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Live Free or Die

The tale of a blue bug and some Def Leppard tapes

One of my favorite things is hundreds of miles away and it’s driving me nuts.Oh, my car, how I miss thee.

I’m not rich. Because I am a California native, buying insurance for my car to be down at school costs slightly less than paying off the national debt. I envy those out-of-staters who insure their car in another state and never seem to get around to telling the insurance companies, “Hey, I’m going to school in California… Yeah.”

What’s the point of being insured out of state? If you get into an accident, how do you explain your car being across the country?

My car rules. It’s not an expensive car and it’s not flashy. In fact, it is quite probably the car most ideally suited to me.

The automobile in question is a sky blue 1975 Volkswagen Super Beetle convertible. By “sky blue” I think the designers envisioned the sky over Germany, because the sky on the West Coast is more of a weak tea.

My mom is the original owner of the car. She bought it when Volkswagen declared that 1975 would be the last year the company would manufacture the Beetle. Volkswagen promptly discontinued the line in 1978.

After I was born, my parents brought me home from the hospital in the “Bug,” as most Volkswagen owners call their cars. I think they brought my brother home in the Bug also, but it doesn’t matter to me. My brother factors right in between mold and thank-you notes.

As I grew up, I told my parents repeatedly that I wanted to drive the Bug. That’s all I looked forward to as an adolescent–cruising around in the VW with the top down, listening to Def Leppard or any of the other numerous glam rock bands of the `80s.

Finally, on my 16th birthday, my dreams of driving were realized. So what did I do? I drove a four-door family car for over a year. I was too afraid to drive stick.

One day I got sick of the lack of thrill I received from driving a car that my mother liked to drive and told my parents, “I’m gonna drive the VW, okay?”

Their response, verbatim: “You can’t drive stick.”

I went out to the garage, got in the car, pushed the clutch in and turned the power on. I knew how to do that much. My parents looked unimpressed.

Slowly and surely, I put the car in reverse and eased it down the driveway. I gave a knowing look at my parents, confident that I had again proven they knew nothing about me. Then the car died. A few months later, the engine caught on fire while I was driving down the freeway.

I still love the car, however. It’s in almost mint condition thanks to my mom, who won’t let anything happen to her blue baby. And I get to pop Def Leppard into the deck, much to the chagrin of just about everybody on the planet.