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(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

I try really hard to love my life for the people and the experiences in it and the beliefs I hold. Life for me is not about status or what I own or where I live or anything like that—expect for when it is.

I’ve always feared consumerism in others and I try to snuff it out in myself, but deep down I realize that I am at least still materialistic. Not a material girl in the Madonna way, but just that I know sometimes I get really attached to certain material things. For me consumerism is about wanting stuff for the sake of having it or getting something new or impressing someone else or trying to create an image—all that I try to avoid. No, I’m not quite to the level I’d like to be in the “store up your treasures in heaven” attitude, but I try.

So it’s hard for me to admit that I love my car—and that it is the kind of car that also appeals to hipsters and people who do care what others think. Last month I felt like some sort of fraud while hanging around while getting the car serviced (after 10 months—oil changes only once every 10,000 miles—awesome!)—even the waiting area felt too trendy for someone like me. Who’d have thunk I’d be driving a MINI Cooper S? Not me.

You see it’s my husband’s fault we have this car—and Sherman’s no hipster either. He’s just been coveting them for years. Last year, it became painfully obvious we needed another car around here due to everyone’s differing schedules. Finally, I told him to go drive one. How was he going to know if he really liked them if he didn’t check them out?

So when he found a “pre-owned” (what people like me call “used”) one with reasonable miles, he took it for a spin. He liked it, he really liked it, even though he was out driving it on a dark and stormy night. Throughout the week while we vacillated—I just didn’t want to spend any money, period—the salesperson kept calling—and the price dropped.

When Sherman took me and our son Jackson to see the vehicle in the daylight, I didn’t think anything would come of it, no matter how cute the darn thing was. Both my guys took the car screaming over the hills outside the (BMW) dealership. Our fill-in salesperson—the finance guy who used to work at the MINI location and who knew all about them—was not too excited to squeeze himself into that back seat for that type of journey, but he actually knew more about the car than the BMW salesperson did.

I think he was happier with my cautious driving style than with the let-‘er-rip style practiced by my guys, but he wasn’t so thrilled with my cautious buying style. Don’t think he’d met many with my level of reticence for spending at that place—I mean there were cars there selling for $132,000. My inclination was to run out of that oh-so-precious space and go find some bucket of bolts that probably would have nickled and dimed us to our last penny. But thanks to my habit of not spending too often, I had built a credit number that was the highest Mr. Finance had seen—at the BMW place, no less. (That my husband’s score was slightly lower is due to the fact he’s the one who has the reliable salary and whose credit we typically use, but he’s no slacker either—let’s face it, we are just cheap—usually.)

And with those credit records we could obtain financing that made a lot more sense than paying for a bunch of repairs on a less reliable vehicle.

Can I help it that my reliable and safe vehicle (yes, Sherman checked the reports and ratings even before that first drive) is just so fun to drive? Note: I don’t even like to drive, but I do now. Errands? No problem. City traffic? Still a problem, but so much better with all that zip as well as the as-easy-as-it-gets parking of such a small car. Decent insurance rates, reasonable gas mileage, and ergonomically suitable for my touchy lower back—and with racing stripes on it! So what if the heater takes its time—I’ve finally got heated seats!

OK, enough with the exclamation points. But you get the point—I like the material possession that is my car. Turns out I’m a bit of a material girl, after all.

Nonetheless, I doubt I’m going to respond to all those email ads I get telling me “ the new MINIs are in, new MINIs are in” within anything close to the next decade. Our closest “new” vehicle is the car I drove and now my son drives—the 2000 grandma-mobile my mom gave us in 2008. Sherman just replaced his 1994 with a 1998—after we realized buying a “newer” vehicle would be cheaper than repairing his. And our daughter still drives the only car we ever bought new—back in 1998.

Yup, that’s me smiling like the Cheshire Cat behind the wheel of my little striped car. I’ve got the car I didn’t know I wanted—and I’m keeping it.

P.S. Happy almost anniversary (November 2) to us and our little car–it’s been a great year! Here’s to many more happy miles together!

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(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

“Reluctantly crouched at the starting line . . .” (from Cake’s “The Distance”) we couldn’t wait to peel out when the lights turned green. Those were the days when there wasn’t much to do but “cruise the ones” at night during high school. I’m a fairly cautious driver, but that didn’t stop me from burning off the line in my mother’s car, an innocuous looking green Mercury Comet with a white roof that had some get up and go. (Little did I know then that my driving style was contributing to the late 1970s oil crisis, even if I didn’t drive that much.)

During those same years my need for speed was also being met on the running track. In that case, I aimed not to jump from the starting line, but keep the kick for the finish—something I did so well that in the last month of my high school career my coach decided I made a better sprinter than I did a long distance runner. Despite all those miles under my feet, he was right about that. Even if I’ve never been a star at any distance, I do love the rush at the end, arms pumping, eyes fixed on the goal, and the wind blowing past my ears.

Well, life in my 50s has not been nearly so zippy. In fact, after my bulging disc injury at the end of my 40s and lots of physical therapy and exercising on my own, for a long time I was happy just to get back to walking in a zippy manner.

As for driving a zippy car, that hadn’t happened since my turbo Dodge Shadow pooped out way sooner than it should have. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my Honda CR-V—which our daughter still drives—but you’re never going to confuse that car with a car that can pass easily in the mountains—or even go up a hill without a whole lot of effort. And my parents’ Mercury Sable I inherited has a V-6, but, seriously, it’s a grandma-mobile—it’s a good road trip sedan.

