Thursday, October 6, 2011

Don't Dis the SwaggerWagon

We are a two vehicle family. We have Alice, our minivan and then there's Emmet, our jeep. Emmet is fun, rugged and sporty, in a rusty-12 year old sort of way. Emmet barrels down dirt roads, races through fields, cuts through snow drifts and can tow his weight in freight and he has a wicked stereo system. Emmet is a party on wheels.

Alice is practical. She has seating for seven, 13 cup holders, tons of storage and a DVD player. She has an excellent safety rating, gets great mileage and she's comfortable to drive. She has hauled us  to family gatherings, to the lake and half way across the country. We depend on her to get us to the grocery store, to school and to doctor's appointments. She is sensible, no nonsense, all business.

Living in a small town has allowed me to conduct a very unscientific experiment over the past month or so. I drive the same route between schools every day, several times a day. I also tend to go to the same stores in our area around the same time each week, so I have made a point of alternating between Alice and Emmet when I've been running errands. I wanted to see if people drove or behaved differently around minivans verse something more sporty and less 'mommy.'

The bottom line? They do, drivers respond differently based on the vehicle and their preconceived notions about the type of person who drives that type of vehicle. To keep my 'research' as balanced as possible, I have driven above the speed limit and below the speed limit in each vehicle. I have driven very cautiously and less cautiously and I have been courteous and ignorant in each vehicle.  I even took note of a few of the vehicles I see frequently and watched how they responded to me in each vehicle.

When I was driving Emmet, I just did my thing, ran my errands and most people stayed out of my way. No one cut me off, stole my parking spot or gave me the stink eye for passing them. No one tried to 'race me off the line' when the light turned green or gave me the finger for coming to a full stop at a stop sign. All of these things and more happen when I drive Alice.

It seems people take one look at a minivan, think 'Soccer Mom' and drive uber aggressively to get in front of the Mom-mobile. I can't count the number of times people have tried to cut me off, beat me off the line and box me out of changing lanes when I'm driving Alice but they don't know Alice's secret, at least not until its too late. Alice is fast, like really, really fast.

There is little in life that is sweeter than pulling up to a red light, beside some idiot in a sport scar who has just driven like a moron to cut you off. He sits there in his sporty red coupe, sizing you up, scoffing at your minivan, pitying you for your sad, sad life. You are a mom. Your van in full of kids, groceries and dog hair. There are smudgey hand prints on your doors, an unknown substance smeared across your passenger window and Veggie Tales blaring from your mediocre sound system.

How sad to be you, he thinks as he slicks his hair back and adjusts his mirrored aviator glasses while one hand rests at the top of the steer wheel. He's cool and he knows it. The opposite light turns yellow and he revs his engine in anticipation. The second before your light turns green, you look over at him, smile and wave and that's the last you see of him as he becomes a spec in your rear view mirror.

You are driving Alice and she can beat nearly every muscle car off the line, every time because she has the heart of a race car in the body of a minivan. She is fast, really, really fast.

I know I've posted this before but seriously, I think its my theme song ... Don't dis the swagger wagon.

Stereotypes are devices for saving a biased person the trouble of learning

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