As I walked out of the grocery store tonight, something strange happened. A man was lying on the pavement of the parking lot, halfway under my car, looking at the underside of my car. It was daylight. Tons of people were around. So I wasn’t scared.
I said, “hello,” and he jumped up and asked, “this your Jeep?”
I said, “yes.”
He said, “man, you know that engine? It’s an AMC. You’ll have this thing forever. What engine is it?”
I told him it was the 2.5L 4-cylinder.
He continued, “oh, that’s great. Easy to work on. Actually makes this Jeep about 400 pounds lighter. And,” he went on, “you’ve got the ultimate theft protection,” and laughed.
“What,” I asked?
“Right there in the dash.”
He laughed some more, and I picked up on the fact he thinks most people in 2019 would never want a stick shift. Actually, that’s true.
“And, you saved yourself about $4,000 in repairs because eventually, every automatic transition is gonna fail.”
I added, “and it doesn’t have A/C.”
“Really!??!?! Smart, smart, smart. Another thing that can’t go wrong. And you got those half-panel doors. Why do you have those in? On a night like this? I mean, if it ain’t rainin’, you should have those out. Those are rare.”
“Are you interested in selling this?”
My wife won’t like this, but I quickly said, “no, I’ve only had it a few months.”
“Oh,” he said. “So you’re not the original owner? I should give you my phone number in case you change your mind.”
I didn’t take his number. Again, my wife doesn’t “get” me.
He continued to tell me it was a shame they didn’t make the frame and parts out of nickel, because it will get rusty, but he told me about a product to fix and stop the rust underneat and then said, “if you ever need brakes, write this down …NiCopp. N-I-C-O-P-P.”
“I’ll remember. I don’t have a pen.”
He insisted, “I have a pen in my car, want me to get it and write it down.”
“Oh, no,” I said. “Ni Bopp.”
“Niiiiii. Cop,” he said. “Like a police officer. A ‘cop’. Sure you don’t want me to write it down?”
By this time, I was climbing in my Jeep ready to leave. I thanked him for convincing me I made a good purchase, and I think he really wanted to write down “NiCopp” and his phone number in case I ever wanted to sell it. I waved good-bye. He watched me drive away like I was headed off to war and I swore I saw a tear roll down his cheek.
I’m ready to go public with this. I have a Jeep. I’m embarrassed about it. I feel like everyone who sees me driving it …and washing it on the weekend …and detailing it …and ‘Liking’ and Saving Jeep YouTube videos …I think they’re all thinking, “oh, Don’s having a total midlife crisis.”
It’s not like that at all. Or maybe it is.
I’ve had a Jeep for a couple of months, and I really like it. It wasn’t supposed to be for me. I wasn’t looking for a Jeep. Wasn’t shopping for a Jeep. I was looking for a reliable, practical, used-car for my 16-year-old with low mileage and good reviews in Consumer Reports that all my kids could share throughout their high-school years and maybe use it for college. Nothing fancy. Just reliable. And then quite randomly I drove by this black, soft-top, 2-door, stick-shift, clean, good-looking Jeep that was priced well below what any similar Jeep I could find online, and I bought it on impulse.
My teenager refused to learn stick shift (I really thought the idea of driving a Jeep would incentivize her to learn) so now the Jeep is mine.
I’ve wanted a Jeep since I was in college and a frat brother had one and often let me borrow and drive it. Owning a Jeep never seemed like a smart purchase. I’m 46-years-old. I don’t have a “Jeep” lifestyle of mountain biking, off-roading, 4-wheeling, surfing, camping, or anything like that. I’m not a car-buff who enjoys working on cars (although I keep my cars very, very clean and detail them once a month, at least).
Yet, even before owning my first Jeep, I had hard, fast rules.
The order changes, but I always said, “if I ever get a Jeep, my Jeep will be…”
Now. I’m obsessed. I like the “Jeep wave.” I have a long list of tweaks and enhancements I want to make to it. I know what my “next Jeep” will be (a purchase that seems inevitable because, while my daughter didn’t want to learn to drive the Jeep …my son …he will learn …that I can already tell).
Plastidip. Black rims. 2-inch lift kit. Slightly bigger tires. Running boards. A hitch for a bike rack or shelf. A better stereo, better speakers, and a subwoofer.
I don’t know what the lesson is, here. Maybe there isn’t one. Or maybe, if you wait, patiently, and don’t impulsively buy everything you want right when you want it, or don’t put yourself into debt with an impractical purchase, or just take a deep breath and count to ten (or count to 26 …the number of years since I first decided that someday I would have a Jeep), you’ll get to a point where you truly know what makes you happy, and you’ll be happy when you get it.
It’s possible I would’ve grown out of my I-Want-A-Jeep phase. Maybe I would’ve decided a car isn’t anything I care about. But now, at 46-years-old, and after seeing grown-men, year after year at the Dream Cruise, fawning over cars, day after day …I get it.
Is it a midlife crisis? Is it my attempt to buy my son’s love? Is it me annoying my wife?
I don’t know. I guess it’s a Jeep thing.