What If? Quick Take: 2022 Toyota Sienna GR
Welcome to What If? Quick Take, a new feature from imaginative illustrator Abimelec Arellano and Hagerty. While the cars shown in our regular What If? features are full 3D renderings and can appear in any number of images, the Quick Takes are off-the-cuff expressions of Abimelec’s imagination. Each one is accompanied by a short story. Enjoy! — Jack Baruth
After four and a half years of divorce, it had come to this: Rachel handled her parenting discussions via LinkedIn.
This wasn’t by choice, but it was the last platform on which neither she nor Stuart, her ex-husband and father of her nine-year-old daughter, had not blocked the other person. The obvious solution was for at least one of them to grow up and stop being so vindictive, but Rachel didn’t think that was going to happen. Stuart resented her with a bitterness that seemed to creep into everything he did and said in her vicinity — and, looking back, why shouldn’t he be at least a little difficult? Back in 2018, she’d left him in a single impulsive weekend to “reconnect” with an old college flame who had recently become separated from his wife. Or at least that’s what she’d thought had happened. After five meetings in hotel rooms that proceeded with the obsessive security and breakneck pace of a Seal Team Six operation, she realized that the “separation” in question had been more theoretical than actual.
No worries. She was thirty-eight, single, and ready to live, laugh, and love, not necessarily in that order. Going back to Stuart, with his somnolent weekend television habit and his affinity for wearing football jerseys with the names of other grown men on them, was too heavy a cross to bear. So she signed up on Hinge and waited for the world to beat a path to her door. The first few months of dates were disastrous. Her appeal seemed to be limited to
a) “silver foxes” in their fifties who were painfully brittle in their personalities, their preferences, and even the way they walked;
b) kids in their early twenties who were looking, not too subtly either, for a sugar mama to help them pursue the dream of playing “CS:GO” all day.
Rachel had always been a winner in everything she did, so she took this problem seriously. A crash course at a “CrossFit box” toned her up. Four sessions with a personal shopper revamped her look from mummy to yummy. And on the advice of her new hairstylist, she went from blonde to redhead. Now she was ready to knock them dead. Except the TV started talking about a “pandemic”. Two weeks to flatten the curve, they said. Two and a half years later, the number of dates the “new Rachel” had gone on was a big fat zero.
Stuart, meanwhile, had shaved his head, grown a goatee, and started referring to himself as “Style”. Mackenzie, their daughter, reported the presence of a new and different “friend” in their old suburban home pretty much every weekend. One of the friends had indiscreetly said something in front of Mack about “working on Seeking”. Little pitchers, big ears, and the resulting arguments had spread until LinkedIn was their communication method of last resort.
Now she had to message Stuart.
Picking Mack up late tonight, my new minivan is at the dealer. She knew Stuart wouldn’t respond immediately, although his phone would tell him of the message the moment it was sent. Sure enough, she had to wait an hour and six minutes before she got
K W/E dont be late past six i have a life 2 He had a life 2? Who did he think he was? Prince? But by then she was at the Toyota dealership staring at a bizarre-looking white whale of a van.
“This is not a Sienna XLE,” she snapped to the dealership manager. “I’ve been waiting half a year for my Sienna. The old one is all but dead. I can’t take this. How much does it even cost?” The manager, who was about her age and rakishly handsome behind the unpleasant impression of his cheap clothes, attempted to pour oil on the waters.
“Mrs. Borowski –”
“Miss Borowski,” she interrupted, more out of habit than anything else. The manager smiled, as if to say Just my luck, then continued.
“Miss Borowski, surely you’re aware of the global supply chain crisis. I was able to get you an allocation for a Sienna GR. This is better than the XLE. It has a turbocharged 3.5-liter V-6, a special widebody kit, and an interior that will blow your mind! He pressed the appropriate button on the remote keyfob dramatically and the door slid open. It reminded her of a place called the “YOTEL” that she had stayed at once, ten or so years ago, in Hell’s Kitchen. All white leather and hidden lighting.
