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If you are what you drive, I’m … uh, old

The cell phone rang in my front pocket as my family and I walked across the clean but car-littered floor.
I thought about not answering it. I hate talking on the telephone in front of people who suddenly look like they want to hurt me.
What’s so important, I wonder when I see some else talking on their cell phone in public, that you have to tell Joshy Pooh-Pooh you love him when you’re in line at the grocery store buying laxatives? The cell phone has helped drag courtesy, privacy and not kicking someone’s butt to a standstill.
But my pocket was ringing. What are you supposed to do when your pocket’s ringing? I pulled out the phone and saw the call was from a buddy, so I answered.
One of the greatest features of a cellular telephone, apart from the fact that you can talk to someone on the opposite side of the planet as easily as setting an egg timer, is caller ID. I’m sure there are lots of people who ignore calls when the word “Offutt” appears on their phone. Fine. I didn’t want to talk with them anyway.
Stupid jerks.
“Hey,” I said, in the traditionally accepted Guy Hello, followed by the also accepted Guy Two-Word Sentences. “Can’t talk. Car dealership. Call later.”
“What are you buying?” he asked.
“A minivan.”
Silence.
“You’re old, dude,” he finally said.
Old. Yeah, I was buying a mini-van – the symbol of a middle-class America kid transporting, Little League game traveling, too many groceries for a swinging bachelor, mow over the dog poop on the lawn kind of lifestyle.
Wow. That was now me.
“Uh, you’re right,” I said. “But I’m still cool, right?”
Then the conversation ended.
There are things all of us say we’ll never do. Sometimes it’s drinking vodka up your nose, sometimes it’s Bungee jumping, and sometimes it’s voting for Democrats. Not surprisingly, these things often happen on the same day, in the same order, and with you screaming, “I can’t %$#^ believe I’m doing this,” before you throw up in a ditch.
For me, the thing I said I would never do is own a minivan. Well, I also said I’d never invade a sovereign nation, but the minivan thing was up there, too. Owning a minivan means you’ve given up. You’ve become branded as someone with a soccer ball sticker in the back window. You’re just one of the masses, and yes, you’re old.
That night, when I drove my family home from the dealership in our new minivan, my wife and I joined the ranks of the middle-aged.
I could see our future as we passed under interstate signs. My kids fighting in the third row of seats, happy in the knowledge that I can’t reach them. A mini-van packed with soda-spilling third graders on their way to a campout. And me getting ticked off when some jerk in the same mini-van I’m driving parks next to me at the grocery store because my mini-van is a (insert name of mini-van here) and his mini-van is a GRAND (insert name of mini-van here). Grand? Pfft. What are you trying to prove? Butthead.
Good lord. What am I going to do next? I wondered as this mini-van future ran through my head. Donate to Greenpeace instead of buying beer?
Then my wife, who would donate to Greenpeace instead of buying beer, put the America I know into perspective.
“I saw this minivan driving down our street the other day,” she said over the children who were completely failing to fall asleep in their car seats. “It was driven by a teenager playing loud, thumping rap music.”
An image rushed into my head. And, yes, the teen’s ball cap was on backwards.
“I wanted to yell, ‘Yeah, you’re pretty cool in your mom’s car.’”
That’s all I needed. In this world where, to us, we are what we think we are, and to society, we are what we appear to be, there is one constant – teenagers are dorks.
Yes, I’m just one of the masses and yes, I’m working on accepting the fact that I’m old enough to drive a minivan.
But the most comforting part of my wife’s story is, at least I’m not that guy.
Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to the Show-Me State’s Most Spirited Spots,” is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com or tsup.truman.edu. Visit Jason’s Web site, www.jasonoffutt.com.

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