The Tragic Optimist

Somewhere, someone at Scion’s marketing department weeps softly

I love my 2005 Scion xB (one of the really boxy ones, not like the new-fangled swooshy 2007 xBs – if you’re going to be boxy, be boxy) for many reasons that I’m not going to go into here. But one of my favorites is the strange sense of community that I feel with the other owners. When I’m driving my car and I pass another xB on the road, we often smile and wave at each other. Much as I loved my old Honda Civic, nothing like that ever happened. This weekend, though, I had two considerably stranger encounters with other xB owners.

The first was Friday. Zoe and I went out to meet Chris for lunch. I had just parked outside his office, which is in a plaza with a bunch of other offices, and was taking Zoe out of her car seat, when I turned to see this woman right in front of me.

Woman: I drive the white one

Me: …uh… I’ve seen the white one…in the parking lot

awkward pause

Me: … um, I love mine

Woman: yeah, when did you get yours?

Me: the end of 2004, so 2 1/2 years.

Woman: oh, you’ve had yours a long time. I got mine 1 1/2 years ago

awkward pause

Me: …um, I have to go now

Sunday’s encounter was less awkward, but still strange . We had just finished shopping at Target and went to the car, when I noticed that another xB, same color, was parked right next to me. I thought that was cool, because I’ve done the exact same thing. But then as we got closer, I realized that their license plate was only 2 number off of ours. Let’s say my license plate was ABC-123, the other xB was ABC-121. Spooky. Chris took pictures with his cell phone because it was just so strange. People were honest to god stopping and pointing at our cars. I wanted to leave a note, but Chris wanted to get on with our errands. So we headed to a nearby grocery store – it was in the same strip mall, but since we had a baby and would have bags of groceries, we drove to park closer. As we walked into the store, I kept feeling like I really should have left a note. So I left Chris and Zoe to get the food and I ran back to where my car’s doppelganger was. As I got there, I saw a couple starting to get into the car, so I ran over and yelled just as the woman was about to close her door. She looked a little surprised, but when I introduced myself as the owner of the other Scion, she smiled and said she chose the parking spot on purpose. Well, I kind of figured that. Still, I told her that I appreciated it and that we’d had a lot of people looking and pointing at us. Then we compared a few notes and learned that our cars were the same year and bought from the same dealer. I’m pretty sure the dealer must have ordered a bunch of license plates all at once, which is why ours were so similar. We parted pleasantly and I had a smile the rest of the evening.

Here’s the kicker. Scion has been marketing the xB as a hipster car for younger drivers, and really pushing all the custom modifications that you can add to your car. None of the xB owners I’ve met (myself included) have had any modifications added. And they’ve all been middle-aged women.

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