the new chapter in our lives it represents.  There soon will be plenty of memories associated with the Mazda5.  Yet it's hard to part with something that's been a part of our lives for so long.  Saturday night, Jennifer remarked that it was rather sad to think of our Corolla sitting alone in some parking lot, either at the dealership or someplace else.  I also felt that way, almost sorry for the Corolla, especially in the week leading up to our big purchase.  But then I remembered an Ikea commercial I had seen several years ago.  I've found it online and attached it below (those of you who get e-mail updates might have to visit to see it).  It certainly puts things in perspective.

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