Monday, June 11, 2007

Vanity

I had to travel for work today, so my work day started with a trip to the rental car agency to pick up my vehicle. AJ the manager checked me in and asked if I wanted a Mazda 5 or a Subaru. When I rent for work, I usually choose something that blends into the background, is relatively conservative and businesslike, and gets decent gas mileage. I asked for the Mazda 5. I signed the documents, grabbed the keys, and looked as AJ pointed me in the direction of my car.

AJ said Mazda 5 and I replied Mazda 5, but I pictured Mazda 6, a nice generic, nondescript sedan, preferably white or grey in color, something that just sort of disappears into the road when I barrel down the highway. I have this fantasy that neutral- colored cars decrease the likelihood of a ticket. The warning ticket tacked to my bulletin board at work is a testament to the falsehood of that fantasy. Still, I believe it.

At first I thought he was pointing to the red car directly across from me, until I realized, to my relief, that it was a Toyota. I walked up two more cars and saw the car I’d rented. It didn’t look like anything I’d rented before. It was kind of young and hip, I thought. It looked a little like a hatchback, only bigger. I walked up next to it and unlocked the doors so I could put my things in the back seat. As I got closer, I saw that it had a sliding door. “Good god!,” I thought. “I’ve rented a minivan. I can’t drive a minivan. I’m not a mom. I’m single. I’m, I’m, I’m….cool!” I tried the key, thinking maybe the car was unlocked and that I hadn’t, in fact, opened the right car. The key worked.

I pulled the door back and looked in to find that there were six, possibly seven seats. I got serious van vibes and worried about my image. Nevertheless, I was running late and had to get going. I put my things in the back seat and drove off.

It didn’t drive like a van. I was sitting up high, but not above everyone. I could maneuver it easily. Clearly, I was driving a hatchback, I reasoned. I sat back, put a cd in the player, cranked the volume, and set my mind on the trip ahead.

I decided to stop for coffee at a place I frequent. I did a u-turn, pulled into the parking place in front of the shop, got out and walked in. Isaiah the barista walked up from the back room. He smiled and greeted me by name. I’m a regular.

Isaiah is twenty-something, a rock climber who wears designer jeans, retro shirts, and whatever you call those shoes that look like something I rented at the bowling alley when I was twelve. His curly blonde hair flows from his head like a bush. His beard makes him look like Grizzly Adams.

“You get a new car,” he asked. I was stumped. He’d come out from the back of the shop when I walked in. It hadn’t occurred to me that he saw me drive up. I hesitated. “Your car. Is it new? I don’t remember you driving a van.”

Looking down to find my frequent buyer card, I mumbled, “It’snotavan.”

“What?”

“I said it’s not a van!”

“What is it then?”

“It’s a Mazda 5.”

He nodded his head. “Right. A van.”

“Define ‘van.’”

“You define ‘van.’ You seem to be the one with specific ideas about what it is and what it isn’t. I think you’re a little sensitive about this,” he said chuckling. He stepped back to start my drink. The cup was sitting on the counter under the espresso machine. He pulled the shots and began to the steam the milk. “What’s wrong with driving a van?”

“I’m not a mom. I’m, I’m….well, I’m not a mom.”

“Is there something wrong with being a mom?”

“No. I’m just not one, so I don’t think I should be driving a car that makes me look like one.” I suddenly remember that I’d been offered the Subaru and wondered why I didn’t just take it. Sure, it screams lesbian, but I am one. I could drive it with my authenticity intact, and in that moment, we would have had a very different conversation.

The sound of the steam blowing against the bottom of the metal milk container brought me back. I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t actually ordered a drink. I was curious what he was fixing me. “What are you making for me?”

“The same thing you’ve order the last 25 times you’ve been in here.”

“I haven’t been here 25 times.”

“Okay. The same thing you’ve ordered the last 15 times you’ve been here. A large mocha.”

“Oh.”

“Is that okay?”

“Um, yeah. I was just going to get something different today. One of those Previa mochas.”

“What’s a Previa mocha?” The blood rushed from my face. As soon as he said it, I knew what I’d done, but I tried to cover it up.

“You know. A mocha with semi-sweet European chocolate. Not that sweet American stuff.”

“That’s not a Previa. Where did Previa come from? Wait. I know what a Previa is. It’s a VAN, a Toyota, isn’t it?”

“Um. Yeah.”

He nearly dropped the milk from laughing so hard. “Why did you think of Previa?”

“Well, I have some friends who have one.”

“Really. Do they have kids?”

“No.”

“So, it’s not a mom-car to them.”

“Well, no. But, it’s still not right. I mean, I drive up to their house and see it sitting there and I wonder who’s visiting them. They’re not van people. I don’t really know why they have a van.”

“Or maybe you’re just narrow-minded about the whole van thing. Is the regular mocha okay, or do I need to make a Prague mocha?”

“Regular is fine. You’ve already started it.” He picked up the cup, carefully poured the milk, creating the perfect swirl of coffee and milk to look like a leaf. I paid and walked away.

“I’m going to go get in my van now,” I said, looking back over my shoulder.

“That’s right. Embrace it, Linda. Embrace the van.”

16 comments:

JM said...

now that's funny.

given that I have a mazda and jim n karen just got a subaru, what does that say about us?

PPB said...

That's awesome.

Mary Beth said...

You crack me up!

At first I was thinking "previa" was "premarin" which would have taken the story in a whole other direction...

you can see where my head is...

girl said...

that post made me snort :P

Marie said...

You and your barista could be a sitcom. I love that he knows you so well.

cheesehead said...

(Laughing)

My spouse and I did the biggest dance of joy when we realized we were no longer minivan people!

You should read my car rental story (Punk'd) if you haven't already.

SpookyRach said...

Bwaaaahahahaha! Love this story! I totally agree with your AVOID THE VAN philosophy. Mom-cars suck. Ha ha!

Vanity! heee hee!

Linda said...

JM- I have nothing against Mazda's. This just wasn't the Mazda I expected. Your Mazda is perfectly cool. As for Jim n Karen getting a Subaru...I think it just says they're cool.

PPB- Thanks!

MB- Funny how the mind works, isn't it.

girl- :-)

Marie- Isaiah gives me a hard time about ordering the same thing all of the time. We've enjoyed a lot of good banter since then.

CH- I'll go check it out.

Rach- Glad someone caught the title. That was an extremely rare moment of inspiration. Didn't want it wasted. ;-)

Katherine E. said...

Too cute. What's that word...guffaw? I think I did that.
Or maybe it was a snort, like "girl." Anyway, I'm smiling. Thanks.

Yankee T said...

I must confess to driving a mom car-my Taurus wagon. But I could NOT drive a van. Don't know why, I just couldn't.

Yankee T said...

Hey, off topic-can you email me? I only have your old email address.
I'm at yankeetransferred at gmail dot com

SassyFemme said...

Giggling! Love that this guy knows what to make you w/o you ordering. How cool!

Be careful what you say about us minivan drivers! ;)

SassyFemme said...

Oh I saw a Mazda 5 on the way home from work today and chuckled thinking of you. It looks like a mini-mini-van.

Sue said...

I've seen the mazda 5 - it is definitely a minivan.

I'm living for the day when i can get rid of my minivan and leave my minivan days behind me.

Minivans *spits*

jo(e) said...

What great dialogue! (And clever title, too.)

I would be horrified to be accused of driving a van. I mean, I am a middle-aged mother of four, but that doesn't mean I want to be seen as one ....

I have the same car as Yankee T, which makes me cool.

Serena said...

LOL ...I think I snorted too... I totally agree with you about mom car/vans. "van" it ee indeed!