Thursday, February 9, 2012


My brother, Pete, once told me that he and his wife count every Chrysler PT Cruiser they see. The immediate result was that he passed this strange compulsion onto me. It started out innocently enough. I wasn’t doing a whole lot of driving at the time and so whenever I was out and about and would pass one here or there, I would just think, “One,” and smile, thinking of Pete, and move on with my day.

But a couple years ago, my kids started going to occupational therapy and I started driving from Eden Prairie to Plymouth and back twice a week and from Eden Prairie to Downtown Minneapolis to Plymouth and back to Eden Prairie twice a week. That’s a lot of miles. And, as it turned out, a lot of PT Cruisers.

Now the sad fact is that I can’t not notice these cars! They’re different and fun. First there’s the shape. When they were introduced in 2000, I didn’t like them—they looked like hearses to me. But their retro-style, rounded bodies now remind me more of candy: gummi bears or something like that.

Then there are the colors! While most cars come in your standard neutrals (black, white, beige), and maybe a blue or cherry red, PT Cruisers leap out of the crowd in at least three different shades of red, two or three blues, several purples, forest green, orange and yellow along with the usual slate of colors. They’re often covered with advertising or company logos. I’ve also seen them in two-tone, convertible, with flames painted on the hood, and, best of all, with 1970s-style wood paneling!

The compulsion to count quickly became an obsession, a bona fide mental disorder worthy of the DSM-IV. On a Girl Scout outing last spring, I silently kept track even while chatting with my co-leader (five). One of the women at my church drives one and every Sunday as I pull into the parking lot I think, “One.” I started noticing where the concentrations of Cruisers are largest, at least among places I frequent (the per capita PT ownership in Eden Prairie and Southeast Minneapolis is quite high). It got to the point where I found myself looking for Cruisers more than watching the road I was driving! (Don’t worry, Dad—I don’t do this anymore!)

I was having so much fun with this bizarre compulsion to count PT Cruisers that I decided to pass it on to the next generation and invited my kids to start counting with me. It has become a great road game for all of us. We routinely see at least nine of them on any given day that we’re out and about (our record is 20), and it’s not even the same ones along the same route every time—we know because of all the crazy colors. Last summer on our trip home from Michigan, we counted a total of 31, although I know we passed more than that: We got back into the Twin Cities right at rush hour and I wasn’t about to be looking around for more. (See Dad? Stop worrying!)

The kids aren’t in OT anymore and my weekly driving has dropped back to almost nothing, but I still find myself counting however many I see, like it or not. It’s something I don’t think I’ll ever recover from. Thanks, Pete. Sadly (happily?) Chrysler stopped producing these candy-like contraptions in 2010. So I suppose it’s just a matter of time before they become scarcer and scarcer, and I’ll count fewer and fewer until, at last, I can just forget about them altogether.


  1. I just want to remind you that a couple of years ago, I suggested that we look at these things as a potential new car and was roundly dismissed. We would have been so "candy gangsta-like" it would have been great. Now look where you're at...


  2. Then I would have had to count our stupid car every time I got into it. Better not to have gone there!

  3. It's funny how we so often don't notice what is all around us until its presence is pointed out...