Archive for Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Look-alive minivans a vehicle for humiliation

January 16, 2013

John Beal's column, Cabbages and Kings, appears monthly on the Voices page of The Dispatch. Beal is a Shawnee resident and retired editor of The Dispatch.

John Beal's column, Cabbages and Kings, appears monthly on the Voices page of The Dispatch. Beal is a Shawnee resident and retired editor of The Dispatch.

It’s getting harder to remember every year, but there was a time when you could find your car because they didn’t all look the same.

Back in the 1950s and ’60s, cars were so different you could even identify many makes just by their silhouette. Who would ever mistake a 1968 Camaro for a Mustang of the same year, or a 1958 Buick for a 1959 Ford?

Not so any more. These days you’ve got to be prepared to spend some serious money to drive a vehicle that stands out in a crowd, and even that is no guarantee.

I don’t know the number of times I’ve had to stop my wife from getting in someone else’s car. Of course, that never happens to me. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Actually, I can usually pick out my car, but I suspect that’s only because I usually remember where I left it. But even that’s no guarantee, and what if I happen to take a different vehicle?

The other day, our daughter and grandson were visiting and our plans for dinner fell through, so we decided to get a couple of pizzas. I placed the order and because her car was easier to get to, took it to collect our supper.

I drove to the pizza place without incident and parked the car, a silver minivan, not far from the front door.

A few minutes later, I came back out into the frigid cold, juggling two boxes of pizza and a sack of accoutrements, conscious of the fact that our dinner was getting colder every second.

So, with some difficulty, I fished the keys out of my pocket and tried to unlock the door. Of course, when it’s cold and you’re juggling several boxes and the keys are on an unfamiliar ring, it can be difficult to get the key into the slot, right? But this wasn’t just difficult; it was proving impossible.

Muttering under my breath, I tried and tried, to no avail. I bent over, in the failing light, and got my face right down there and looked at the handle to make sure I wasn’t holding the key wrong. (I wasn’t.)

I even fished out a different key on the ring, thinking maybe I’d gotten the wrong one. Nothing doing. It just would not go into the slot.

By this time I was getting really frustrated. (I think I had a few choice words for the car, the key and life in general, but some memories are just as well consigned to posterity.)

In desperation, I went around to the passenger’s side to see if I might have any more luck there in fitting the key into the slot. Except there wasn’t a slot on the passenger’s door.

I was about to go around and try the back door when I happened to turn around and see that, behind me, in the next space over, was another silver minivan. It was, of course, the right one. I stepped back and looked at the two vehicles and, though both were more or less the same color, there were some barely discernible differences in their shapes.

But not much. I guess that’s the price of progress — humiliation in the parking lot and cold pizza to boot.

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