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If it Ain't Broke, Don't Fix it (If it works can I break it?)

Oct 27, 1997
Kimmy Sophia Brown
Some close friends of ours moved out of state and gave us a really great deal on their minivan before they left. This was an answer to a prayer, and I am truly grateful. I took the van to the DMV to get new license plates and they gave me a default enumeration starting with the letter combination "ZEX." I wanted to say to the lady, "Are you zerious? You want me to drive around with a license plate that says, ZEX? I'm not that kind of girl."

My husband thought we should trade them in but I thought, "Oh what thuh. We're not the only ones driving around with them." It's sort of like being in a club, although I don't intend to work out a secret handshake with other drivers with the same DMV affliction. On the positive side, this is the first time I have ever been able to memorize our license plate number. Every cloud has a silver lining.

My children are the self-appointed ministers of quality control for our vehicles. They feel compelled to make sure that all the moving parts of the van are in working order.They do this by grabbing anything that wiggles, and then they wiggle it until it breaks off or seems like it's about to.

The first thing they did was grab the Plymouth Voyager hood ornament and wiggle it, exclaiming, "Look! It moves!" Two days after we got the vehicle, one of my sons came in the house with the hood ornament in his hand, blaming the boy next door for snapping it off. (Fortunately, I figured out how to reattach it with little problem.)

Any family outing is a chance for vehicle testing too. I watch the kids in the rear view mirror. Tymon pumps an arm rest up and down without mercy. Tadin and Ranin open and shut the ashtrays three hundred times. Gracie kicks the back of my seat rhythmically. The dialogue goes like this:

"How far can we push this doo-hickey?"

"I wonder if this thing bends this way?"

"Uh oh."

"Oops."

"I'm sorry."

"I didn't mean to."

"Can we fix it?"

My boys punctured the ceiling upholstery of our old Nissan with sticks. They hung from the panes of partially rolled down windows and broke the internal up and down mechanisms. Tadin discovered little speaker holes in the dashboard and chipped away at them with a screwdriver when we weren't looking. He made one, really huge speaker hole. Far out, man. A place to drop loose change! He pulled off the radio knobs and lost them, too.

All the children want a turn riding in the front passenger seat of the van because it reclines. They grab the lever and flatten the seat back, ignoring the screams of the pinched person sitting behind them. Then they want the seat upright. Then they want it to recline. Upright. Recline. Upright. Recline. Then their attention turns to the next distraction. "Mom, can we listen to the radio?" Louder. Softer. Louder. Softer. Off. On. Off. On.

"Mom, I want air conditioning." Colder. Warmer. Colder. Warmer.

"I want to sit in the back. Can I climb in the back? Let me climb in the back. Can I open the window back here, Mom?" Open. Shut. Open. Shut. Scream.

"I pinched my finger in the window! Can I sit behind the back seat?" "No, it's not safe," I say. "Yes it is. Rupert does it." (Rupert? They know a kid named Rupert? No, I made it up.)

"His mom lets him. Please? Please, can I sit back there? I want to sit back there. Why can he do it? You never let us do anything fun."

I wonder what it would cost to pad the walls and install a plexiglass window between the driver's seat and the back, like a New York City cab? It might not prevent the bedlam, but at least I could pretend that I'm driving alone.

Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.

She writes the column "From the Back Porch" as well as reviews of music in her column "MusicViews". Her goal in her music reviews is to introduce music she loves to people who may not have heard that particular artist or CD. For information about how to submit a CD for review, click here.

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