I was driving my sons home from the beach and cranking Lady GaGa. The top was down (on the Jeep), I had my Wayfarers on in tribute to Don Henley, and my hair was blowing in the wind. I was feeling the joy of summer, of youth and of being alive. There was only one kink.
My sons think I'm a dork.
"Mom, stop playing that music so loud. And stop bopping your head like that. And is there a way we can put the top up?" they said, as they scrunched down in their seats. We were in town now, and chances were good that we would see someone we knew.
"Why do you want the top up?" I said. I was puzzled. We had taken hundreds of rides in my Jeep together, they had never protested before.
"Mom, I'm not trying to be mean, but I don't think you're cool enough for this Jeep," John said, placing his hand reassuringly on my arm.
"Huh? Since when?" I was distraught.
"Since always. Could you go down the alleys so we don't see anyone we know?" He pulled his beach towel over his head.
Humph. I had had my suspicions, but now they were realized.
My Jeep was cooler than me.
I fell in love with my green Jeep when I saw it at the used car dealership. I had just come off a bad relationship with a Miata, and was ready for something more committed, more stable.
The Jeep had everything I wanted. It was trustworthy and safe. Built in satellite radio. Seats and a steering wheel.
I wanted it. I had to have it. I had always wanted one, and this one was green, and for sale! I called my husband, and he said he would come look at, but I was not to make a move until he saw it.
"Do not make a move until I see it!" he said. "And most importantly, do not let him talk you into taking it for the weekend. That's like taking a puppy for the weekend. No one in their right mind would give it back."
Good point. I promised.
By the time my husband arrived at the lot, the dealer had my financial information and was running a credit check. I had the keys in my hand, had the radio tuned to Cat Country, and had cleaned out my Miata.
(I don't like long good-byes. Driving that Miata was like driving a Lego car. But the small size had its advantages. When I pulled into the parking lot at work, I just folded it up, and hung it from my key chain.)
My husband was none too pleased, but eventually "looked at it this way."
"I look at it this way," he said sternly, as if buying the Jeep were his idea. "We can use it for everything, we'll have it forever, and when the boys get their licenses, it can go to them. It's a solid investment."
"Hon, you're so smart. I think you're right, let's get it!" I said. My reverse psychology was a success! I promised him that he could put fishing racks on it, and I was a proud Jeep owner.
Vehicles, like dogs, reflect our personalities. Every car I have owned up to now has been a direct reflection of who I was at the time of purchase.
There was the Tracker. I was broke, and it was a cheap version of a Jeep. It was stick shift, so my husband (then boyfriend) had to drive it home from the dealership for me.
Then the 1994 Mazda RX 7. My husband and I saw it on blocks at a dealership, and decided that for once, we would buy the hot car. It looked like a sleek silver bullet, and seated only two. I blasted Alanis Morrisette and dared people to drag race, like I was Greaser at Thunder Road.
Enter Jeep Cherokee. I was expecting twins, and couldn't fit them behind the Mazda steering wheel.
When baby Tommy was on the way, I succumbed to a Mommy Mobile. A Tahoe, huge, with DVD player and bun warmer seats. We still have it. It's like a really comfortable leather tank.
The Miata. What possessed me? In foul weather months, it slid all over the road. It scared me. Once when it broke down, AAA came and couldn't find the battery. It was in the trunk. Who knew?
So now I have this Jeep. I remember the first week driving it to work, other people in Jeeps kept waving to me. I eventually figured out that it's a "Jeep Thing." You ever so slightly raise your hand or even a finger from the steering wheel. Like a tiny acknowledgement that you're in a "cool club."
Worried, I consulted my students who owned Jeeps. Am I cool enough for this car? I had to know. Don't sugarcoat it, I said.
Yes, they said. You totally are.
My sons don't lie to me. And my students were probably sucking up.
But I don't care. I'm going to continue to drive it with the top down and the music blasting.
Just don't wave at me. Unless you're in a Jeep.