Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Marci and The Hawg grow up

My wife, Marci, and I have entered a new phase of parenthood -- we ran out and bought a minivan.

It's a 2009 Toyota Sienna that we brought home tonight. Yes, the van had but 255 miles on it when Marci Kay drove it off the lot and she couldn't be happier.

You can kind of see it in the photo I took. It was dark, raining and foggy, but I suppose that can't be helped. We didn't make it to the car lot until after work and we didn't drive it home until about two hours later. You get the idea from the photo, though -- it's a minivan and, well, there's not a whole lot more to add than that, is there?

I do have a few observations about this vehicle. First of all, I'm stunned that I, The Hawg, now own a minivan. I swore I'd never own one because I've always considered them only slightly less awful than SUVs and I figured I'd always stick with cars.

However, we've got three rows of seats and can separate the kids on car trips. That's a great feature as I'm tired of the kids just warting the hell out of each other if they sit together for more than five minutes.

And this vehicle is ridiculously big. I drive a Toyota Matrix and the Sienna looks as if it could have given birth to my little vehicle. I might as well start calling my car "Junior," in fact. Still, I love my smaller vehicle as I can zip through traffic and my gas mileage is fantastic.

Second, I'm wondering if the "buy American" slogan means anything these days when it comes to vehicles. Apparently, I'm supposed to do my duty by purchasing something from Chrysler, Ford or GM so as to support the U.S. economy and American labor.

However, the Sienna was manufactured in Princeton, Indiana and 90 percent of the parts were made in Canada or the U.S. while only 10 percent came from Japan. It seems as if I did my part in supporting U.S. labor and manufacturing facilities by purchasing this vehicle. I'm not stuck with a piece of junk that will die on me in a couple of years, either.

Finally, buying a car is still a horrible, horrible process. Back when I was in law school, I had a friend who is the son of a wealthy insurance defense attorney. I went with my friend to buy a Ford truck and it was an odd experience as he picked out the truck, signed a couple of things and we left in it after his father told the salesman, "I'll send you a check on Monday."

The whole experience took but a few minutes.

I'm not that lucky. No, my wife and I had to fill out credit applications, provide references, produce a driver's licenses and proof of insurance, show proof of income, etc. Also, Marci and I had to wait, wait, wait while our financial histories were being examined and deals were put together.

In the end, however, Marci wound up with a vehicle she's wanted for a long time and was able to get rid of that Saturn that's served us well for 10 years but is now on its last legs. Heck, this is a responsible vehicle that is great for our family.

Don't think I've grown up too much just because my wife and I own a minivan, however. I've been trying to convince Marci to get one of those "If the van's rockin' don't come knockin'" license plates or bumper stickers to slap on the Sienna. She's resisted such nonsense so far. I'm not surprised.

By the way, if you're ever looking to buy a Toyota in central Arkansas, be sure to head over to Landers Toyota in Little Rock. That's a great bunch of folks over there.


Sara Bonds said...

Found you through EntreCard. Thought I'd stop by and say hello. I am also in Northwest Arkansas. So, hello from your Arkansan neighbor!

GPARTHA said...


Da Old Man said...

Good luck with the new vehicle. I used to own a minivan, and loved it. If I had the sense to buy a Toyota, instead of a Plymouth, I'd probably still be driving it.

Lynne said...

Congratulations on the new vehicle! I consider buying American to be anything that is Made in the U.S.A. :-D

Paula Williams said...

Welcome to the ranks of un-sporty car owners. I think we all go through that stage at some point. But the kids will grow up and then you can get a Harley or Camaro!

Warm regards from snowy Utah,


PaulsHealthblog.com said...

We have owned a Toyota mini-van for several years now and love it.

One summer, we drove to North Carolina to see my parents. While there, my niece got in the mini-van as we were headed to the beach. Once inside, it was hilarious to watch her look up and around, like she was inside a dome or something!

Karen said...

Congrats on the new vehicle! I wondered your thoughts on this: my son was offered a full scholarship to go to law school. It is not at the school he wants to attend. He got accepted at the school he wants to attend and feels it is a better school for the type of law he wants to practice. Does the school matter?

The Natural State Hawg said...

Sara -- Well hey, neighbor! Glad you stopped in and said "hello." I hope y'all are getting thawed out up in northwest Arkansas.

GPARTHA -- Thanks!

Da Old Man -- We looked at at Dodge Grand Caravan, but decided to go with the Toyota. I love my little Toyota Matrix and the reliability of that thing helped make up Marci's mind.

Lynne -- I'm starting to share your opinion on that.

Paula -- As soon as the kids are gone, I'm getting a Miata. I've always wanted one and I'll get it eventually.

Paul -- You know, my daughter has done about the same thing. She delights in the fact she can stand up and run around in the van.

I shouldn't encourage that.

One of the main reasons we bought that vehicle was because of the convenience of having it for trips. It sounds like y'all have found it well suited to hauling kids around.

Karen -- Ah, there's something I know a little about (I think). Here's the thing about law school -- the reputation of the school counts a bit. For example, I went to the University of Arkansas (UA) which carries a bit more prestige in these parts than the other state law school at University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR). Some people have been able to parlay that "UA" label into a great job. However, UALR is the better school in an academic sense.