So when my husband suggested getting a MINI Cooper, I had no strong opinions either way. Cars just cost too much money any way you look at it and I’ve rather stopped thinking about what I might want in a car. Then when my husband, son, and I took it out on a test drive on hilly County Line Road, I started to remember—not that I had much experience on hills growing up in my absolutely flat hometown, but I did have memories of zipping along County Line Road in my Shadow and loving how easy those hills seemed.

Well, almost six months and 6,000 happy miles later, that MINI Cooper and I (as well as every other driver in our family) have zipped around quite a bit. Hills, roundabouts, curves, highway entrance ramps, mountain inclines—those places are where the MINI excels—and/or accelerates, as it were.

As for me and my own two feet, I remain mostly not-zippy. But every once in awhile, thanks to PT, yoga, and a lot of focused work, I still have it in me to try to fly for a short distance. At the end of last night’s track practice, where I consistently hit my times 100 meter, after 100 meter, on the way to a consistent pace for a 20-minute run and three more timed 200 meter runs, I turned off the watch and just zipped through the last 200 meters as fast as I could. Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah!

Nothing like going from zero to zippy from time-to-time to help me stay satisfied with the slower pace in much of my life—that’s what keeps me going the distance.

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2013 Christiana Lambert

My husband and I don’t often do trendy. And if we do do trendy, it’s certainly not to impress folks but because the trendy item/experience calls to us personally.

In fact, the last time we were riding the wave of trendy came in 1998 when we bought our Honda CR-V just in its second year of production. We weren’t big SUV people but active people who liked to hike, ski, and bike with kids and dog in tow. That smaller SUV was designed for people like us with its easy driving and parking as well as its mess-friendly (that means it takes a lot to change the looks!) upholstery. Our goal was to invest in a car we could drive for at least ten years. Five years beyond that goal, with our daughter driving it in college, we’re still trendy because the older CR-Vs are common among the younger set—they’re a reliable car a parent can trust yet not so much to make them seem uncool.

The CR-V is our favorite car among all our aging cars. Yes, you know we are not trendy when you find out we also drive a 1994 Toyota 4Runner and a 2000 Mercury Sable. (And that doesn’t even include the 1976 Mobile Traveler RV that is so old that they don’t make the right size tires for it anymore.) Many people’s bicycles are worth as much or much more than any of our vehicles. We got the 4Runner because we needed a vehicle we can use to plow a parking lot and we inherited the Sable—aka the Grandma-mobile—when my mom stopped driving at the end of 2007.

Given that the Mobile Traveler is really not a good choice for running errands and commuting—especially since we spent almost two years trying to figure out how to replace two flat tires—we were having more and more transportation challenges within our household. Though definitely more economical to continue as we had, it had become stressful enough that getting another car made sense, especially if I were to jump into the commuting scene.

Sherman has harbored a wish for years to get a Mini Cooper—me, I’ve harbored a wish not to drive the Grandma-mobile and to have a car that was easy to park. (Hey, I was setting my sights low.) Last month he renewed his Internet hunting obsession for Minis. Finally I told him he better go test drive one—what if he finally found the Mini of his dreams then found out he hated driving Minis?

It was a dark and stormy night when he first drove the car—and, yet, he liked it. So much so that he wanted to know if I wanted to return with him. A few days later the salesperson called him to see what he thought—it was approaching month end, a time when dealerships seem keener to book deals. Month end came and went because we wanted to drive the car in the daylight together. Plus, the dealership has a one-price/no haggle policy—which might explain why the price had dropped in the new month.

On a bright and sunny November day, my husband, son, and I took turns at the controls while we squeezed into a much smaller car than we have ever owned with a very nervous finance guy who was filling in for the salesperson. My male counterparts took turns peeling back our ears on the hilly roads and highways—I just wanted to figure out how to operate the turn signal. (Our daughter missed the driving fun, but arrived home in time for the mind-numbing experience of completing the paperwork. At least we were still in the system because of our CR-V purchase.)

There was really nothing wrong with the vehicle—heck, even pre-owned and with just under 30,000 miles on the odometer, it was a whole decade newer than our newest used vehicle. I’m still not convinced I am up to the added financial commitment of maintaining another vehicle, but it certainly is nice not to have to strategize about who has what car when—plus, the car is so dang cute!

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Though it seems that most males disdain driving “cute” cars, all the guys we met at the dealership and as well as those in my family (as well as my daughter, of course) get kind of excited about how it drives. Maybe even I like being able to pop up a hill or jump into traffic—finally—after a couple decades’ absence from driving a “zippy” car.
(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

Of course, who buys a two-door car (our guys have nicknamed “Clown Car” for just how it appears when the four of us climb out of it) right before a long road trip when we need to pack for a 10-day stay and have promised to bring 40 tablecloths and two boxes of Mason jars? Good thing the kids flew in for the wedding or they’d have experienced western Kansas while clinging to that low-slung roof!

We’re happy to report our little car drove really well and achieved commendable gas mileage through a whole lot of wind. We managed to take out our mini-van driving relatives (so much for their mid-life crises—four grandkids in car seats has pushed their small car dreams back a few years) for spins and were very willing to volunteer to drive out to run errands. Plus, we got a whole lot of entertainment out of doing so, even on those occasions when we crammed all four of our family members in it.

This is the start of a whole new trend for us, anyway. And, somehow we just can’t stop smiling—no matter which one of us is at the controls—when we drive that car—well, as long as no one minds that everyone else is popping his/her space cushion. What’s not to love about a car that lets you touch each rider on the shoulder—without leaning at all? Oh yeah, though we’re driving in style, the car I call “Coco” is always going to be a clown car when all of us are cruising in it.

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