By Tim Hayes
It will not surprise anyone who has known me more than 15 minutes to hear that things don’t always follow the well-worn path in my life.
This held true when I turned 16, and had no inclination to get my driver’s license. Our home was in the city, where nothing we really needed to get, or to get to, was that far away. Plus, all of my friends in high school drove, so I remained happily passengering all the way through graduation and even into the first year of college.
Then, during that freshman year, I met…Her. And suddenly, the need to drive a car shot up exponentially. You can only ride two buses clear across town so many times before the whole scenario starts to grate on everyone’s nerves. So, after taking driving lessons and studying my little book from the state Transportation Department, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania deemed that I could indeed safely traverse its highways as a licensed driver.
Next came the problem of getting my hands on a car. Because, again, one can only expect to beg for the family wheels so many times before the situation becomes untenable. So, armed ironically with funds awarded years earlier from an insurance settlement after I had been HIT by a car, I went car shopping with my Dad and the Dad of Her.
We settled on a 1974 bright orange Volkswagen Super Beetle. My first car. Guys, you know this feeling. You hand over the dough, climb into the driver’s seat, and something changes. Something big. Geological plates shift beneath you. Titanic tumblers click into place, grand new vistas open up before you, and the world is somehow reborn. You finally have your own car, which means freedom and fun and privacy.
Brakes, tires, insurance, gas? Yeah, that all comes later, Killjoy. But would you please let me and my blog buddies savor the memory of this once-in-a-lifetime moment? I mean, honestly, would that kill you?
Anyway, my Super Beetle and I soon became inseparable. Finding places to park it along streets in college, rather than paying the outrageous rates for an official on-campus sticker, became a nightly adventure. Tooling around on story assignments, first for the student newspaper then for the town’s paper my senior year. And, mostly, taking Her on dates, just hanging around together at school, and getting from my house to Hers on college breaks and vacations.
Not that everything about my Super Beetle was peaches and cream, though. The heater never really worked great. On many a bitter morning or evening, I could be seen (and heard, shouting colorful euphemisms) scraping ice off of the INSIDE of the windshield. The car had countless idiosyncrasies and quirks, too, but as guys everywhere also can attest, those only make your first car more special.
The Super Beetle’s finest hour, though, came late on the morning of Saturday, July 10, 1982, the day I married Her. Everyone – family and those in the wedding party – had stayed in a hotel in our college town the night before, as the wedding was to occur at our campus church. One by one they left for the service, leaving only me and my best man.
The vehicle had been acting up a little the week prior, and I wasn’t 100% confident we’d make it to the church that morning. As if I weren’t nervous and excited enough, right? But we got in, I took a deep breath, sent a quick prayer skyward, turned the ignition – and smiled. The Super Beetle then completed its most important trip ever.
Later, as the wedding began and I saw Her coming up the aisle, titanic tumblers again clicked into place, grand new vistas opened up before me, and the world was once more, somehow, reborn.
Copyright 2014 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting