It Takes a Man to Drive the Van

Tom Bodett

Tom Bodett | Jul 16, 2016

A few summers ago I wrote this little piece on the pending purchase of a minivan. How's life been since? Well, I'm happy to report that life is good. Very good. Few material objects in this world can actually make you happier, but I've now identified three: Sharp tools. iPhones. 2011 Toyota Siennas. I can make myself delirious with pleasure by bluetoothing my iPhone to my van while driving to the hardware store for a new chisel. I may do it again. Today.

2011 Toyota Sienna. (Toyota)

To counter the unmanly implications of driving a minivan I put a ball hitch on it right off the bat. Ball hitch. That's what they call in the English language a masculine noun. It is. And now I can pull things around with my van. I could pull a small boat if I had a small boat, which I don't. I could pull a snow machine on a trailer if I were ever to get such a thing. I could pull a large camping trailer for a very short distance. Mostly, I pull an empty 1-7/8" chrome ball around demonstrating the potential to do any or all of the above. It would be a place to mount the Truck Nuts, I suppose, but I no longer have the, uh, will or desire for such statements. I do have a 4x6 utility trailer I could fill with garden soil for the wife's beds, mulch, stuff for the landfill -- if I didn't already have a truck for that -- but I have to admit, it doesn't look that great on the back of the van. Like putting a backpack on your grandma. Love the old lady. Awesome pack. Best to keep them apart.

The van is the singularly dopiest looking vehicle I've ever owned. And this from a man whose first car was a 1955 Pontiac Star Chief. But, like the Star Chief, once you slide behind the wheel you are in a rather massive world of your own, mounted to a liquid ride. It is a gas bubble of pleasure in a flat-water world. The van also reminds me of the exquisitely bulging Bonneville Grand Safari my parents owned throughout my high school career. It's the car I learned to drive in. I could fit all of my friends and three strangers in that car and often did. With a seating capacity of seven in the Sienna, I can almost accomplish the same thing today. Which says more about my social life than the van, I admit, but if the folks' Grand Safari had the second row captain's chairs and foldout footrests my van does, my crummy friends would still be in it.

1970 Bonneville Safari Wagon advertisement. (Pontiac)

In fact, I have become the designated driver for buddy trips to the minor league games two hours away in New Hampshire, and even a recent man-trek to Fenway in Boston. We might not like to be seen in it, but we sure do like to be in it. The ride. The seats. The easy egress that requires no bending of tetchy lower backs. You may long to be the greybeard in the vintage MG, but watch that guy get out and try to stand up straight at the next rest stop. I rest my case, and my lumbar region.

And I have not even begun to talk about what a capable Family War Wagon it is. And I won't because there are a couple things we veteran parents know for sure: Nobody wants to see pictures of your kids, and nobody wants to talk about your minivan. But I talk about it anyway. I'd like to think it is out of an overall sense of security and well-being, and not a nervous overcompensation like the guy who won't stop talking about his skin condition.

The reason I'm telling you this now is because my lease on the van is up this summer and I'm going for another one. I'm planning to upgrade to the Limited and when I do I'm going to tell you about it right here. And then I'm going to show you pictures of my kids.

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