The van I drive commands a certain degree of respect on the road and unwanted ‘help’ from some men

Jen Hogan: ‘Have you encountered helpful men on account of the van being huge too?’ I asked my husband. Strangely, he hadn’t

I drive a nine-seater van.

It’s generally the third question people ask when they find out how many children I have (seven). After “how many boys and how many girls”? And the one most people wonder about: “Why?”

“So I could drive a Ford Transit,” I’m tempted to reply. But I’m usually more honest. “I dunno. It was just a number in my head.”

But anyway, I drive an big van. And in spite of the number of times I’ve mentioned this, I am not sponsored by the carmaker.


To clarify, it’s a van converted into a minibus-type vehicle – the sort drunken revellers confuse for a taxi and attempt to enter when you’re passing through Ballsbridge after a rugby match. It is cool in the eyes of a seven-year-old (or their friends at least). Mortifying in the eyes of a teen. And it does, more or less, what it says on the tin for an adult.

But it can also command a certain degree of respect on the road. Because people make all sorts of presumptions about others based on the type of car they drive. Like presuming the car with the tinted windows, flashy alloys and booming music belongs to a boy racer. Or the one with the soft-top roof, lowered the minute the thermometer hits 12 degrees, belongs to a poser. Or that it’s best to give any car with a Tipperary reg a wide berth.

And it was only recently when I was driving the other car belonging to this household that I was reminded of the comparative respect which the van doth command can be taketh away, pretty darn quickly, when that other car is a teeny-tiny one.

As I drove along, less like Miss Daisy and more like a person observing the speed limit, I was dangerously cut in front of by an eejit in a much bigger car. He was definitely an eejit, I could tell by the car he was driving.

Still, on I drove, relatively unfazed, if not a tad miffed, singing along to my Spotify list, because I’m cool like that. But my senses were immediately heightened to others who might see me as easier to bully on the road. Because on the roads, size is everything.

Actually, in the driveway it can get you noticed too. On one particular day as I attempted to reverse my van out of my own driveway, and there were no obstacles, no oncoming cars, no random trees, no anything that a woman who has driven a van for many years could hope to crash into, a helpful builder who was working locally directed me safely out on to the road in my estate.

I know he was helpful, because my husband told me this. He was being helpful just like the man in a shopping centre car park who took it upon himself to help me park my van in a parking space that had no cars on either side of it. I thanked him politely of course, because he was being helpful, on account of the van being huge.

“Have you encountered helpful men on account of the van being huge too?” I asked my husband curiously. Strangely he hadn’t. He had encountered similar tailgating and having cars cut aggressively in front of him when he drove the teeny-tiny car, he admitted. But never the helpful nature of a builder, working locally, guiding him out of his driveway on to a quiet, obstacle-free road, or the kindly nature of a random man attempting to help him park in a half-empty car park. It’s bizarre.

I’ve learned lots driving a van over the years. Like the ramp up to the first floor in Tallaght hospital car park is no place for one. And that if you do find it a challenge to manoeuvre your van while comforting a child who’s dazed, confused and absolutely pumping blood from his head and face following a serious fall, some helpful men will blow their horns repeatedly at you, in motivation obviously. But there are always those who will read the situation as it should be read, hop from their car, tell you to ignore the beeps and offer a guiding dig out where it’s actually needed.

I just wish I could remember what type of car he drove.