Oh, I know what you"re thinking. Those of you who know me are already forming the words "speeding ticket." I am happy to report that I have been good - or lucky - and my record is clean Ö for the moment. No, I"m talking about another kind of green-eyed job hazard.
One day a young and enthusiastic salesman at one of Indy"s finest dealerships exclaimed to me, "What a cool job you have!" Admittedly so. What better life could there be for a gear-head than to be paid to drive cars? But, in addition to the risk of speeding tickets and traffic accidents, being forced to endure the occasional boorish salesperson, and having to slog around in the unavoidable shitbox every now and again, there is a real and present danger inherent in this occupation. Call it envy, covetousness, materialism - it"s just pretty damned hard to drive some cars back to the lot and reluctantly hand over the keys. Although my husband shared my surprising yet unapologetic lust for the Corvette, he literally laughed at my veiled allusion that it was a keeper. The laughing stopped when we drove the Mini Cooper S. He was first behind the wheel - adjusting, testing, pushing the boundaries, tearing around the Northside. My turn: I had already driven the Cooper, but the power and acceleration of the S blew it away. The handling is tight and precise, the car is responsive and well-balanced, and, gosh darn it, just plain fun. We exchanged a knowing look, put down a deposit and went home to readjust our budget. After placing our order in August, we followed production progress via the Web site, and picked up our baby in October. Foregoing a coin toss, I lost the battle for the daily commute when I based my argument on the longevity of my Mini yearning, which stretches back 25 years. He out-trumped me by more than five. I prepared for our first bout of marital strife: I plotted to sneak off in the Mini while he was still in the shower, or swap cars while he was at work. But I figured out a way to get some solo Mini time by graciously offering to go to the BMV and title it for him - ever the considerate wife, don"t you think? Yeah, he saw through me, too. A perfect fall day and the uncertainty of my next opportunity to get the little car all to myself again convinced me a road test was in order. For a four cylinder, it"s pretty quick. The clutch has very little play, so I was fast off the mark at every light - not entirely on purpose. It"s nimble, too. It goes exactly where you point it, so if you"re used to a bigger car, you might find yourself brushing a few curbs until you get used to how small the Mini is and how tightly it turns. Weaving through traffic is a breeze, and nothing is more amusing than passing an SUV so high off the ground I barely appear in its mirrors. The Mini"s a supple sapling in a forest of heavy oaks. With a substantial difference between the top two gears, slip it into sixth for smooth cruising. Just pay attention while changing gears; sans concentration, the knob prefers to slip into a lower gear rather than a higher one. The rear seat is just for looks, but the front buckets are comfortable and heated. Mini aficionados will recognize the familiar oversize speedo front and center. No disguising just exactly how much over the limit you"re traveling. The tach still looks like an afterthought alarm clock on the steering column - those quirky Brits! But don"t expect everything to be carried over from the "good ol" days." I mean, the doors actually lock, and even have a remote keyless entry. And the windows no longer slide, they"re power. Large windows translate into great visibility, and half the top peels back like a sardine can for a little air on a warm day, with the other half a stationery sun roof. It"s definitely an attention-getter. For some reason, few Americans are familiar with these delightful little cars. One neighbor actually sprinted after us to ask about it. Everywhere we go people enquire. Then come the inevitable size comparisons. Memo to the Player"s-Forsythe crew: pretty funny parking the big 4x4"s on either side of the Mini. Now on Saturday mornings, I"m home scrubbing toilets while he shares coffee and donuts with the Mini crowd waiting for their cars at the Dreyer and Reinbold free wash. Good thing I"m crazy about him! OK, I see I"m not getting any sympathy for the hazards of my profession. I guess it doesn"t equate with the Gap law suit, but do you suppose it"s worth a tax write-off - office supplies, necessary tools Ö