My Car is in a Cult

I was at an intersection the other day, kind of zoning out until the light turned green. As I accelerated, I noticed the people in the car across from me waving and smiling.

They were waving at my car, which was the same kind as theirs. Folks, this is a thing.

A couple of years ago, when I floated the idea to some friends of trading in my fourteen-year-old Prius for a Mini Cooper, they said “oh, that’s so you!” They probably meant cute, but maybe also squat, pill-shaped, and surprisingly aggressive.

I’m fine with either notion.

So, I traded in the fuel-efficient car that had crayon marks on the seats and dents from two student drivers for something turbo charged with racing stripes and a brown leather interior. The back doors open to either side. It’s too small to carpool or help anyone move or to hold a car seat and I freaking love it.

People comment on how cute my car is all the time (and I’m like, thanks! it’s also surprisingly aggressive), but it still took a few months to realize the special kind of fanaticism associated with the brand. It wasn’t until some guy sidled up to me in a parking lot and said, “hey I like your Mini,” and handed me a business card with a Facebook group listed on it, that I found out my car has a club, with rules.

I’ve never had a car with rules. Or rules that I knew about.

There do seem to be rules for angsty big truck dudes who get feisty about Priuses. If you don’t believe me, I dare you to drive a Prius for a spell and tell me then how I’m making that up. Ten bucks says it’s twenty minutes before you’re coal rolled by some fragile guy in a ridiculously jacked up truck. Turns out there’s a stupidly large group of weirdos out there who have hurt feelings about Priuses.

So, yeah, there is a list of rules when it comes to Minis, including one about waving at people in other Minis.

Do other cars have rules? My dad had a series of Triumphs while I was growing up. That’s a car with its own cult if there ever was one. I never thought about its having rules, but if there are, they probably have to do with gaslighting your spouse into believing a two-seater convertible with a bench in the back is somehow a family car.

My little sister at 6 years old, holding a ball to demonstrate the size we had to make ourselves any time we rode with Dad

My dad made the “family car” idea work for not one, not two, but a series of three TRs. Mom probably gave him a pass because safety was less of a thing back then. You can still find the kind of child car seats we had when I was a kid repurposed to hang from chains on that spinning ride at the county fair.

I don’t remember my family using car seats specifically, but I do remember dad screwing home-made seatbelts to the bench of his TR. I’m sure they would have worked just fine.

In his defense, most kids in cars those days were lucky to have seats at all. As often as not, kids were just shoved in the way back of a station wagon with all the groceries and dogs or thrown in the bed of the pickup like a sack of potatoes. I remember an entire summer of rolling around the back of an International Scout where the seats had been removed for some reason. Which, I have to say, with all my cousins and their Hot Wheels cars and Barbies flying around, was fun in a Thunder-Dome-on-Wheels kind of way.

These days they make cars with seats and seatbelts for all the people in the car. I think it’s a law or something.

And some cars come with extra rules. Here are the ones for mine according to its Facebook friends:

  1. Park next to other Minis
  2. Wave at other Minis (I’m guessing this means drivers of other minis)
  3. Take your Mini to meet other Minis (I’ve decided my mini is an introvert, so …)
  4. Find friends to help mod your Mini (you mean, like, more than shoving old receipts in the door pocket?)
  5. No two Minis should be alike (mine’s the one with receipts in the door pocket)
  6. Allow other Mini drivers to merge whenever possible (I do this with anyone. I’m no asshole)
  7. Catch up with and tail other Minis and follow as long as you can (that’s creepy. Also, rather asshole-ish. See #6)
  8. Take your Mini out for a spin at any opportunity (even when it’s totally unnecessary)
  9. Accelerate when approaching corners (it does handle quite nicely on mountain roads)
  10. Do at least one complete circle of a roundabout before exiting (I do this, but mostly because I miss my exit, so …)
  11. Admire your Mini in shop window reflections (first, finish parking, or else you’ll scuff your rims)
  12. Wash your Mini at least weekly. Even if it’s raining (which won’t help with the scuffed rims, ask me how I know …)

I rounded this list out with some rules of my own:

  1. No eating in my car.
  2. The only other person allowed to drive my car is Mike, and then only because he fills up the tank when I’m too cold/tired/cranky to do it myself.
  3. No one gets to comment on the scuffed rims. Really. I feel bad enough as it is.

I’m told that my son’s friends think it’s weird his mom would have a car with so much horsepower, to which I say I think it’s weird a bunch of 20 somethings feel the need to weigh in on anything I do. They’re probably either working through some Prius angst or else jealous I can park in a space the size of a hat pin.

And possibly also that I don’t have to wave at them.

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