Five Things I’ve Learned Owning A Mini Cooper in DC

Earlier this year, the 1997 Honda Accord I inherited from a divorce over a decade ago began acting a little funny, and by “little funny” I mean “really fucking scary.” I’d put it in drive, start moving forward, and then it would inexplicably and without warning (read: “at the intersection of Florida and Connecticut Avenues at rush hour”) stop moving forward. This was despite an engine that was running, and despite my vigorously depressing the accelerator–you know, what you normally have to do to make a car move forward or backward.

I’m not a complete idiot when it comes to cars. I mean, I know from a now frequently MLA-cited report I did in Fourth Grade (Westfall, Shawn. “Cars are Great”: George S. Buck School #94, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1972, 2 pgs.) that they’re powered by the “internal combustion engine,” which works by something “combusting internally,” which turns something, and then turns something else, and then the car starts moving—something like that. And I knew enough to know that what I was facing was a transmission problem, and in previous conversations I’ve had with mechanics regarding transmissions, transmission problems are very expensive, e.g.

MECHANIC: Yeah, man… blah blah blah Nationals blah blah pennant…pull the transmission…blah blah blah blah blah will run you around 78,000 dollars. Blah.

ME: Oh. Great. Thanks.

I didn’t have that kind of loot lying around, and, if I did, couldn’t see the sense of investing it in something that still had a factory-installed cassette deck. So I instead visited a dealer and rather than have what’s left of my car nickel-and-dime me to death, decided instead to go all-in and buy a car, one I’d had my eye on since I first became aware of them around a decade ago:

I bought a Mini Cooper.


Here, apparently, is the part of my post where I’m supposed to apologize for buying a Mini, especially if this one bro-douche I met at Local 16 back when it was the city clearing house for bro-douches is right: that it’s only for either (a) women or (b) gay men, in the same way that Subarus are apparently for lesbians and Lincoln Town Cars are for Nazis who survive by drinking the blood of Jewish infants.

I’m neither female nor gay, despite whatever I’ve posted in Craiglist’s “Casual Encounters” section. And since I no longer go to Local 16, I’m just going to say it: I love my Mini Cooper, and were our U.S. Supreme Court to legalize it, would drive to Rehoboth Beach tonight and marry it, at sunset dressed in a white linen suit with friends and loved ones nearby. But I’ve learned a few things as the owner of a Mini here in DC. To wit:

  • The Mini’s natural habitat is urban; it can only survive in metropolitan climes. Once past the Beltway, it’s defenseless, and becomes vulnerable to the elements: wind, rain, feral cats, Minivan-driving suburban mothers, SUVs, pickup trucks the size of central American countries, all seem to prey on the Mini with a ferociousness that rivals Kobe Bryant’s when he’s talking to the press about his own teammates. Avoid.
  • You have to be an exceptional driver to drive a Mini. When not being used for Living Social spelunking trips, DC’s potholes rival lunar craters, and have been known to swallow up entire neighborhoods, making Minis particularly vulnerable. Plus, there’s a lot of construction in DC, and a lot of accompanying traffic cones. Should you accidentally hit one in a Mini, you’ll die. The manual is explicit about this.
  • It takes an expert logistical frame of mind to transport things in a Mini, since the car has room for (a) two small canvas grocery bags (empty); (b) that one suit jacket you forgot you had taken to the cleaners; and (c) dreams.
  • The Mini has a backseat. But its relationship to the Mini is the same one Tom Cruise has to his much publicized heterosexual relationships: merely there for show, and not really functional or traditional at all.
  • Parking in DC is a contact sport. And here’s where I win: I can literally park a Mini anywhere. I’m not kidding: in handicapped spaces, bike lanes, in spaces reserved for shopping carts at the grocery store. In fact, I can actually lift my car up and park it *ON TOP OF OTHER CARS*, cars who end up getting ticketed even when I don’t. Seriously, owning a Mini gives you special dispensation when it comes to parking, which is the primary reason I bought one. You probably wish you’d known that before moving to DC, didn’t you? Yeah. Sorry about that.

So, yes, I do enjoy owning a Mini. And yes, sometimes when I drive it, I talk like Austin Powers.


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22 responses to “Five Things I’ve Learned Owning A Mini Cooper in DC

  1. Robyn McKenzie Myer

    This is great! Very entertaining. I do want to mention that I had my mini for two years in Anchorage, AK, during the worst winter they have had in the history of Alaska, and to my overwhelming surprise, it killed it up here! The roads are very beat up here as well do to all the trucks that use actual chains on all their 18 wheels, and they chip up the asphalt the constant plowing all winter long adds to it creating these ruts that are of course wider set than the mini tracks so you literally have to ride with one tire in between them to not get tossed around like a bean bag. BUT, it still did amazing! Probably one of the most amazing and impressive cars I have ever owned. You can even park it on the sidewalk and no one would really notice. Thanks for this delightful read this morning. Danielle referred me to your blog and shared it with her mini owner friends. Glad she did.

  2. Robin — thanks for your kind words. Know what it’s like to live in a northern clime: was stationed at Loring AFB in Northern Maine for a few years, and driving on the permafrost was always treacherous. Bought my Mini in January, and was rather glad for the mild winter as a new car owner (was worried the bad snow storm that threatened the east coast earlier this year would bury my car completely). But yeah, I agree: cannot tell you how much my therapy bills have declined since I no longer have to tamp down anxieties about locating a parking space once I’m home.

