Saturday, March 29, 2014

It's a Jeep Thing

Okay. So. The bottom line is that I got a new Jeep. The moral of the story is that it was a grass-is-greener experience which taught me something about contentment.


I've been laboring laboriously to say all of that in story form, but I filled the whole stupid story up with copious amounts of extemporaneous detail interesting to no one, and I got really bored and annoyed, and the post sat here as a draft for weeks and weeks. To avoid further torturing myself, I have decided to give you the bottom line. I got a new Jeep. And I learned something. Done.

So here is the annoyingly long version of the story. Which I can now freely finish however I want because I have already declared it to be annoyingly long.


Once upon a time, there was a Jeep girl.

She'd always liked Wranglers, but in high school, her friend got a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Sometimes the Jeep girl got to drive the Jeep Grand, and she consequently decided her favorite Jeep was a Jeep Grand.

Then the Jeep girl went to college, graduated (minus the two gen ed classes she still needs to take), moved back home, worked for a year, moved out, met a Jeep guy, and married him.

The Jeep guy had a purple Jeep Wrangler when they got married.

But it was all burned out, the end result of a series of pranks between coworkers, in which the Jeep guy put boxes in the interior of someone's van, and the van guy reciprocated by putting boxes in the Jeep guy's Jeep, including one flattened box on the drive train that combusted and melted all the bits of the Jeep that enabled it to run.

The Jeep guy coined a new motto: "It's all fun and games until somebody's Jeep burns up."

The Jeep guy also had some other vehicles when he married the Jeep girl. He had a 1966 MG Midget, a 1968 Chevy pickup, a 1986 Chevy pickup, two 1990-something Dodge Spirits, a 1990-something Isuzu pickup, and a 1997 Saturn SL2.

The Jeep girl's contribution to the family fleet was a 1989 Pontiac Grand Am. White. Which she really hated. Mainly because it wasn't a Jeep Grand. But also it was ugly, with chipped paint, and only two doors. And blue interior. Bleh. Plus, when she got really pregnant, she couldn't reach the gas pedal without smooshing her baby into the steering wheel. So that was annoying. Anyway, it was added to the family fleet, the entirety of which the Jeep girl made into this nifty collage. Yep. This is how many cars the Jeep couple owned between them when they got married.

Years passed. The Jeep guy rebuilt the engine of the '86 Chev and got it running. The Isuzu was sold to a friend. The Pontiac was off-loaded onto the Jeep girl's poor brother, and it proceeded to cause him nothing but trouble until it was eventually towed away to car hell.

(It didn't deserve to go to car heaven.)

(Also the car afterlife is works-based.)

After the Jeep girl's Pontiac was sold, she inherited the Saturn as the family vehicle. Which was fine at first. But then the Jeep guy got kicked in the seatback one too many times by the toddler behind him, and the Jeep girl took pity on the scrunched up legs of the toddler behind her.

So they sold the '86 Chevy and the Saturn, and they acquired a 1994 Mazda B3000 pickup and a red 1996 Chrysler Town and Country. Which the Jeep girl thought she wanted. Even though it wasn't a Jeep. But it seemed appropriate for toddlers, so she temporarily lost her mind and loved her red minivan.

But one day, she and her Jeep guy took the red minivan for a drive out Deer Creek in the Wood River Valley, and they drove it over a lot of boulders, and the boulders poked a lot of little holes in a lot of vital engine parts. The Jeep guy was vigilant, and he kept the red minivan running for quite some time, but one day, the Jeep girl took it out when it was super low on transmission fluid. And she killed it. By driving it without transmission fluid. So that was sad.

It was especially sad for her children for two reasons. 1) They hated change and didn't really remember life before the red minivan, and 2) They were subsequently forced to sit in the skinny jump seats in the minuscule extended cab of the Mazda, facing each other, making faces at each other, poking each other, kicking each other, and generally causing misery for themselves and their Jeep parents.

The Jeep guy worked diligently to bring home enough bacon to buy his Jeep girl another family vehicle. The Jeep girl was getting to know herself a little better, and one thing she knew was that she didn't want another minivan. What she really wanted was a Jeep Grand.