“I don’t want this. It’s not ideal,” Rachel heard herself braying, “and I don’t want it.”
“Miss Borowski, I understand your position completely. We will get you back on the list for an XLE.”
“How long?” The manager paused before delivering the shiv.
“No more than ten months. Unless something happens, of course.” Rachel took a breath.
“How much is this?”
“Not much more…”
“Fine. Just tell me what the payment will be.” But after an hour with someone called the “F&I guy”, Rachel’s attitude towards the sales manager had softened. His name was Troy and he was really quite pleasant. As she waited for the Sienna to be “detailed”, whatever that meant, Troy found her on a service-department bench and made a short pitch.
“How’d you like some real excitement this evening?”
“Like, with you??”
“Yes,” Troy laughed, “with me. I’m doing this thing called a ‘night autocross’ with some members of a local car club. You have a pretty hot car yourself now, you know. We should take it out. And then I know a great fusion place, it’s my treat, you’ve been so patient.” Rachel prided herself, in business and elsewhere, on being decisive. She pulled up the LinkedIn app, messaged Stuart that
somethings come up 4 work and i need you to keep mack tonight
Then, just to make sure she wouldn’t have to deal with any drama, she blocked Stuart on LinkedIn. Three hours later, she was sitting in the passenger seat of her brand-new van at an impromptu starting line drawn across the parking lot of the local community college. Under the sodium lamps of the lot she could see people standing in clumps, holding red flags. “You can go whenever”, a pimply kid with a green flag told Troy, and he proceeded to floor the accelerator of the Sienna.
It was… astounding. He was swerving left and right around these cones. Sometimes he hit one of them. Then they came to rest almost before Rachel had gotten used to the speed of their motion. “That’s one run,” Troy told her. “You’re driving next.”
Her first run was a disaster. She got lost, had to stop the van, and there was a long pause as the cone course was reassembled behind her. The second one wasn’t much better. But on the last chance of the night, it all came together for her. The Sienna would turn as hard as she asked, accelerate and brake as sharply as she demanded. She started to… see… a line through the cones, and she drove that line. When she crossed the line, she squealed with delight and turned to kiss Troy. Might as well get started with the second half of the evening, right? But Troy’s face was ashen, withdrawn.
“You beat my time,” he said.
“That’s good, right? You’re proud of me, right?” She tried to keep the glee in her voice.
“You beat it by a lot. Congratulations. I guess. Hey,” and now Troy didn’t seem so suave or handsome as he fidgeted in the passenger seat, “I just remembered that I have somewhere to go after this. Some friends. We’re trying to win Plunder Quads in Call of Duty. You, ah, did great.” And, as he opened the door, “I’ll see you around.”
When Rachel tried to leave the venue a nice old man stopped her and explained that she had a trophy coming. It was a glass pint cup with a logo of some sort on it. She thanked everyone and drove to the local Chik-Fil-A. The kids at the window had a million questions about her Sienna, but she didn’t feel like answering. Alone in a parking lot, no cones or people around this time, she ate her dinner and flicked through Instagram. At some point she was going to have to unblock Stuart — make that “Style” — and face the music for what she’d done. And she’d have to explain her actions to Mackenzie. First she would have to explain her actions to herself, she guessed. Alone in her $67,800 minivan, Rachel pondered her situation. She was forty-one years old and totally alone. That was bad. But she was also the winner of an autocross. This felt like something she could build on. Even if she didn’t totally understand it. There was a piece of paper on the Sienna’s center console, directing her to a Facebook page for the car club. She opened the app and sent a join request. Then she hit the start button. She imagined a set of cones in the parking lot, a sinuous course between Point A and the as-yet-unclear place she wanted to go. Threw the Sienna into Drive. Engaged “GR Mode” with a long press on an anodized metal button. Floored the throttle. From now on, she’d be in control.