A twenty-something friend of ours just got a small, sleek convertible, leading my eldest children, 14 and 10, to ask me why, in comparison, I drive such a dorky car.
I explained that my Dodge Durango is not at all dorky, and in fact impresses women, at least women such as their mother who share my automotive priorities.
Frankly, I'd rather not dwell on what those priorities now are, since it strikes me that one's preference in cars reflects one's life, and by that standard, my hip phase is so far behind me I can't even see it in the rear-view mirror. Proof: I just used the word "hip."
My first car was a reflection of the main factor in my life when I bought it, which was a lack of money. It cost me $600. I got it just before my senior year in college, and in one sense, it was an embarrassing choice. It was a version of My Father's Oldsmobile. It was a used Mercury Marquis.
But it had wheels, and ran, which are a college student's two main priorities in a car. Because of the 1973 oil crisis, gas guzzlers were being all but given away, which sealed the deal. I felt better about it after paying an Earl Scheib outlet $19.95 to paint it blue actually, I spent an extra $10 for the gold fleck option.
By the time I was working, and age 24 or so, my priorities changed from cheap to, well, hip. My kids today would have loved my taste in cars back then.
I got this cool Audi. I'm not sure how I afforded it, since I was making about $11,000 a year, but I seemed to have disposable income, perhaps because I disposed of 60 percent of it on car payments, while eating off plastic plates in a seedy apartment whose rent I shared with two roommates.
But my car was sure cool. It impressed women. The problem was that I didn't dare let them see where I lived.
By my late 20s, I entered a more pragmatic phase, deciding I'd rather spend money on a house down payment than a cool car. So I bought a VW Rabbit. It was all I needed. I was single. I traveled light. That soon changed.
My next car was a Jeep Cherokee. My new wife and I liked the four-wheel drive, because we were so unencumbered we could do things like go skiing on weekends.
Then came the biggest change in my car priorities, one that continues to this day.
The very children who now scold me for not having a cool car began to arrive. I don't think I've used the words "cool" and "car" in the same sentence since.
I stuck with Jeep Cherokees for reasons that had nothing to do with going skiing, which we no longer could do. We wanted a car that could double as a diaper-changing station.
Then something happened that made me move beyond Jeeps. We ended up with three children, who began to grow and want to bring a friend or two with them. So much for a car that only seated five.
I got an Expedition, which is slightly larger than the city of Akron. I got it because it had something that had now become my main automotive priority. A third seat.
More recently, when my wife got a big Suburban, we decided I should scale down and get a nice, sporty little car.
So I did.
I got a Durango. Trust me, compared to the Expedition, it's sporty. Compared to anything else, well, look, I still need a third seat, and the Durango has one.
Before I settled on it, I did let my eye wander. I looked at cool cars, hip cars, fun cars. Briefly, I flirted with how nice it would be to have one.
But one all-important automotive thought kept cropping up in my mind.
"Where will I put the kids' hockey bags?"
That, in short, is what my life, and my cars, have come to.
The days of that sporty little Audi, which I bought to impress women, are long over. It's now all about where I put the hockey bags. And extra friends. And fighting siblings that need to be separated.
Still, every time my children see a small, sleek convertible, they start pressuring me.
Come on, Dad why can't you get a cool car, too?
Look in the mirror, kid. That's why.