People need categories. From birth, infants thrive on routine, categorizing their day into sections. Nap time. Food time. Cry time. Categories help us feel stable, like we have control over our uncontrollable worlds. A student walks into the classroom on the first day and immediately needs to know: is this teacher a hard grader or someone to blow off.
The tomato is also a classic example. Who CARES whether the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable? Well, we all do. We need a category for the tomato to make us feel better. It doesn’t make the tomato any better or worse, it just helps us know whether to eat it next to beans and potatoes in stew, or as a colorful addition to a fruit salad. Which is the “right” category?
Categories became important to me during shaky periods in my family, when it really mattered who was who. “So, that’s my step-second cousin? My half-nephew?” We validate our life based on titles. Some marry for just that reason—at age sixty, it could be a little odd saying “Meet my boyfriend, Ralph.” instead of “Meet my husband.”
So you can imagine how on edge I was (pun for sure intended!) when our Dayton Ford dealer brought me a “crossover” for week two of my project. What is this thing? What category does it fit it? And where did it come from?
Some of the first crossovers came about right before the turn of the century. The Washington Post published an article in 1999 called “Don’t Circle the Station Wagons Yet; ‘Crossover’ Models Help an Old American Staple Hit the Comeback Trail.” It explained how crossovers would allow traditional vehicles a fresh start on the market, such as the station wagon.
This was the beginning of a period that birthed the crossover–this strange, ambiguous mix of SUV traits built on a car platform. Rides like a car, kind of looks like a car, but wait—it’s a crossover.
The article explains that the station wagon experts didn’t know what to do when the wagons evolved. The article says, “They, for the moment, have decided to put many of the new generation wagons into the ‘crossover vehicle’ category.”
That category word again.
But even before the station wagon evolved, Jeff Prescott at Automedia.com explained that the crossover originated from Toyota’s RAV4. It combined the Corolla platform with borrowed Celica mechanical parts. He says this car “sparked a revolution in the United States” in 1996, and most manufacturers followed the trend. *
Fourteen years later, I step into my first crossover still wondering which is the “right” category?
You might remember, from my gushing over the back-embracing seats of last week’s Ford Fusion, that seat comfort is high on my priority list. So I slid into my “cinnamon-red” Ford Edge looking for just the same comfort Ford promised in the last car. But the Fusion had set the bar pretty high. While the Edge boasts adjustable lumbar support, the seats’ angles (slightly forward, less bucket-like) create a more awkward ride than the Fusion. After being cocooned in the Fusion seat, this felt more like I’d slide off.
But the Edge has a redeeming quality unmatchable by anything other than a “crossover”. When they mixed a car and an SUV they accidentally created the perfect height in a vehicle. You don’t get up into it or get down into it—you get over into it. Perfect for older people who don’t want to go up or down, kids who can’t get into something higher, and people with bad backs, knees, or cracking joints. By not having to change levels to get into the Edge, you really feel like the car matches you. Like a good guy, it’s just the right height for my five foot, almost ten inches.
So far going category-less wasn’t so bad.
Almost as soon as the Ford Edge showed up, so did an awful stomach flu. The new shiny car—err—crossover (Do people really say ‘my crossover’?), sat in my driveway, taunting me. I couldn’t drive, I couldn’t even get up. So my maiden voyage in the Edge was in a horizontal position in the passenger seat, riding the thirty plus minutes to the doctor. It was a bad drive, not through any fault of the vehicle, which offered two small saving graces.
As I was dozing in and out of a feverish oblivion, I looked up and thought I was in a convertible. I saw birds, trees, and polluted city air. Justin had opened the TWO sunroofs in the Edge, making it the least stuffy car I’ve been in that technically still had a roof.
The second saving grace was the seat warmer, a sweet comfort when you have a fever, or even when you don’t. It comes with the choice to warm either just your butt, or your butt and back simultaneously. The things money can buy. On a chilly day, before the heat is really working in those first few minutes, a warm butt can make a world of a difference.
Color matters. The cinnamon-red Edge I expected to see when I heard the color of the car was nothing like the cinnamon-red Edge I got.
Anything with the word “red” excites me. I love red Icees, cherry pies, my poufy red writing couch, and a wardrobe staple in the form of a cheap but very cute red Wal-mart sweater. Red cars are no exception: they say sleek yet sporty, look-at-me but classy. Red is best, as the book went that my mom read to me every day of my childhood.
Blame it on the English/Journalism background, but Cinnamon red is NOT the color of this Edge, as my word-picky friends and I decided around day 5. This was prune. Plum. Raisin. A deep purple sunset on the Portuguese coast. And it was beautiful. At first glance, it seems brown and kind of not what you want at all. But give it a second look, and a third, and fourth, and it’s a warm Merlot, black at the right angle, purple from another.
I will negotiate on the vehicle’s category name, but color is a non-negotiable. Cinnamon Red, despite being misnamed, passes that test. Just don’t order online—check that color and ride for yourself first.
On the final day with the Edge, my scholarship letter came in. The university was paying for the rest of my college career as a graduate student. What?! I had died and gone to debt-free young adulthood. Hours later, the majority of the family was assembled for a celebratory dinner at Olive Garden.
The Edge had made the trip in order to prove that my blogging job at Ford was, in fact, a real thing to my grandparents, who have never heard the word “blog.” To them, it sounds like a swamp or some little toy made of cardboard the kids amuse themselves with in the nineties. Oh wait, those are bogs and pogs.
After splitting the large Tour de Italy platter, and explaining in the easiest terms possible that a blog is just like the newspaper they read everyday except on the Internet, we made our way outside to Tour de Edge.
To truly understand what was about to happen, you have to know the characters in the story. My grandparents are 83-year-old Greek immigrants. They value family over all else, but fight like dogs—well, like anyone who has been putting up with each other for fifty years.
After checking out the size of the back storage area—if it was just a car I’d say trunk—Justin showed them the buttons that fold down the back seats for more storage and the back up sensor that bings when you drive in reverse. This was new technology for these owners of a 160,000-mile Isuzu Trooper and a Lincoln Continental.
What I didn’t know from the tour was what went down on their drive home from dinner. As they drove past their neighbor Ed’s house, a Ford owner for many years, Dedo (grandpa) tried to convince Baba (grandma) to stop so they could see if Ed had an Edge just like mine. Baba was not in the mood to creep around the neighbor’s driveway, and Baba usually gets her way. However, Dedo’s curiosity got the best of him, and the next morning I got a phone call from his basement telling me he crossed over the property line. His voice was low and excited:
Him: “Alex, I went out to get the mail today and stopped at Ed’s driveway.”
Me: “Where are you? Does Baba know?”
Him: “No! Shh! Anyway, he has the exact same truck as you! His is blue with a dark interior!”
Me: “No way.”
Him: “Yeah, then I read the bumper to see what kind, and it said. E.D.G.E.R. Edger!”
Me: “Awesome! You mean Edge, right?”
Him: “Yeah, Edger!”
So, the Edger was a hit all week long, and if there’s an Ed from Cincinnati reading this, I have to apologize to if he was creeped out by some man examining his crossover.
Yes, crossover. The Edge has convinced me that crossing over can be a good move.
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