Tuesday, September 09, 2008

If You Are What You Drive, I'm ... Uh, Old

The cell phone rang in my front pocket as my family and I walked across the clean but car-littered floor.

I thought about not answering it. I hate talking on the telephone in front of people who suddenly look like they want me dead.

What’s so important, I wonder when I see some else talking on their cell phone in public, that you have to tell Joshy Pooh-Pooh you love him when you’re in line at the grocery store buying laxatives?

But my pocket was ringing. What are you supposed to do when your pocket’s ringing? The call was from a buddy, so I answered.

One of the greatest features of a cellular telephone, apart from the fact that you can talk to someone on the opposite side of the planet as easily as setting an egg timer, is caller ID. I’m sure there are lots of people who ignore calls when the word “Offutt” appears on their phone. Fine. I didn’t want to talk with them anyway.


“Hey,” I said, in the traditionally accepted guy ‘hello.’ “Can’t talk. We’re at a car dealership.”

“What are you buying?” he asked.

“A minivan.”


“You’re old, dude,” he finally said, and the conversation ended.

There are things all of us say we’ll never do. Sometimes it’s drinking vodka up your nose, sometimes it’s Bungee jumping, and sometimes it’s voting for Democrats. Not surprisingly, these things often happen on the same day and in the same order.

For me, the thing I said I would never do is own a minivan. Owning a minivan means you’ve given up. You’ve become branded as someone with a soccer ball sticker in the back window. You’re just one of the masses, and yes, you’re old.

That night, when I drove my family home from the dealership in our new minivan, my wife and I joined the ranks of those who will purchase an estimated 1 million minivans this year.

Good lord. What am I going to do next? I wondered. Donate to Greenpeace?

Then my wife, who would donate to Greenpeace, put the America I know into perspective.

“I saw this minivan driving down our street the other day,” she said over the children who were completely failing to fall asleep in their car seats. “It was driven by a teenager playing loud, thumping rap music.”

An image rushed into my head. And, yes, his ball cap was on backwards.

“I wanted to yell, ‘Yeah, you’re pretty cool in your mom’s car.’”

That’s all I needed. In this world where, to us, we are what we think we are, and to society, we are what we appear to be, there is one constant – complete apathy about what other people think.

Yes, I’m just one of the masses and yes, I’m working on accepting the fact that I’m old enough to drive a minivan.

But the most comforting part of my wife’s story is, at least I’m not that guy.

Copyright 2008 by Jason Offutt

Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to the Show-Me State’s Most Spirited Spots,” is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or tsup.truman.edu. Visit Jason’s Web site, www.jasonoffutt.com, for his other books.

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