My best friend and his lovely new bride just purchased a minivan.
I know, I shouldn’t deliver such disheartening news without asking if you’re reading this sitting down. My apologies.
At best, they’ve purchased a swagger wagon. At worst, they now own a loser cruiser. I upheld my obligation as a friend and reacted in mock horror. I highlighted the bevy of large SUV options in front of them. I questioned whether a post-wedding haze had temporarily compromised their judgment. I even asked how their new blended family could hold its collective six heads aloft while zooming around in a box with the personality of a used napkin.
Then, I learned it came with a cooler.
It turns out that this loser cruiser is one hell of a cruiser. Safety features galore, comfortable seats, DVD player, and, to cap it off, a built-in cooler. The line between fully-stocked minivan and mobile home has officially been blurred. This thing may even qualify for one of those tiny home shows.
As I ruminated on their unfettered access to chilled refreshment and boredom-killing entertainment on long road trips, my mind wandered back thirty years, to a time my mother, grandmother, sister, and I crammed ourselves into a smallish sedan for the 16-hour odyssey down to Walt Disney World. I distinctly recall my sister and I wedged into a back seat between sacks of groceries for roadside lunches and maybe even a real cooler. For our entertainment, there was no DVD player, no iPods, no smart phones; rather, it was just a few books, ill will, and the faint hope that the evening motel would have a swimming pool. I’m sure the trip to Florida and back was uphill both ways, and we liked it!
To consider those trips down to Florida now is to ponder child endangerment. My sister and I were one quick jerk of the wheel from impalement on coloring books, Wonder bread, and bologna. My mom was basically driving blind, with no GPS for guidance, and no cell phone for emergencies. Our fates rested on the slender reed of a flip chart map from the local auto club with our route highlighted in yellow, courtesy of my uncle. No real-time directions, no traffic jam alerts, no estimated time of arrival. Had anyone in that car ever changed a tire? Would we depend on the kindness of truckers if need be? Better yet, had anyone in that car ever even been to Florida? We may as well have been navigating by the sun, an abacus, and some enchanted beans purchased from a one-eyed warlock.
Now, our cars are floating fortresses of technology and comfort: rearview cameras, lane sensors, heated seats, cooled seats, satellite radio, sunroofs, moon roofs, GPS navigation, zoned climate control, lumbar support, designer sound systems, advanced cruise control, nascent autopilot technology, and the list goes on. We’ve designed almost every headache out the driving experience, besides other drivers, and, eventually, once the robots take over, we won’t have to worry about that either. Then, we’ll have plenty of time to sip our chilled beverages from our built-in coolers.
Heck, we might even be bored again.