Honey, I’m Selling the Bronze Bullet

I drive a full size van. No, I won’t help you move.

It’s long as an Amtrak and colored metallic bronze with dark-tinted windows. We call it the Bronze Bullet. When folks see me opening its door, their faces often betray a quizzical look, now well-known to me, whereby they assume I’ve got a huge family and want to ask if I’m Mormon, or Catholic, or if my parents never told me that kids don’t actually come from a stork. The reason I’ve got this rolling mass of American-made sexiness will have to wait for another time. But for now, it’s just how I roll.

When the kids were smaller I had them convinced the Bronze Bullet was like James Bond’s Aston Martin. It had machine guns and radar and could turbo boost over things like Night Rider. We would have yuppie friends visit with cars made in countries I can’t pronounce, costing more than my entire house, filled with real techno gadgets like a GPS system that didn’t consist of me yelling at my wife while she frantically flipped through a case of maps. Our kids would share the secrets of the Bullet with their kids and, without fail, everyone wanted to ride with us. Inevitably our friends would be packing up their silver SUVs and their kids would plead with them to please sell their pile of scrap and buy a huge van. It never went over well. I’d smile every time.

I often lend the Bullet to these yuppie friends now when they need a vehicle that can fit more than a banana in the back seat.

“You need to borrow my van for what?”

“I’ve got to go to Lowes and get a box of nails.”

“You can’t fit a box of nails in the back of your car?”

An annoyed huff. “It’s not made to haul stuff, just people. Plus, it might scratch the leather.”

“And you paid how much for something that can’t manage a trip to the hardware store?”

“Whatever. Never mind.”

The rule is they have to bring it back in the same or better condition, and they need to leave me something to drive. It seems my kids never know what we’ll be in one day to the next. My most recent hooptie was a new BMW 3somethingoranother. I have to confess, I almost sold the van.

The first thing I noticed is that the BMW actually drove where you pointed it. I’ve always suspected that the steering wheel of the van is attached by rubber bands. You turn the wheel and it might turn. But you never know how much. Or how fast. Or, my personal favorite, it turns by itself when the wind blows. Which is why all Indy 500 winners for the past millennia still practice on full size vans. All us full-size-van dads have known this fact for years. It’s like running with weights on your ankles. A good van hones your reflexes.

The BMW also reacts completely different than the van when you press the accelerator. Mainly, it goes. And not just a little. I runs like an Irishman from an AA meeting. Like a politician from a direct question. It moves at velocity, like it actually wants to get somewhere. I later realized I was just pressing the accelerator too hard. I was used to stomping the van’s gas pedal, which must be done till your calf cramps, just to get it through the light before it turns red again. The brakes are even worse – that can be a two-footed operation. Which is why the first time I stopped the BMW we jerked so hard the airbags blew.

But for all the BMW’s handling and good looks, I still think the Bronze Bullet’s got the upper hand. I mean, the BMW is impractical in so many ways. It doesn’t even have a key. Instead, you plug the keyless entry into the dash and press a Start button. Who thought of that? Have they ever lost a key? I can take $5 and a spare key to any hardware store and in five minutes’ walk out ready to roll.  Lose one of the BMW keyless things and you’ve gotta go to the dealer (and they ain’t as prolific as Starbucks), lay down five Ben Franklins, and in five days they’ll ship you a new one, if they deem you worthy of patronage.

Plus, my wife thinks the van is sexy. “Most of those guys are trying to make up for things in other areas,” she said with a raised eyebrow. “You’ve got nothing to worry about.”

So, to my kids’ delight, the Bronze Bullet is safe for now. We’ll keep joyfully cruising along, wresting with the wheel to stay between the lines on the road, peering down on passing BMWs while their drivers fiddle with techno gadgets and get speeding tickets. We all know they’re secretly jealous. And yes, I meant it, I will not help you move.

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