My daughter covets a Mini Cooper. I'm not entirely sure why, although I suspect it has something to do with trying to whip around town in a Toyota Corolla, a car almost entirely resistant to whipping. And really, with a three-year-old in tow, the Mini is probably not the most practical vehicle she could be driving, and besides, she just bought a house and can't possibly afford the additional expense just now. It doesn't matter. She wants this little British-ish darb in her garage, and she wants me to stare at it in disbelief and say "No way in hell am I gonna drive this thing."

Like I'd turn down a chance at that. Only logistics could stop me. (They've stopped me, for instance, from getting any seat time in a Mazda MX-5 Miata; even assuming I could wedge myself between seatback and wheel, there's the matter of having sight lines dead even with the top of the windshield or, if the weather is February-godawful, of having to slump thirty or forty degrees to keep my head out of contact with the top.) And besides, the brain trust behind Mini, instructed by parent BMW to make an impression without maxing out their line of credit, has done some of the best automotive advertising in years, the sort that engenders instant fondness for the wee beastie before you've so much as ducked your way into the front seat.

The Mini driver, says the ad campaign, is devoted to having fun, but not at the expense of others (barring the occasional race). The car is small, but not downsized. Despite its kiddie-car proportions, it's a serious car. However, to mitigate the seriousness, the ad guys mounted a Mini on a simulated kiddie-ride platform in California and installed a coin-box labeled: Insert $16,850 (quarters only).

The neatest bit of plugola, though, is the Manual of Motoring, which appears in some March automotive mags. Included is information about parking without annoying people, unconventional headlight usage, hand signals other than the canonical middle-finger salute, going around curves at the most efficient pace, and changing your shorts behind the open door. (This latter is not recommended for persons over six feet tall, which includes, um, me.) In the door cubby, says the Manual, you can stash:

  • 1 cell phone, PDA, or Travel Etch-a-Sketch, depending on priorities.
  • 3 pair sunglasses (optimists)
  • 1 collapsible umbrella (pessimists)

As it happens, I have a door cubby in my Mazda 626. It contains wait for it one collapsible umbrella. Then again, I am a pessimist. And at the moment, I fear my daughter will actually read this, and this particular vehicular lust of hers will be further inflamed.

Maybe if I mention that not too many years from now, she'll have a teenaged boy around the, that's just too cruel.

The Vent

1 February 2003

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 Copyright © 2003 by Charles G. Hill