July 15, 2024
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July 15, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

It’s hard to believe that it has been three years since Hurricane Sandy. Normally I would not remember the exact anniversary, but it is also the anniversary of my minivan lease. How do I remember this when I cannot remember two hours ago? Well, the minivan in question had a battery issue. Our actual lease was up two weeks later but we decided to start the new lease because we weren’t sure what to do about the battery in the other van. So there we were with two vans and an impending hurricane that had the ability to blow down a tree and take out both vehicles with one fell swoop. Fortunately, that did not happen. We will save the topic of “How I became even crazier after Hurricane Sandy” for another column, this one is about vans and leasing and amenities, oh my.

Though I had grown up in a household where cars were purchased, the idea of getting a new car every three years became quite appealing with the discovery that vans get really dirty when you have kids. The thought of a new, clean van every three years is just lovely. Of course, now I have two huge bags filled with treasures from the old van, but it is almost Pesach so those will be cleaned out imminently. It still breaks my heart that I am driving a minivan and not some “cool” mid-life crisis car, but at least my latest lease has three free months of satellite radio so I can listen to the ‘80s station all day long. And that really makes me happy because it turns me into a 16-year-old again…good times.

When we speak to our amazing leasing guy for a new van, it usually starts and ends with “what’s cheapest.” Apparently, the cheapest van is not always the van with the least amount of “toys” in it. I still want a van where you have to open the doors yourself and those have gone the way of the cassette tape. I cannot believe the features this van has—you could practically live in it! This, then, got me thinking about the evolution of the minivan. With each new model we get more spoiled with the features, so let’s take a 55-mile-an-hour ride back in time to when life was really hard and you had to check your own blind spots by turning your head instead of looking at a camera.

The horse and buggy. This was the first minivan. Families would load up the buggy, putting hay down for comfort, the hay was the extra feature, without hay it only cost you two chickens and a rooster; with hay, you had to add a cow. The buggies themselves also came with extra step-up features. You could climb up the buggy by yourself, but without the step, you had to bring a bucket to turn upside down and climb to get into the buggy. Tough times. No turn signals yet, because there was no electricity, so you had to use your hand signals. And there was no horn. I cannot even imagine driving without a horn. How do you tell the buggy in front of you that he is driving way too slowly? Oh wait, it is a buggy, there are no windows, you could probably just yell at the guy.

The problem with the whole horse and buggy was that the manufacturers could not think of a way to get the horses from pooping all over the place. There was no feature that eliminated that, pun intended. They tried putting a large bucket to catch the waste, but it didn’t work. So the buggy business went bankrupt and cars were invented.

There were many other amenities that led up to today’s fancy traveling home, and the “extras” fit with the times. Remember the CB radio? Those were awesome, followed only by the 8-track tape. You could only fit about three tapes in the glove compartment, which should have been a sign that they were not long for this world. And cigarette lighters; you knew you were traveling in style when you could light your cigarette while driving your car. Classy.

Cup holders were also a welcome addition to the van. They hold baby bottles, sippy cups, small juice boxes and individual bottles of vodka for the frazzled mom who just wants to take a nap while dad is driving around so the baby will fall asleep. We also now have DVD players so kids can fight over which DVDs to watch, and if you are really cheap, pop one in for a family Saturday-night activity.

Opening doors by hand? Who needs to do that when they can open automatically? The only problem is, if you try to throw something in the car while the door is closing, it stops and then you have to close it and open it again. Safety features can be so aggravating. And when your hands are loaded with grocery bags, if you can find the button on your key fob you can allow the trunk to open by itself as well. But wait, that’s not all! When you turn your right turn signal, a camera with all of your blind spots comes up…great for safety purposes, not so great if you have vertigo, as the picture on the screen is a little much for those of us who have an issue with over-stimulation. Back-up camera so you don’t hit your neighbor’s annoying kid (or the annoying car that is blocking your driveway)? There’s a van for that too.

But with all of these extras, and there are many, and all of the progress minivans have made over the years, I am still waiting for the best extra of all—someone to drive me around, discipline my kids and unload the groceries from the car. Until then, simple is sometimes better. And there is nothing like that new car smell, which will soon be erased by the lovely fumes of well-used hockey equipment and teenage boys. Tell me, does it get any better than that?

Banji Ganchrow is so excited to have a senior on varsity hockey and a freshman on junior varsity hockey. One can never go to too many Jew-Hockey games. Let’s Go Storm!

By Banji Latkin Ganchrow

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