The Home Team / Two guys and a Jeep
Last week I was talking to my personal trainer -- oops, already something a real Jeep guy would never say. Anyway, my trainer -- let's call him "Tim," which just happens to be his real name -- had already been driving a four-door Jeep Wrangler. Since that had become more or less the "family" car, Tim was in the market for a smaller sports car for himself. He considered all the usual suspects and had pretty much decided on a Mini -- but a little voice told him he wasn't really a Mini guy. A bit too trendy? A little too cutesy? He studied the situation a little more, and what did he get? He got a two-door Jeep Wrangler.
This was his 11th Jeep Wrangler, Tim told me. I'll have to trust him on it, though the math seems a little curious. I've had my Wrangler for 12 years, and it's still in perfect shape -- and Tim is a good bit younger than I am. So Lord only knows what he does with all his Jeeps.
As two Wrangler enthusiasts tend to do, we got to talking about how much we love our Jeeps. Tim said that when people ask him why he's so devoted to this funky vehicle, he tells them, "It's a four-wheel drive in the winter, and it's a convertible in the summer." As if the whole Jeep Wrangler thing could be boiled down to matters of practicality.
"Bull----!" I answered. Convertible? If you get caught in a pop-up storm, it's easily five minutes till you haul the top up from the boot and hook the clamps onto the front windshield and re-attach all the other little doo-hickies, and by then both you and the car are soaked. The Wrangler's gas mileage is a flat-out embarrassment, and its cargo space is pretty close to non-existent. Besides, if all you're looking for is four-wheel drive and convertible, there's any number of vehicles that fit the bill.
"But they're not nearly as cool," Tim fired back. "If you're stopped at a red light in your wide-open, doors-off Jeep Wrangler next to a guy in a Porsche 911 GT3, he'll be looking at you and thinking, `Man, I'd like to be driving that.'"
Aha. So now we're getting down to it. Yes, the Jeep is four-wheel drive, and can plow through anything. And yes, it's a convertible. Sort of. But let's not kid ourselves. We don't drive it because it's practical. We drive it because it's fun. We drive it because we think it's a cool car. There's a reason 47 percent of all cars in the Staples High School parking lot are Jeep Wranglers.
Which brings me to my hypothesis -- one I'll bet not more than 2,637,432 people have come up with before me: Our cars don't say who we are. Our cars say who we like to think we are.
Jeep Wrangler says rugged. Individual. Can-do. Spontaneous. Adventurous. Independent. Made-in-America. I'm pretty much not any of those things. Okay, maybe made-in-America. But still, it makes for a cool self-image.
Wrangler guys -- me, Tim, and the rest -- like to stick together. You may have noticed the famous Wrangler salute -- a quick wave, or V sign -- that all Jeep drivers exchange when they cross paths. Well, not all. Maybe half. And that's a problem. Because you never know if you've run into the half who does, or the half who doesn't. It seems inevitable that when I wave, the other guy doesn't wave back, which kind of leaves you hanging, and makes you feel a little foolish. There's nothing more deflating than giving the "bro" salute to some 17-year-old dude in his backwards ball cap and have him blow right by. On the other hand, if I don't wave, you can bet that the other guy will. And then I feel like a stuck-up heel. Ah, so complicated!
Well, at least one thing I know for sure: Ricky, my beagle, loves riding shotgun in my Jeep. Unfortunately, Carol, my wife, doesn't. She's not crazy about how the wind whips her hair in her face. Which reminds me of yet another lovable, quirky little Jeep feature: When your passenger asks you to roll up the window, you get to answer, "Oh, sorry, I left it in the garage."
Yes, Tim. Very, very practical.
"The Home Team" appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, on his blog, "Beagle Man," on the Westport News website at http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/. To reach Hank, email him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank.