Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I Think I've Joined a Cult

I'm pretty sure I've accidentally joined a cult. I didn't mean to join a cult; I only meant to buy a car. But the MINI Cooper people? They're a cult. And everyone who has one has to join the cult.

It started with the MINI owners lounge. You have to register to get in there. Okay, by itself this is no big deal. But this was only the beginning.

Then the e-mails started. Once the MINI people get a hold of your e-mail address, you start getting quirky little messages about once a week. They aren't even really about anything, they're just nutty. This started about 6 weeks before my car was even delivered to me. I'm still getting them. I'm starting to think I will continue to get them for ever and ever in perpetuity.

About two weeks after I got my car, an envelope arrived in the mail from MINI. It contained a little note, "Carve out a space for your baby!" and a stencil that reads "MINI Parking Only". You are apparently supposed to stencil this on the wall of the garage where you park your car. I don't have a garage now; I've moved to Chicago. Perhaps I should stencil the street in front of my house? I just don't know. Perhaps I'll learn what to do with it in one of the e-mails.

Since I got the car a month and a half ago, MINI customer service has called me three times to find out if I'm happy with my purchase. They remind me of the Verizon guy: "Can you drive it now? Good! Can you drive it now? Good!"

Last week, I came home from work and found a box by my door. I was hoping it was the braille t-shirt I had ordered. (This is how I know I'm an attention whore. A braille t-shirt, a vibrator on my keychain...just wait until I get myself a Playboy bunny belly ring!) As I approached, however, I immediately noticed the seemingly omnipresent winged logo with "MINI" stamped in the center ring. Inside was a mini-MINI cornacopia:
  • Two little notes from MINI, one is yet another greeting from MINI, one is a reminder that MINI financing is right there should I need any help.
  • A packet of MINI business cards in a little case, with instructions to please hand them out to people who seem like they "should" have a MINI (read: weirdos). Each card has a picture of a MINI on the front and some pithy saying on the back ("Sip, don't Guzzle." "Let's leave the off road vehicles off the road." and of course the always popular "Let's Motor.") along with the MINI USA web address.
  • The "Unauthorized Owners Manual". This is completely different from the owners manual I received when I picked up my car (at which time, if you'll recall, I also received a second toy MINI and two boxes of "MINI Mints"). This manual has instructions for picking up chicks, tips for places you can stick your toll tickets in the dash, suggestions for sandwiches which you can either heat or cool in your special heating and cooling glove box, "secret" features of the car (I'm not sure what would happen to me if I divulged them here, but I'm quite sure I don't want to find out), and other sometimes helpful, sometimes completely bizarre information.
  • A sheet of stickers for relabeling my toggle switches. It is suggested that I memorize what each switch is for and them put new labels over top. A few examples are Self-Destruct, Up Periscope, Ejector Seat, and Tacks. I am so completely not kidding you.
  • "MINI Motoring Message Kit." This is a little jewel case which contains a bunch of signs you can hold up to the window as you drive past people, and some blank cards in the event you'd like to write your own. The only one I can remember offhand reads "Hey, sexy."
  • A ballpoint pen with a little picture inside: Hollywood on the left, and New York on the right. A little red MINI is also inside and appears to "drive" from LA to NY as you tilt the pen. The pen comes in handy when I want to write in my
  • Motoring Journal. The inside cover suggests that I should be keeping a diary of my MINI experiences. Like the brainwashed cult-follower I am, I have already made three entries.
  • Last but not least we have two cards for playing "Motoring Bingo". Motoring Bingo cards have different pictures on them: train tracks, state line, stop sign, etc. You look out your window for these things and slide the little window over when you find one.
I have also been admonished more than once that when I see another MINI, I should go out of my way to acknowledge the other driver, i.e. cult bretheren. I saw this in action today when a man in a green MINI with racing stripes practically fell out of his window waving to us.
So you see, I am now into something way over my head, and I'm pretty sure there's no way out. But, um, I think I like it that way. At least that's what the MINI people tell me.


monogodo said...

Sounds like what goes on in the VW New Beetle world.

Tara said...

Just say 'no' when MINI starts sending you free packets of their brand of Kool-Aid or offering a free trip to Jonestown.

Eric said...

Sweetie, you named your car--and indeed fretted about which name to pick.*

I decree that you are therefore estopped from now criticizing your fellow, albeit slightly more enthusiastic, MINI owners.

While I think there are a number of things you could have done with respect to your car to maintain your "sane" highground, the name thing was a big concession.

* As I've mentioned before, I think you made the correct choice.

Web Swinger said...

Well at least the American auto makers just leave you alone, I guess they figure you will be visiting their repair shop often enough.

By the way send me an e-mail so that I can stay in touch. By the way all's quite on the eastern front.

And have you found a job yet?

amberance said...

Ah, but Eric, the impetus for naming my car came from the fact that went I went to sign up for the MINI owner's lounge online, they wanted to know the name of my car when I registered. So really not my fault there. I think of it as initation.

I went on an interview today. They seem to like me. I thought, eh, but at least I'd be working. Besides, nowhere will ever measure up to working with you guys, you're like family! I'll hit you up on the e-mail later...