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This be my bad chariot

If you have someone in your life whom you really, really hate, a good thing to wish upon that person would be the need to shop for a used minivan.

In related news: Someone really, really hates me.

I searched high. I searched low. (Actually, I only searched low … because I can’t afford high.) And finally, after weeks and weeks of scouring the Internet for hours each day and visiting dealerships near and far and spending in the presence of used-car salesman oodles of time that I would rather have spent smashing all 10 of my own toes with a ball-peen hammer, we found it.

Never mind the fact that it was red … and please try to overlook the wet-dog smell permeating the interior … because, here’s the thing: It had only 62,000 miles on it! Yes, I know that sounds like an ass-load of miles, but we had long since discovered that the pittance we could afford to spend would probably net us a vehicle with at least 75,000 miles on it. Plus, also? This one had bells! And whistles! The sliding side doors and rear lift gate? They could be opened and closed using magic!

And so, with my finger poised on the trigger — a finger weary from the approximately seven gazillion hours it had spent typing used-car search parameters into my computer and iPhone — it seemed all but decided that the red (barf!) van would be ours … until I conducted one final, desperate search and found a just-published listing for the van shown above, which I photographed in my driveway last night.

It has nary a bell nor whistle … but what it does have is only 34,000 miles on it … a mileage total that, as pertains to vans that fit into our laughably meager budget, is more difficult to come by than a left-handed albino sasquatch riding a one-eyed unicorn.

And so fuck magic doors, kids; you’ll just have to suffer the injustice of using your own hands … you know, like your Mom and I did … way back in the 1900s.

And because we are clinging to the lowest financial rung of a community largely populated by the wealthy — people with whom we have become friends, and whose children have befriended ours — I will admit that I often find myself feeling bad or embarrassed or frustrated about our comparatively bargain-basement lifestyle … which is why one of my first reactions to buying this van was to think about just how much it doesn’t stack up to the $50,000-plus minivans and luxury SUVs that will constantly surround it.

But you know what? It’s the nicest car we’ve ever owned … and it’s a hell of a lot nicer than the 15-year-old shitbox with the blown head gasket that we just unloaded after milking 186,000 miles out of it … and I no longer feel perpetually worried that my wife might call at any moment to tell me she and the kids are broken down on the side of the road again.

And as I drove my family home from the dealership on a beautiful spring night with the windows down and the radio up and the kids all excited about their new ride, I felt something that I didn’t necessarily expect to feel about our used minivan: Really, really good.

So there.

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