I don’t like to draw attention to myself or stand out in a crowd, but that’s what I’m kind of doing now, whenever I drive around Kalamazoo. It all started in March of 2008 when my car lease was close to expiration. Two months before that, I had approached my husband about leasing another Honda, but this time not just another plain vanilla CRV, like the ones we had owned twice previously. No, this time I wanted a Honda Element.
He wasn’t surprised at this request, but he wasn’t thrilled about it either. He had known that since about the time that the first Element appeared in late 2002, I saw it as being the ideal car for me. And he did not exactly applaud my choice. In fact, the word “ugly” may have passed his lips more than once in assessing my preference. What?! Ugly?! Far from it, I thought. But, if I couldn’t convince his heart with car looks, I decided that I’d try to convince his brain with car facts.
My brother-in-law owned (and still owns) an Element that he would drive to Midland, Michigan from Cleveland, Ohio and back every week for over two years. That’s a hundred and four trips. He swears by the steadfast reliability of his Honda Element and given the slightest opportunity, constantly sings its praises. His recommendation definitely carried some weight, and I could see my husband starting to give a little.
Then, I heard Click and Clack—The Tappet Brothers, also known as Tom and Ray Magliozzi of Car Talk fame, repeatedly recommend this “toaster on wheels” to numerous on-air callers, giving it high marks mainly for its dependability, sturdiness and versatility. I made sure my husband was listening to these accolades, and underscored them with well placed comments for emphasis, such as, “You see?”
Then, I nailed the deal by pointing out to him that in addition to these positives, there was an even greater bonus; it would cost less to own or lease an Element, than it would to get another CRV.
Well, to make a long story at least a little shorter, we decided that the Element was going to be our next car. Then it came time to select a color. Maroon was the first choice, with kiwi green (actually more of a lime green) being the back-up. Actually, the maroon was once more my husband’s selection. He said it made a bad looking car a little more dignified. My rationale for choosing the lime green was why get a funky looking car without a funky looking color to match? And besides, green is my favorite color. The dealer told my husband that he shouldn’t worry, because he was certain, (no, make that absolutely positive!) that he’d be able to find us a maroon one somewhere in the Midwest.
However, when we arrived a week later to pick up our new car, there, standing in a conspicuous place, all alone, waiting for someone to claim it was my kiwi green Element. As my heart broke out into a song of jubilation, my husband’s sank beneath waves of despair. The dealer was very apologetic saying he could not deliver our first choice because it was very, very popular and back ordered for many months to come, but that “on the bright side”, there were plenty of lime green Elements to go around.
My husband was muttering something about conspiracies while we signed the lease papers. I on the other hand, was trying to come up with a name for our new wheels. Taking the color and shape of the vehicle into account, I thought that “Frogee” would fit the bill nicely. And shortly thereafter, we received our license plate proudly emblazoned with the “FROGEE” moniker.
The car and it’s plate has brought us some unanticipated attention. It has raised a smile on numerous occasions from other drivers and their passengers, as they spot, point and react to the license plate. Some wave, most don’t. We have been approached by total strangers asking us if we collect frog themed objects. It has been photographed by several people who seek unusual license plates. It has been encouraged to “Leap, Frogee, leap”, by a laughing customer at a gas station, wanting us to move forward to the next available pump. And once, when I was lost in the Arcadia area and asked a walker for directions, she not only obliged me, but jumped at the chance to take me there personally and proceeded to hop in the car with no coaxing from me. She said that she couldn’t wait to tell her teenage son that she had driven in a lime green Element. She believed that the ride would boost her coolness factor in his eyes.
In the 2010 book Carjacked by Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez, the authors explore the love, lust and reality of America’s car culture and examine our obsession with cars. It details the complex impact of the automobile on modern society and shows readers how to develop a healthier, cheaper, and greener relationship with cars. Unfortunately, it tends to explore these issues from a negative perspective as is reflected by the cover art depicting a human carrying the load of his SUV, rather than it carrying him. But it did make me re-evaluate my bond with Frogee.
I can’t deny that I love Frogee, but my husband still has doubts as to whether it’s a healthy relationship. We both agree that it’s relatively inexpensive to own and operate, and when it comes to being green, well just look at it! But I also know that in reality it is just a car designed to take us from point A to point B. In our society, you pretty much have to drive, so you might as well drive a car that you’ll love, that fits your lifestyle and makes your driving experience a joyful one. That is what this Honda Element does for me.
In the end, it might not win any beauty contests, but then beauty is in the eye of the beholder and my kiwi green beauty fits me to a “T”. Despite the fact that it is a mere thing, he’s my Frogee and when I drive him, I’m in my Element.