2009-05-23 / News

Lighten up: Maybe Grandpa was right

By Dawn Weber

She was smokin' hot, but not in a good way.

Her interior heater-fan spewed blue smoke and toxic electrical fumes. I tried to figure out how to make it across three lanes of Columbus rush hour traffic while maintaining bladder control.

Holy crap, my car was on fire.

The stuff of nightmares, it's something you think can never happen to you. Of course the flames engulfed our best car - a '99 Volkswagen New Beetle. My pride and joy. Could our perpetually broken Ford Taurus catch on fire? No sir. The other car - my mommy-mobile? Nope. It could only happen to the cutest, bestrunning car I've ever owned.

I had no time for self-pity, though, because yellow flames began to shoot out of the vents. I crossed lanes and pulled to the berm by the I-70 Brice Road exit. Cussing like Archie Bunker on speed, I grabbed my purse, ipod and cell phone, and got the H. out of there.

As I waited (and waited and waited) for the fire department to arrive, I thought about the Bug's beginnings. My husband had bought it for me following the birth of our second child. He'd said he felt bad for putting me in that, um, position. And after 14 hours of labor to give birth to my son and his giant head, you can bet I told him he was right.

Some gals long for Mustangs, Beemers or Mercedes to calm their middle age crises. But I wanted a car that was small, round and slightly funny-looking, just like me. Something that would make people smile - a car that would remain perpetually perky and defy gravity, unlike my already southbound body.

Yep, we had some times, the Bug and I: driving my baby boy around, singing "Elmo's Song" at the top of our lungs, tucking my daughter and her various girlfriends into the backseat after practice, driving to work alone while singing Bruce Springsteen songs to the steering wheel and looking like a raving idiot.

My affection for Beetles began in the 70s. I waited all day just to catch a glimpse of our paper lady, Alice, and her silver 1970-something Bug. Those were the days of the real, original Beetles, with their engines stuffed in the trunk.

Alice's Beetle had muffler issues. I could hear her coming for miles, and aside from hearing 'Disco Duck' on the a.m. radio, seeing that car was the high point of my day. I ran bare-foot down the gravel driveway to catch a glimpse of that lady and her Bug.

With her platinum hair and big black sunglasses, she looked the same for 20-plus years - just like the Beetle itself. She'd stuff the paper in the orange Youngstown Vindicator box, and give me a wave.

My grandfather, a staunch WWII vet, called the vehicle "one of those German kraut cars" and always turned away. But to me, it seemed like a happy little car just doing its best.

Allstate Insurance Company pronounced my happy little bug dead that day - totaled. And lo, the angel of my grandpa appeared to me from above and said:

"That's what you get for buying a foreign car."

Well Grandpa, maybe you were right. Guess this is some kind of cosmic karma from the Big Three, even though we also own two Fords.

Passersby ogled my dead bug that day, snarling traffic and causing my situation to make the T100 traffic report. She was killed by something so tiny and mundane (interior-heater-fanthingie?) that I don't think it has a name. The engine and body are fine, and would probably have run another 124,000 miles, but the fire fried the dashboard and all-important electrical system.

She lies in a junkyard with the rest of the wrecks. The Pop Tart crumbs, the petrified french fries, the forgotten happy meal toys deep under the seats - these remain. I can only hope that, somewhere in her little kraut soul, she knows she will be missed.

Editor's Note: Dawn Weber is a Brownsville wife and mother of two pre-teens who commutes daily to Columbus for her fulltime job. Her new column will be appearing from time to time.

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