Thursday, July 14, 2011

What I’ve learned about myself from my VW Beetle

Back in the old days, I drove Beetles and always loved them. They were so simple and uncomplicated. In my first call, while I was living in North Dakota, I had one with a propane heater. Despite the harsh winters, it was always toasty inside the car. Sort of like fishing in an icehouse, though. The bottom had rusted out in the backseat and there was always a puddle of water on the floor, so all winter you sat there with your feet on a cake of ice. Then, once the spring thaw set in, it was like a day at the beach. Every time the car stopped, a little wave would come sloshing up to the front seat. To keep your feet from getting soaked you would have to lift them for a moment and wait for the water to roll once again to the backseat. Now, I ask you, when have you simulated the experience of fishing in an ice house and wading in the waves along the beach all in the same vehicle?

While I was going through my child-raising years, I drove more practical cars: safe, boxy things with four wheels and no personality. But then, as timing would have it, shortly after my nest became empty and I became single again, the New Beetle came out. A coincidence? I think not.

As soon as I saw them I was hankering to have one of my own. They were just so darn cute I that I couldn’t stand it. I know nothing about things like engines. But cute is very important to me. (If you’ve seen my house or my dog, you know cute has become something of a lifestyle choice for me. I cannot resist cute. Yeah, this would be true for men as well, but that’s another blog.) So, yes, I bought the Beetle because it was cute. But I soon learned it wasn’t like the old Beetle. Specifically, it wasn’t simple and uncomplicated. And a particular disappointment to me was the horn. No sweet baby beep-beep! It just sounds like an ordinary, run-of-the-mill horn. Boring! (I didn’t even think to try it out on my test drive.) Still, the New Beetle had the cute factor going for it, and cute covers a multitude of sins.

The times I have enjoyed most with my New Beetle have been the gotcha moments related to space. It's like a little truck inside. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to pick something up at Home Depot, or a furniture store and had some guy bring the item to my car and look at me in disbelief, like I’m the craziest woman in the world, telling me, “That’s not gonna fit in your car.” And I’ll just smile and say, “You’re probably right, but just humor me.” And sure enough, it fits. Stuff you wouldn’t believe. Only one time did this fail me. It was a nine foot ladder. We put the front seat down and placed it in the car diagonally with the top of the ladder wedged up on the dashboard. I had used my “humor me” speech on this guy. So, he slammed the back hatch down, and the ladder went through the front windshield. No, it wasn’t fail-safe. But it worked often enough that I’ve had the pleasure on numerous occasions of proving a man wrong. And that’s always good for me.

Lately, I’m having some wear and tear issues with my Beetle. The latch on the flap for my gas tank is busted, so I don't want to close it. Every once in a while someone passes by my car and thinks they’re doing me a favor by pushing it in and then I have to use a crow bar to open it the next time I need gas. This often happens when it’s parked at the church. I’ve thought about putting a post-it on it that says, “Please don’t help me!” Why do people in church parking lots feel so compelled to be helpful?

Now that we’re in the hot season, another problem comes up. I have this beeping brake thingy that always goes haywire when it’s unbearably hot, which is the entire freaking summer in North Carolina. So, it’s over a hundred degrees out and I’m driving around town with this obnoxious little alarm constantly going off. After trying to have it fixed a couple of times, I’ve given up hope, and try to live with it. But if you ever pass me by during the summer and hear random screaming (or worse) coming from my car, that’s why. It’s not road rage. It’s *bleeping* beeping insanity!

This morning the car got the best of me again, when I flipped up the cover to the mirror on my sun visor, and it fell off. Apparently, I spend so much time primping in the car that I wore the hinges off it. Unfortunately, when the mirror isn’t closed, the interior light comes on, so I had to wedge it back and quickly fold the visor up to hold it in place. But then I found that I was constantly pulling the visor down and flipping the mirror up, reflexively, without even thinking about it. I couldn’t stop myself. I guess I really have a primping problem. Of course, every time I do this, the cover to the mirror ends up in my hand and I can’t turn the light off. I don’t need to tell you that messing with this the whole time you’re driving can impede one's effectiveness on the road. So, I sealed the mirror cover to my visor with a huge piece of duct tape. Now I primp in the rear view mirror like I used to in the old Beetle.

It probably goes without saying that there are other things wrong with this car. It leaks oil. I can’t lock it anymore. It’s going to need something majorly done with the heating system before winter because it has that funny sickening sweet smell that a guy who knows about these things tells me isn’t a good thing. Oh, the list could go on and on. But the thing is, it’s paid for, and I can’t think of any car I’d rather have than a car that’s paid for. So, I’m going to try to get about 100,000 more miles out of it.

But beyond all that, how could I part with a car that has taught me so much about myself through the years?: my irrational weakness for cuteness, the sense of superiority I feel when I prove a man wrong, my disdain for people who insist on helping me, the limits to my tolerance, my perpetual primping.

Oh, my! This car hasn’t exactly brought out the best in me, has it? Is it possible to have a dysfunctional relationship with your car? I wonder if there's counseling for this sort of thing.

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