What is more important than the reputation of the school, however, has to do with personal contacts. For example, probably one of the reasons I only practiced for four years is because I didn't practice in central Arkansas, which is where I grew up and my family has a little bit (not too much, I assure you!) influence. Instead, I was in northwest Arkansas where I was an absolute nobody.

What did that mean? I didn't get a job at a firm, so I had to get a law partner and set up my own office. Those expensive, make-you-rich cases went to lawyers who were established in the area, leaving me scrambling for business. I had no history with the judges up there and, yes, that does count for something. Finally, I didn't have the luxury of specializing in anything because I had to take whatever cases wandered through the door (after all, my creditors and my secretary all wanted to get paid).

If I have any advice, then, it would be this. Which school is the more prestigious in terms of the "real world" stuff, assuming that academic reputation is completely separate from that prestige? Also, who does your kid know who can help him pursue the area of law he wants to practice?

Sheila Sultani said...

I cried for a week when my husband brought home our first mini-van. Luckily, it died in August and I was able to get a real vehicle. If I HAD to have one it wuould be the honda - they are really nice with the automatic doors and everything else they come with. I also love the color you guys picked out. Have fun and enjoy the room - you'll probably never be ablr to go back to a little car again.

The Natural State Hawg said...

Sheila -- Ah, that's where you and my wife are different. I kind of liked the Toyota Highlander, but she insisted on a minivan. She loves the thing.

That's a good thing because she's stuck with it for awhile.

Now, I fully intend to stick with passenger cars (like my Matrix) and get something even smaller one day. As soon as the kids are out of the house, I'm getting a Miata.

Oh, yeah.

fwaggle said...

I completely agree - screw buying "American". You want to buy american? Buy a Subaru - many of them are made here in Indiana. Buy a Toyota - 'yota have something like 13 plants in the USA (as you pointed out).

I love my old Chevy, but it was made towards the end of the time (honestly, probably even outside of that time, and I'm just kidding myself because it's old) when an American vehicle was actually made differently. Not that 70s and 80s Toyotas lacked anything in quality, there's some 80s Corollas still "'roll"ing around.

But nowadays I haven't seen a single "American" vehicle that possesses any of the qualities that one would typically attribute to something "made in America" - indeed if you discount the small number of models with large displacement there's virtually nothing distinguishing a new Chevy from "jap shit" (pardon my french). I'd be willing to bet that a good majority of stockholders from GM, Ford and Chrysler are all overseas anyway so at the end of the day what's the bloody difference? The badge on the front is American? That's like choosing to eat at Mcdonald's over a steak grown in Australia.

Having said that, there are many economic "SUVs" that I'd buy in a heartbeat before a minivan - I can't stand the body shape of a minivan, and that has nothing to do with the stigma attached. :)

In the end, whatever floats your boat, as long as you're happy with your purchase. Oh and don't bother dropping back, I've practically quit entrecard, spend the 1/300 on someone who'll drop back regularly. Just stopped by and thought you could use a tiny boost in popularity. :D

CrAzY Working Mom said...

I like the new ride! I want a mini-van as well. I've got a 4 door Dodge Ram. It was perfect with one child, a little cramped with the second, but just plain stupid with three kids!

Oh, I saw ya on The morning show today (THV). :) Nice job.

The Natural State Hawg said...

Fwaggle -- I agree completely. The minivan is my wife's ride and she loves it. Good enough for me.

I prefer my little Matrix, however -- that's just a mini SUV, after all, and the gas mileage is great. It zips through traffic pretty well, too.

Of course I'll return that drop! I'm a regular visitor over to your site, anyway.

CrAzY -- What were you doing up that early? Did I look tired? I felt tired!

My wife loves her minivan. She's hooked. You might need to apply some pressure to get one for yourself. I can't imagine hauling three kids around in an extended cab truck. My two barely fit comfortably in my Matrix.

And Toyota is the way to go. We've become fans of that company over the past few years.

Jen said...

Minivans serve a purpose during the years when the kids beat the heck out of each other but there will come a day when it's time to get rid of it for a zippy little thing that the kids don't fit in. I haven't gotten to that day yet but I dream about it often.

As for waiting in the dealership, I sold cars for about three months once. The waiting is a ruse to make the customer worry and want the car more. I sucked at selling cars.

Karen said...

Great advice. What you said is exactly what we were thinking. The school where he would pay tuition is the more prestigious school.

He has some very important lawyers and other people in high positions rooting for him (he is a great networker) so I think that will be a big help when it comes time to practice law. Thanks for the advice.

The Natural State Hawg said...

Jen -- Oh, I'll get my zippy car one day. I have a feeling that my wife will have a large vehicle forever. That's fine with me so long as I get that two-seater roadster I've always wanted.

Yeah, I figured the waiting was a ruse. It didn't make me want the car more. It just made me impatient and mad.

Karen -- Well, I hope I helped some. Good luck to your son. Law school isn't as hard as some people would have you believe, but it is an exercise in absolute drudgery. Slogging through case law for three years and dealing with students who aren't as brilliant as they think is annoying.