Tracy K. Lorenz ...


The Beetle

I was sad to read that Volkswagen has decided to quit producing the Beetle. Of course they’ve done this before and waited a couple decades and started making them again, so who knows, it could be like the Eagle’s final concert once a year.

My experience with Volkswagen Beetles goes back one generation before the currents models which have, ya know, safety features and an actual engine. The original Beetles are looked at with much nostalgia. In the 60’s and 70’s they were “hippie” cars with flowers painted on them and surf boards strapped to the top of VW buses, but let’s face it, both the Beetle and the Bus were death waiting to happen. Other than looks there was absolutely not one redeemable quality about those cars.

Well, other than the fact you couldn’t kill them.

My friends who drove Beetles were, to a man, lunatics. I think it’s because driving a Beetle was like driving a go-cart, you knew if you hit anything, including a squirrel, you were going to get the bad end of the deal. I’ve actually been two-tracking in a Beetle which is much like hopping into a clothes dryer with a bunch of free-range rocks.  For one thing, the interior was just metal and seats, and the seats were, basically, lawn chairs minus the comfort. I believe the fabric was made of asbestos, C4, and Roundup. Germans aren’t real big on creature comforts but they went above and beyond with the Beetle interior, if you sat in the seat of a Beetle you dreamed of the luxury afforded by a wooden church pew.

But I’ll make this simple: all my VW Beetle experiences can be summed up in one ski trip.

My friend Bill Roberts had a Beetle and we decided to take it skiing up to Caberfae and all that stood between us and the slopes was a hundred miles of black ice.  There were four of us in that car PLUS all of our skis, boots and poles. Have you ever seen a magician put his assistant in a box and then shove swords through the box?  That’s what the inside of that car looked like.  There’s a special feeling you get when you’re flying down a highway in a car with no shock absorbers while the sharp edge of a ski is pressed against your neck.

Did I mention that the “heater” in a Beetle was like having a kitten breathe on you? Within one minute the interior of the cars windows were covered in a thin layer of ice and Bill, the driver, had to look through a  port-hole he created with his mitten.

Anyway, somewhere around Ludington, while driving in a perfectly straight line, the car just started spinning, perfect circles like loop de loop de loop, and then it found traction and continued straight as if nothing happened. Have you ever had a dog that’s just laying there and then suddenly it gets up and runs around like a maniac for a few seconds and then lays right back down? It was like that.

So we get done skiing and we have to drive home only now it’s dark and the Beetle’s headlights were nowhere near as powerful as the flashlight on your phone. And, once again, the dog started spinning – only this time we ended up off the road buried in snow in the middle of nowhere. The excitement of the moment caused a guy in the back seat to throw up into a bag of pretzels. That little tidbit is what we call “foreshadowing.”

Once it was determined we were all alive it was also determined that we weren’t getting out of the snow we were in and the chances were good we’d be in that car until someone found us, possibly in the spring. After an hour we started discussing which of us would be eaten first, each of us stated our case until it was decided we’d eat Bill first because he was the one who didn’t know how to drive.

The only one not starving was Scott, the pretzel barfer, because he had started to eat the pretzels that didn’t have barf on them.

Hours passed until a guy in a 4 x 4 spotted us and pulled us out with a tow strap. As I watched the strap tighten I was sure the car would just disintegrate as if made of Legos.

But it didn’t. Eventually we made it home and from that moment on whenever Scott got lippy we’d mention the pretzel incident and he’d get real quiet real quick. There are some things you just can’t live down.

And that, in a nutshell, describes my Beetle experiences, and that, in a nutshell, is why I never owned one. I guess there was just something about driving around in a tuna can with no heat that just sort of ... bugged me.

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