So her Jeep guy went on craigslist and found her one. It had some cosmetic issues, so it was ridiculously underpriced. The Jeep girl wasn't sure she wanted it because it was an older model than she'd pictured having, and it was black. But the Jeep guy was naturally great at fixing up Jeeps, so he was simply not going to let the deal pass him by. He gave his opinion more passionately than he'd ever given his opinion about anything ever in the entire history of his life. He put his hand gently on his Jeep girl's shoulder, looked her square in the eyes, lowered his voice, and said with soft fervency, "I think we should buy this Jeep."

The Jeep girl's eyes widened as she remembered that her Jeep guy's personality profile said he had a quiet will of iron. Ah. There it is, she thought.

Then she bought a black 1995 Jeep Grand. And it was unlike any vehicle the Jeep girl had ever driven because of one amazing feature. A V8 engine. Boys howdy, the Jeep girl luuuuuuuuved driving a V8. She could go all the way up Rex Hill at full speed! She'd never really realized, until she stomped her foot to the floor and roared onto the highway each morning, just how attracted she was to power.

Overall, the black Jeep Grand seemed pretty cool. At least it seemed like it would be once it got all fixed up. The Jeep girl tried to embrace all the things that made it quirky, but it kept getting quirkier and quirkier. At one point, she had to crawl through the passenger door to get to the driver's seat because the driver's door wasn't available to be opened. But that didn't last forever. The issue of the power windows refusing to open did last, though. And then the power doors refused to lock. The stereo buttons were worn down to begin with, so it wasn't long before the Jeep girl had to pound incessantly on the volume button to protect everyone's eardrums after each time the volume level exploded of its own accord.

Plus, the engine froze one weekend, and then all the freeze plug thingys cracked or something, so then the transmission had to be dropped in order to replace the freeze plugs. And other stuff happened under the hood of the Jeep, but the Jeep girl didn't really know what any of it meant. But she did learn about wheel hubs. They can go bad. And they can make you clunk along down a back road until you think the right front wheel is going to come clean off and roll away without you. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Somewhere in there, the Jeep guy moved his family to Washington. The black Jeep Grand made the trip okay. It didn't start to shimmy noticeably until it hit 65mph.

The Jeep girl had been dropping her boys off at school in the black Jeep in Oregon for over a year, and she'd thought nothing of it. But they had lived out in the country, and the school was the only elementary school in a district full of farmers in a town of 2,000 people. And everyone else drove similar vehicles. But after she moved to Washington, she became self-conscious in her black Jeep because she moved to a resort town of nearly 30,000 people, and it seemed like ahhhhhhhhhhll the other moms in the school parking lot drove bright, shiny, new, sleek, hip vehicles. Which didn't a have broken fog light. Or one door a slightly different shade of black than the others. Or a big clunking noise whenever it turned a corner.

The Jeep girl decided in the quietness of her vain heart that her Jeep was not good enough. Not sleek enough. Not hip enough. Not cool enough. She began to pine for a newer Jeep. She did not admit to herself that she had these vain thoughts because they were, you know, vain. But ignoring the thoughts did not make them go away. They just festered.

Meanwhile, her Jeep guy had been driving the tiny Mazda to jobsites every day, attempting to cram it as full as possible with every construction tool known to mankind (plus a lot of sockets), so when the Jeep family got their tax refund, the Jeep guy was able to get a better work truck. A white 2001 Dodge Ram 2500 2x4 extended cab long bed V8 5.9 pickup. The new truck ended up having some hidden mechanical issues, so no one was very disappointed when the Jeep guy inadvertently rear-ended a couple of cars and totaled it.

The insurance company gave him twice what he'd paid for it, so after he bought himself a red 1999 Dodge Ram 1500 4x4 extended cab long bed V8 5.2 pickup, he graciously spent the rest of the settlement on a new car for his vain wifey. A black 2004 Saturn Vue.

(Pronounced VOO.)

(Not really.)

The Jeep girl was a little bummed that her new vehicle wasn't a Jeep, but she consoled herself by enjoying perks like working windows, a working stereo, and of course, sleeker lines.

