Car, Man, Ghia

10 Jun

I took in my vehicle to be serviced this morning, trying to get it ready for a long trip at the end of this month. It’s bad enough I know next to nothing about cars in general (I can only change tires), but I am completely ignorant and baffled when it comes to my own, 21st Century machine. I popped the hood literally, and I mean this, twice in my 2 1/2 years of driving this thing. The first time I spied the engine, it looked like a living, pulsating brain floating in formaldehyde. It was intimidating. I was able to identify where the oil goes, and the windshield wiper fluid container. And then I closed the hood and called it a day. It’s all right, you can laugh. My masculinity is not threatened by this admission. I also suck at operating electronics (especially figuring out remote controls), assembling furniture or putting bikes together, driving a nail straight into a wall, cutting the lawn, and undertaking any other small, various remodeling or re-wiring projects. My interest in machines stops at coffeemakers, I loathe motorcycles (although gimme a Vespa and I’m happy…but only in Italia), I am not too fond of beer (too much work for too little effect), and I no longer invest my time in watching sports on television–unless you count streaming the Euro ’08 tourney live (go Romania! “if we cannot win with talent, we’ll bore the opponents into nil-nil ties”) on my computer.

So then…back to the car. I drove it into the dealer at 0700 this morning to basically get an oil change and a refill on windshield wiper fluid, as well as tire rotation/balance for a grand total of $145. Yes, true it only takes synthetic oil, but still. I have been and continue to be shafted. But while waiting in the pristine showroom for these “mechanics” (I say that because all of them wear white doctor’s coats in the giant, obsessively clean, hangar-sized garage) to finish, I decided to stroll around and I came upon a re-built, re-furbished baby similar to the one in the photo up top. A 1963 Beetle! They also had a restored Thing, which was actually for sale. The Beetle wasn’t. A parasitical salesman engaged me in some useless VW banter, I suppose trying to relieve the boredom of the early morning. I was the only person there, so I couldn’t avoid him, like I usually do with over-friendly, solicitating southerners.
–Ain’t she a beaut?
–Mhm.
–Sixty-three Beetle.
–Yeh?
–Yyup. Don’t make them like that no more.
–Nah.
–The Thing’s fer sale, you know.
–Oh yeh?
–Yeah. This one ain’t, though.
–Nice. The Thing, I mean.
–Ain’t she?
–Yeh.
–Them new bugs are somethin’ else too, though.
–Oh yeh?
–For sure. Nothin’ like the old one.
–Nah, heh?
–I mean you got your ABS, side air bags, uni-bodies…
–Yeh, heh?
–Engine’s in the front now…
–Oh yeh?
–Yea.
–Nice.
–Yup. So…you ever drive one?
–Old Bug?
–No, the new.
–Nah.
–But you drove an old Bug?
–Yeh.
–Oh yea?
–Yeh.
–You had one?
–Nah. Just drove one. Had a Karmannghia, though.
–Did you really?
–Mhm. Orange.
–Oh wow. What’d you do with it?
–I don’t remember.
(pause)
–I was young, you know.
–Yea. You really don’t remember?
–Not just now. I may have donated it to someone.
–Oh wow, you shoonve done that. They worth a lot of money now.
–Yeh. Oh well…
–Where’d you drive the old Bug?
–Oh you know, here and there.
–Yea, I gotcha. I had one when I was young, back in the mountains of Kentucky.
–Yeh, heh?
–Oh yea.
–It ran OK in the mountains? In the winters?
–Oh yea.
–Nice.
–Oh definitely.
–I remember, we had them back in my country, too. If you owned one, you were really something. Usually the cars were shit back there. Bunch of Dacias and Trabants. You know, made by the East Germans.
–Ah. What country did you say? East Germans?
–Romania. The East Germans made the Trabants.
–Ah yea. Yea. Romania. And now, now that’s where…North Africa abouts?
–Close. Europe.
–Ah, yea, yea.
–Eastern Europe.
–Sure, sure. And so…
–Yeh. If you owned a Bug in Romania….
–Oh yea, you were The Man.
–Yeh.
–Yea, sure, sure. So now, how long you been here? Few years?
–Yeh. Twenty-eight.
–Ah. Sure, sure. You speak English really good.
–Yeh, well…I’ve had some time, you know, to learn it.
–Oh yea definitely. Well. It shows. Yea, for sure…and how old were you when you lived in, uh…
–Romania.
–Yea.
–I came here when I was almost eleven.
–Ah, sure. And, uh…sure, sure. And you remember what it was like back there?
–Yeh. I was almost eleven when I left.
–Right. Yea. Interesting. Boy, you must’ve really been someone if you had a Beetle, right? I mean…shoot…that country…
–Yeh. That’s what I said.
–Riiiight. Man, that must’ve been somethin’ heh?
–Yeh. What? What must’ve been something?
–You know…the, uh…
–Oh yeh. Definitely.
–Yea. Hahahahahahahaha.
–Yeh, well…
–That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Hahahahaha….
–Oh, I know what you’re saying.
–Yyup, hahahahahahaha.
–Hahahahahahaha.
–Hahahahahaha.

And so it went for another excruciating minute before some MusikNonstopEuroTechnopop car doktor in his white coat came out with paperwork for me to sign and get me on my merry way. This is the price, in addition to the C-note and a half, I have to pay every five thousand miles for my ignorance of the internal-combustion engine. This and an hour of my life. Every few months. Year after lousy year.

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3 Responses to “Car, Man, Ghia”

  1. daydreams&dandelions 11/06/2008 at 1:20 AM #

    My first car was a red 1970 Beetle. It was in pretty good shape, but for a long time we had to slap a bungee cord on the shifter to hold it into gear. It would pop right out of gear, but the bungee worked just fine. The hood in front wouldn’t stay down, either, so bungee cord. :)

    Romania, near Africa. Yes. That’s right. I’m terrible at geography but at least I get Europe right, mostly.

    Sorry you endured that conversation. Maybe you should have pretended you couldn’t speak English or something.

    I need to get my brakes done on my car; I can tell. So I’m getting ready to be fleeced by the dealer soon.

  2. J.A. 11/06/2008 at 2:39 AM #

    There is this Mexican comedian with a joke about how men are supposed to open the hood and immediately identify what’s the problem with the car. He would then say: “I was waiting to see some signal or an arrow pointing to the problem or some part of the car talking to me saying ‘I am the problem, stupid'”. I also know that feeling.

    I know this is coming to an end, but; is there anybody out there that never got to drive a Beetle?

  3. (S)wine 11/06/2008 at 4:49 PM #

    daydreams, some Trabants in Romania, I swear were made out of cardboard, or something similar to drywall but not as strong. gotta love the East Germans! i never owned an old Beetle; the new ones are cute but they seem to be more for women, somehow. i think one day if i ever have any leftover funds, i might try to look into buying an old, refurbished Bug. but our next car is definitely a Smartcar, i know that for sure.

    J.A. i have plenty of friends my generation who never got to drive one. so sad, really. there’s nothing like an air-cooled engine to keep you cold as shit in the winter and hot as hell in the summer. by the way, in 1985 driving from Mexico City to Veracruz, i passed the large VW factory in Puebla. pretty cool!

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