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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.

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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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