But strangely, her pretty Saturn Voo didn't bring her the deep, lasting fulfillment she'd hoped for. In fact, she felt more sheepish in it than she had in her old Jeep. Mainly because of her not-so-pretty motivation for getting it. One evening, in a broken, whispery voice, she admitted to her Jeep guy, "I wanted a new car because mine wasn't very cool in the school parking lot. And I don't even know any of those moms."

Her Jeep guy held her close, like always.

The Jeep girl enjoyed approximately three weeks in her new Vue (pronounced Noo Voo) before its transmission died. Turns out that particular model of transmission caused GM's bankruptcy, and there were lots of other Voos out there with dead transmissions.

So the Jeep girl went back to driving her black Jeep. But a few weeks later, her Jeep died, too, as a result of the aforementioned wheel hub issue, plus something else wrong under the hood that wasn't a big problem but required dropping the transmission to fix. The Jeep guy had plans to fix the Saturn's transmission, so it was decided that if a transmission had to be removed and reinstalled, it should just be the Saturn's and not the Jeep's.

Then the Jeep guy worked, like, 70 hours a week all the time. So the Saturn sat. And the Jeep sat.

And the 1994 Mazda B3000 pickup became the Jeep girl's primary vehicle. Again.

Her children were not pleased with this arrangement because they were each about five feet tall and definitely did NOT fit in the little jump seats anymore. Their ever-patient, ever-gentle, ever-serene, long-suffering, saintly mother taught them how to stop complaining and find a way to sit comfortably by saying things like, "Figure it out, guys. I don't want to hear about it. Suck it up."

The Jeep girl was not pleased with the arrangement because she had to drive a stick in traffic all the time, there was no space in the cab for her groceries and no canopy over the truck bed, the engine was loud because of something to do with the exhaust manifold, and if the Jeep girl thought an older model Jeep Grand didn't match the other cars in the school parking lot, she sure as shootin' didn't think the old Mazda matched.

Months passed. The Jeep girl kept driving the Mazda all over town, filled with sardine-packed children. And a funny thing happened. The more she drove around, the more she began to notice an awful lot of older model Jeep Grands on the road, just like the one she'd deemed uncool. This was mainly due to the fact that her sons kept seeing them and bellowing, "Aaaarrrrghhhh! Our Jeep is too popular! LOOK! There's ANOTHER one!!"

The Jeep girl realized that even though she lived in a resort town of nearly 30,000 people, there seemed to be one exception to the Must Drive Sleek Vehicle rule. And that exception was Jeep. Everywhere she drove, she saw Jeeps. Not just cool, hip new Jeeps like the Wrangler 4-door or the Liberty (which honestly barely counts as a Jeep) or the newest style of Grand. She saw old Jeeps, too. Really super muddy old Jeep Cherokee Sports with extra-high suspension and beautiful, rumbly motors. Timeless Wranglers with dents and racks and roll bars and stories to tell. Even the occasional Wagoneer. Once a Hondo. And of course, lots and lots of older model Jeep Grands.

And then one day, as she drove to the grocery store and spotted yet another older Jeep Grand, the Jeep girl understood. She didn't live in a resort town. She lived in a Jeep town. There. were. Jeeps. everywhere. in. Lake. Stevens.

The Jeep girl gripped the steering wheel of the Mazda and muttered snarkily to God, "I see what You're doing here, Abba. You're doing that thing from that one story where the guy thinks his house is too small and the lady tells him to fill it up with chickens and lots of other animals, and in the end, she tells him to empty out all the extra animals, and then he thinks his house is big enough."

Okay, maybe the Jeep girl didn't say all that to God. Maybe that was the expanded version for the benefit of her readers. Maybe what she really said to God was, "I see what You're doing here, Abba. Take the chickens out of the house."

God knew what she was talking about because, you know, He can read minds.

Basically, the Jeep girl had thumbed her nose at her first Jeep, and then she tried to get a cooler car, and then it immediately broke, and then her old Jeep broke, and then she was back to driving the very uncool pickup truck, and after eight months of the pickup, Jeeps just like her old Jeep began to look mighty fine to the Jeep girl after all.

