Getting life lessons from a VW Beetle

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By Kirsten Laskey

My car has transported me through many major phases in my life. When I bought the car, it was the first major purchase of my life and my initial step to independence.

Before acquiring it, my mother graciously loaned me her 1997 navy blue Volvo station wagon to drive to and from work. It had tan leather interior, a CD player and seat warmers.

The car I had in mind for myself was slightly less sophisticated, but what I considered to be uber trendy. I loved the VW Beetles – not the vintage ones with the engine in the back – but the new versions that were sleek, shiny and perfectly round. Picking out the car was no problem. The only thing really up for debate was the color.

My dad and I drove to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to purchase the vehicle. It was a fairly pleasant experience. As soon as I saw the black Beetle, I knew it was the one for me. Even the car dealer saw the joy; she drew happy faces on each of the transactions she gave me.

I walked out of the dealership $18,000 in debt but even though I just sold my soul to the company store, it didn’t feel like enslavement. It felt like freedom.

The interior of the car was filled with the fresh scent of new car cologne.  Nothing was stretched out, chipped or faded. There wasn’t a speck of dirt anywhere.

I was in such bliss to be the owner of this shiny, new possession that it didn’t bother me one bit that I missed the turn to head home, forcing my father and I to take a much longer and more scenic route.

I cranked up the radio and sang merrily to myself that this feeling of joy, this beginning step to becoming independent and an adult was worth all the financial requirements and new set of responsibilities that came with owning a car.

Apparently growing up also requires shouldering all the bumps that come along. I was aghast when I drove my car through its first rain storm, which resulted in it being dusted with a fine layer of clay silt. Plus, there was the day a strong wind directed a speeding shopping cart to careen into my car’s bumper. The result was a set of long, thin, gouges.

My car taught me a valuable lesson that day. You can take all the precautions – park the car in the very last spot in the no-man’s land section of a parking lot – and you are still not immune to trouble.

The VW Beetle took me to another major juncture in my life – I packed it to the brim and drove it from Tennessee to Colorado. The car moved me out of my parents’ house and away from a job in retail, to my very first rental and a job in journalism.

While neither lasted, the Beetle was there to help me move forward.

Again, the car brought to my attention another important message. Nothing is permanent in life, so the only thing to do is keep moving forward.

As I grew up so did the car. It has scratches from a scraggly thorn bush that grew beside the driveway of my first rental and clawed at my car every time I backed it out of the driveway.

It was dinked by hail this past summer and I noticed the backseat cup holder and a power outlet, which have never been used, have mysteriously popped open and refuse to shut.

Not only has its appearance changed, but the car’s behavior has experienced growing pains as well.  

For example, there was the time it fell ill. The transmission failed, necessitating several weeks at the VW service center in Santa Fe. Another time, the car fell asleep, meaning the battery died, and in an effort to install the new one, an employee at Auto Zone spent an extended amount of time trying to figure out the complicated jigsaw puzzle that is the innards of my car.

Sure, we are all prone to feeling ill or falling asleep at odd hours, but last week my car was just plain misbehaving.

The continued presence of snow had left my car looking muddy and streaked and the inside floor mats were coated with grit and gravel.

I took the vehicle to the car wash to spruce it up. With  all the scum and snow residue washed away, I pulled up alongside one of the vacuum bays to remove dirt from the floor mats.

It was then that my car decided to pull a prank on me. I got out of the car to get some change and the Beetle locked the doors with my keys inside. The roar of the vacuum had already begun, so I kissed that dollar goodbye.

In vain, I tugged on the handles on the two car doors, which didn’t do an ounce of good and studied the trunk, wondering if I could pop it open … somehow.

At last I resolved to call for reinforcements. I walked back to the office, called my mother who valiantly helped me into my apartment to retrieve a spare key and unlock the car door.

I’ve had the car  for seven years  and suddenly it decides to pull a fast one on me.

I guess there is another life lesson here as well.

Keep on your toes for whatever jumps out at you and  remember  that laughter is the best remedy for any awkward situation.