  3. Yoshi – my mini – turns ten this summer and he is thus far the love of my life. He’s my little roadtrip monster too: during my college years we tackled the LA –> ATL schlep no less than six times with not so much as a flat tire to interrupt the journeys. We’ve been through the snowpocalypse and Death Valley and he’s still chugging along like a brand new car. Welcome to the mini club! Drive long and prosper!

  4. Gwydion Suilebhan

    I cannot believe i did not know you even HAD a blog until now. This is some seriously entertaining smooth-talk, my friend. I will be visiting regularly.

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  6. Stephanie

    Being a MINI owner in the DC area, I laughed and thought “this is so true” on everything. I know a lot of the fellow DC Metro MINI members got a good chuckle too/

  7. Haemish Edgerton

    Shawn – hey, I’m sure you remember me… as a long-time MINI owner (over 8 years), I have to say that while I appreciate your attempt to be humorous, you only seem to perpetuate many negative (and outright incorrect) stereotypes of the MINI. They are FANTASTIC on the highway and in bad weather. They are VERY safe. You can carry a LOT in the back of them (ever try folding the rear seats down? Yeah… that’s a very respectable cargo space).

    It seems from all of your gripes that the only truly redeeming quality you seem to find in your MINI (BTW it’s MINI not “Mini”… the latter conveys the classic British cars that weren’t made by BMW) is their parking ability. It sounds to me like you would have been even better served if you’d bought a SMART car instead.

    Take your MINI out on some twisty country roads and you’ll realize that there’s a heck of a lot more to this car than simply being a city commuter.

  8. Will

    “The Mini’s natural habitat is urban; it can only survive in metropolitan climes. Once past the Beltway, it’s defenseless,”

    You obviously don’t associate with other MINI owners outside your mini world, or any of the MINI user groups in the DC/B’more region (or Philly, or Richmond, or Hampton Roads, or PGH/Carlisle, PA, or…)

    • Stephanie

      I think it’s a great car both in urban and other environments. I think it THRIVES in urban environments and you see a large concentration of MINIs but it’s not to say they can’t be out in other areas as well. I have a friend with a MINI in Oklahoma and she loves her car, albeit pining for some curvy roads.

  9. Craig

    I had to go back and read this a couple of times because I kept finding things to laugh at. Like you, I am neither gay or a woman but I am frequently amused at the looks I get from people when I exit my MINI. Although my wife might object to me wanting to run off and marry my MINI somehow, I don’t think she would be surprised if I asked her to join us for a threesome!

    Thanks for the laughs and please consider coming out to join the local “MINIacs” for an event at some point.

  10. Ali

    I want to marry my MINI too. I have named him, talk to him and we even have a song together. It’s love!

    Great article enjoyed it

  11. MINInurse

    My facebook states that I’m in a relationship with my MINI.. that happens to be a female.. so I’m either cheating on my boyfriend, or somehow turn into a male when I get in and drive….
    got a few good laughs from your article

  12. Jill

    I love my MINI all 4. It is better in the snow than my F 250 pickup. It really loves the dirt roads and the twists. take your MINI to some autocross events sponsored by the SCCA and you will find that it was you that was defenseless the car is great with potholes, just dodge em.

  13. As a 7-year MINIac, I found your post hilarious. I live in suburban MD now, but lived in DC when I purchased Scoopie. The parking anywhere ability was absolutely 1derful, and works the same way out here. As a daily driver, Scoopie has endured the beltway construction/traffic with aplomb, and keeps it movin’. 1 of the things I’ve noticed is that not many MINI drivers wave at others as much as I’d like, but when I do get 1, it makes my day.

  14. “And yes, sometimes when I drive it, I talk like Austin Powers.”
    Informative post, enjoy your MINI 🙂

  15. Meme

    I love my MINI, I am taking it to the MINI on the Mighty Mac, Aug 3 2013. I am a girl ( if you can call a 77 year old a girl.) and I sure get some great looks when I get out of my MINI that is all dressed up in red, white and blue stripes, with the Brit. Flag. Also MEME’s MINI on the front I live in Mi. Where you get all kinds of weather . It is the greatest car I have ever owned.

  16. I fell out of my chair reading this- thank you. Hilarious. I love my MINI which I have had since 2006. I will drive this car into the ground and buy another one afterwards. The cycle will continue in perpetuity. I even have a theme song for my MINI which I sing in it sometimes, which admittedly is batshit crazy but who cares. Any car with parking super powers deserves a theme song.

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  18. A. Powers

    Groovy, baby !

  19. Danie V.

    I actually laughed out loud – as I sit on the train on my way to work (late 😑), contemplating on what car to buy next.

  20. Chris Tucker

    Don’t know if you’ll even see this reply, but I am the proud owner of a 2021 Mini cooper SEV (all electric) and live in MD. I loved your article, so true most of it. In fact, I read it to Wini (my mini) and she got a good chortle, (I could tell, her lights were blinking) except for this part “The Mini’s natural habitat is urban; it can only survive in metropolitan climes. Once past the Beltway, it’s defenseless” I’m sorry Shawn, but she just laughed outright in your face…of course, this was as she was doing 90 passing a truck effortlessly on 695 whilst shouting “DEFENSELESS MY ASS SHAWN!” ;-D

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