One day, the Jeep girl and the Jeep guy and their Jeep sons decided it was high time to sell their dead black Jeep Grand to the first craigslist sucker who came along. They planned to use the money from the sale to begin saving up for a family car because the preteens in the jump seats had suffered long enough in their file-cabinet-drawer-sized travel compartment (#firstworldproblems). So the Jeep girl went on craigslist and typed in the exact specifications of her old Jeep Grand.

"1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V8 5.2"

She was researching the going rate of Jeeps being sold off for parts, but instead, she found her exact old Jeep, except green! In running condition! Totally underpriced! Because it needed new head gaskets or something. The head gasket issue didn't bother her at all because she was, after all, married to a Jeep guy who also happened to be a freakin' mechanical genius. She was sure he could just wave his mechanical wand full of mechanical pixie dust over the Jeep's engine and say, "Bibbity bobbity boo." Or the manly mechanical equivalent.

So the Jeep girl called the Jeep guy, who was spending his Saturday morning helping the Jeep girl's brother on his awesome new house (made from mostly recycled materials, notably), and she said, "We need to buy this Jeep I just found on craigslist."

Her Jeep guy was home within the hour. The Jeep girl felt slightly concerned that she might have been using her powers for evil (you know, the powers a Jeep girl has to get her adoring Jeep guy to do things for her), but when she voiced her concern to her Jeep guy, he just grinned and said, "My Jeep girl calls me and asks me to buy a Jeep? I'm all over that."

So the Jeep couple test drove the green 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited V8 5.2.

And then they bought it.

The Jeep girl felt fairly giddy for several days. This was mostly because of the anticipation of someday getting to actually drive her new Jeep, after her Jeep guy had waved his magic wand over the engine. Which he spent all his spare minutes doing. Factoring in his 70+ hour work weeks, the Jeep girl only had to wait one month.

Oh, joy! Oh, rapture! Oh... irony. Could it be that the Jeep girl was giddy excited to drive the exact same model of Jeep she had previously spurned? As she slammed her foot onto the gas pedal of her V8 and roared onto the highway, she giggled at her private joke, just between herself and Abba. And her Jeep guy. And now all of you.

Because this long tale is really the genealogy of Frame family vehicles, it should be noted that after the green Jeep arrived, the old black Jeep was towed into the backyard. The Jeep family decided not to sell it after all because, duh, free parts for the green Jeep. The Saturn was sold to the local junkyard. The Mazda pickup was sold on craigslist. The Dodge Spirits were signed over to the Jeep guy's parents.

The purple burnt-out 1997 Jeep Wrangler TJ was traded to one of the Jeep guy's Jeep buddies for a white 1964 Jeep CJ with no engine in it. The Jeep girl has been informed that the black Jeep and the old white Jeep are going to get married someday, engine-wise. All Jeeps merge into one, and a river runs through it.

So just to recap, this is what the family fleet currently looks like.

Exactly two weeks of happy Jeep driving passed, and then the Jeep girl got rear-ended.

This happened, incidentally, weeks and weeks after the Jeep girl began to write this ridiculously long blog post.

The Jeep girl's back suffered more than the Jeep did. All the Jeep needs is a new bumper. (The Jeep girl needs a new bumper, too, but insurance won't cover that, so she's working that out herself. You know. At the gym. Okay, well, maybe she doesn't need an entirely new bumper. But she suuuuuuure wants to shrink down the one she has. But her bumper wasn't injured in the car accident. Her back was. Insurance is covering treatment for that. Physical therapy. Which the Jeep girl luuuuuuuvs.)

The Jeep guy's big, fat plan is to take the good bumper off the black Jeep, paint it green, put it on the green Jeep, and keep the insurance settlement for other useful things like bridging the little paycheck gap which will occur once he starts his new job next week. Which is fine. Because the Jeep girl is seriously, totally, completely content with her green Jeep.

No, really. She doesn't secretly hope, in a very tiny, secret place at the very back of her vain little heart, that the insurance company will total the green Jeep, give the Jeep girl fair market value for it, and enable her to replace it with...

a newer Jeep.

Maybe this one.

Okay, fine. This one then.

Naw, just kidding. This one will suffice.

Minus the kid. I'm good on kids. I'm perfectly content with the boys I have.

Now if only I had a daughter...