Nov 22, 2011

Riding Along in My Jaunting Car

The summer after my sophomore year of high school, I was struck with an unusual bout of productivity. I enrolled myself in summer school to try to get ahead on something math-ish for the next year. (Clearly, there was some greater purpose behind all this. This was the first and last time I voluntarily spent extra time with numbers.) It was a morning class, so my parents would pick me up at lunch time every day and drive me home.

It was on one of these drives that I saw it.

“What is that?”

“What’s what?”

“That car! It’s adorable!”

We did this for a few days before I could get on of them to stop so I could identify the car. It was a little red MINI Cooper. I had never heard of one before. It was adorable. It was love.

I waved at that MINI every day for weeks until someone finally bought it. It was sort of a fluke that it was at that used car lot, anyway. BMW had just purchased the MINI company and brought them back to the States. They had only been available again for about six months. MINIs were, of course, available here in the 60s and 70s, but they were discontinued in the US because the original models were considered too small to be road safe. Too small to drive. So cute.*

I was smitten.

Over the next few years, cars entered and exited my life. My sister and I shared two cars (Lorelai and Lucia, God rest their souls), and my best friend and I had a few quite-exciting-enough close calls in her little purple Neon (Frankie, who I believe is in geriatric care). But these weren’t my cars. In fact, I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 19 and 364/365ths.

My family appeased me with mini MINIs.

My family appeased me with mini MINIs.

Since I went to school and then worked in downtown Chicago, I didn’t really need a car until I started my job at Tyndale in the suburbs. Once I was there, I needed one in a hurry. My sister let me borrow her giant SUV while I saved up. Moose–as I affectionately called the Explorer–and I had a difficult relationship. I had to park him in a tiny one-car garage that was built in the 1950s. I had to coax him into waking up in the mornings. I had to fill him with $4 gas.

I started shopping for replacements for Moose, but I couldn’t find anything that would fit my budget but also be cute. Then I shopped for ugly cars out of spite. I would look at MINIs longingly, but they were all way out of my budget, or a really bad color. (Have I told you how shallow I am?)

One Sunday afternoon, after about three dozen conversations about what sort of car would be realistic for me, my parents had a hankering for a good Chicago hot dog. Normally, they’d just run to a stand near our house, but this time they wanted a particular hot dog. They took a nice long Sunday drive, meandering their way to the hot dog stand. I tell you all of these details about the hot dog and the Sunday drive because my parents were in a part of town that they very rarely go to. And they just happened to stumble upon a little blue for-sale-by-owner MINI Cooper, that just happened to be in my price range. My parents sent me pictures and I drove down for a test drive that afternoon.

The whole buying process actually took almost two months, but that’s a boring story.

Finally, after 10 years of hoping, waiting, wishing…


Our first drive was to the Starbucks of my youth. Of course.

Our first drive was to the Starbucks of my youth. Of course.

He is a perfect British gentleman. A gentleman’s gentleman, actually. Bunter gets his name from Mervin Bunter, the butler in Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Whimsy mystery novels. Bunter the character is polite and efficient. He has excellent taste. He anticipates Lord Peter’s needs. He is, occasionally, the voice of reason when Lord Peter’s plans are too convoluted. He’s a bit of a ladies man on his day off. Basically, he’s everything I need in a car.

Bunter and friends, apple picking

Bunter and friends, apple picking

What I didn’t know about owning a MINI is that it inducts you into this very exclusive club. MINI drivers see each other as kindred spirits. You can’t pass another MINI without giving at least a knowing smile. If a MINI suddenly pulls out in front of another MINI, it’s probably to show off a clever license plate pun. (My favorite so far: TRUNC8.)

Another hobby I’ve picked up is giggling uncontrollably when I park next to a Hummer. Or making intimidating faces at Smart Cars. Bunter loves that one.

Miracle of miracles, he fits in my garage with room to spare.

Miracle of miracles, he fits in my garage with room to spare.

Bunter and I have been the best of friends for almost six months now, but Thanksgiving is coming up. I was thinking back on all of the tremendous blessings I’ve had in the last year and a half, and I still cannot get over how God has been faithful in the big things, but he’s also been faithful in the small things.I needed a car. I had to have a way to get to work. I wanted a cute little car with personality and bonnet stripes. What I got was everything 15-year-old me wanted and more. It was a perfectly timed, perfectly planned gift. I don’t mean this in any sort prosperity gospel way. Or like God is Oprah and if I show up at the right time I’m getting a carrrrrrr! I just mean that this car felt like a special gift, and Bunter is a constant reminder that God’s got all the details taken care of.

*Note: The MINI website says that it was actually new emissions regulations that sent the cars back home. I specifically remember reading that the distance between the driver’s head and the windshield needed to be greater than it was in a 60’s MINI. You should probably trust the MINI folks before you trust 15-year-old me, but that’s an awfully specific story for me to invent. Besides. Mine fits the story better.

The post title comes from this song from The Gnome Mobile, one of Disney’s underappreciated live action little people movies from the 60s.



  • Bunter – where does one begin? So many adventures in such a short time. The cave! The highways! The city streets of Chicago in a downpour! Bunter & Jesse, you make quite a pair, and I truly enjoy being a part of any and all adventures πŸ™‚

    • Bunter considers you a close personal friend. πŸ™‚

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