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Story by Lois Grace

I said I had to see this with my own eyes to believe it. She said it'd never happen. I said Volkswagens would win her over eventually; she said our beloved little car couldn't hold a candle to anything she was used to driving. She repeated it would never happen. But it has: my older sister, the one who 'hates' Volkswagens, has been bitten by the Beetle-Loving Bug.

But don't ask her to admit it just yet, she's not ready. She's the sister who, upon seeing my own '69 Bug for the first time, smiled sweetly and said You're not going to drive THAT, are you??? (At the time, she drove an even smaller Toyota Celica) To her, Volkswagens were cheap, dangerous, unreliable little problems. She didn't seem to mind the looks of the Bug that much (I think she may even have told me once or twice that she thought they were cute), but she wasn't sucked in at first glance. She has held a Ralph-Naderlike prophet-of-doom attitude about the Bug all these many years. This may stem back to a certain '65 Bug her ex-husband insisted on buying, even though we could all plainly see that it was going to be a terrible Money Pit. In that instance, we were all correct (the poor abused Beetle reluctantly went on to another home) but this experience did nothing to strengthen Beetle Esteem for my sister. Don't get me wrong, she has nothing against rear-engined, air-cooled cars: she loves her 1965 Corvair Monza dearly. She's a BIG fan of the Corvair, so you'd think it would only be a small step to something similar, a Volkswagen. But for Janice, it was a giant leap, and it took her YEARS.

Riding in my VW sent Janice into Panic Mode. Where is the NOSE??, she'd wail, leaning forward in her seat and expecting to see a big flat snout sticking out, like her Toyota. I tried to reassure her that Bogie did indeed have a nose, but it was more of a cute little pug nose than an overblown Bob-Hope-style nose. Not to worry, it was out there, you just couldn't see it as readily. The fact that it WAS out there meant nothing to Janice - if she couldn't see it, how could it possibly be there?? GADS,this thing is noisy, she'd holler at me as we motored along. I'd remind her that the Corvair was noisy too (all noise being relative, of course) since it was air-cooled as well. Well, not like THIS, she'd say. She'd look under Bogie's hood and ask me to imagine what would happen if I suddenly hit something really hard up here! There's nothing here!! I don't often think of hitting anything really hard with any of my cars, and when she'd talk like this I'd offer my standard flip reply: It wouldn't matter what I was in, if I'm hit by a TRAIN I'll still be just as dead. Comforting thought. I always thought it was odd that she thought of her little peanut-shaped Celica as so utterly, reassuringly safe, while my slightly larger-looking Beetle was a rolling Death Trap. It now seems as if Janice has changed her mind about all this.

This Bug that won her over isn't hers. It belongs to my 16-year-old niece, Natalie. Natalie doesn't have her license yet and isn't even driving on a permit at the moment, but the car was bought as Natalie's future wheels. Nats had her heart set on a VW (smart girl, she takes after her Auntie Lo), and started out with visions of a Squareback in mind. After considering the Squareback for a while, she changed her mind and thought it would be fun to have a Bug. Natalie and her mother read the ads in the papers for weeks, looking for candidates. I got a few phone calls from my sister, asking advice on this or that. At Janice's request, I made up a Bug-Buying List to assist them in the purchase - you know, things to look out for and things to check. Janice seemed more into this Bug-Buying thing that Natalie was.

I don't know if my sister tried to talk her youngest daughter out of buying a VW or not - after all, Natalie's older sister followed family tradition (Janice's family anyway) and bought herself a '77 Celica. My sister had had two of them and Sarah wanted one. But Natalie was different. Her friends drove VW's, cool guys she knew drove VW's, and I drove a VW. She's known my Bogie since she was a baby, so maybe something stuck there. I don't know. Her Beetle came home a couple weeks ago, and since then, nothing has been the same in Janice's house.

Natalie's Bug is a '74 Special Edition Gold Sun Bug. This means - as I've recently learned - it came with a special metallic gold paint and a sunroof and other goodies such as corduroy interior and a happy little smiley face emblem on the decklid. Natalie has said this car will be a CAR - no names, please. What she doesn't realize is that as soon as she starts driving it, this car will name ITSELF. Cars in our family tend to do that, even though she has a running bet ( for $5) with Uncle Rob that within a year, that car will have a name. I have a hunch Uncle Rob will have to pay up. But she doesn't know that she has no control over this phenomenon and be it male or female, her Bug WILL have a name and she will be calling it by that name before she knows it. The Beetle's grandma, our mother, has dubbed it Edgar - the first thing she thought of was Edgar Allan Poe's story 'The Gold Bug'. Edgar, as my mother calls him, seems like a nice car to me. For now, though, it remains merely The Bug to most of us, my sister included.

The really funny part of all this is that since Natalie can't drive it yet, Janice has taken what seem to be a limited fancy to it. Or, if you listen to HER it's a limited fancy. Her actions speak much louder than her words, and it's plain to see that Bug Love is at work here. The night they brought it over for me to see, Janice popped out from behind the wheel saying, This thing is SO CLAUSTROPHOBIC!! I can't stand it! (meaning, of course, this is so compact and tiny it's adorable!!) Rob and I nodded sagely, knowing that before long, the little gold Beetle would have won her over without her even knowing. We can see it happening, as the days go by, and Janice doesn't even have a clue. A few days later, my sister called me for something else - I can't quite remember what it was, just that she needed advice - and commented on how fast the car was. You know, it really moves! I'm surprised, it seems to run well, and it can really get up and go. This, from a woman who was used to 6 cylinders of air-cooled fun in her Corvair, with 4 1-barrel Weber carbs and 140 horsepower to boot.

The Corvair was no slouch in the get-up-and-go department, so for Janice to say that this Bug seems peppy is quite a compliment. I made another mental note of this attitude adjustment and tried not to gloat. As the week drew to a close, she called me again to ask for my mechanic's number, because there were a few things that she really wanted to get taken care of as soon as possible. I said 'HUH YOU' (whenever her Nissan Maxima needs a repair, it's cause for much rolling of the eyes and howling about how expensive it's going to be, and here she is actually EAGER to make an appointment for the Beetle) The brakes were almost nonexistent and the car had an obnoxious smell of gasoline whenever she fills it up. FILLS IT UP?? You mean, she's taken it to the gas station?? That would involve driving it..............which would mean......................SHE DROVE IT!!! I held my tongue, I didn't make a big deal out of this but was secretly amused (and amazed) that, without even trying, The Gold Bug had gotten to Janice. When I asked her about this phenomenon, my sister insisted that it's not love yet, it's only infatuation - but we all know where that can lead.

Since the day the Bug came home, phone calls between us having been flying thick and fast. She has a renewed interest in all things (VW) mechanical. Do you think it's dangerous to drive the car with that gas stink in there? I think I should get these brakes done really, really soon. I told Natalie we should get The Bug a cover, since it has to live outside. When I asked her about the bath towel over the rear seat, she grinned and said OH, that. I put that up there to protect that beautiful new upholstery. To date, she's had the title transferred and the brakes adjusted so the car is more drivable and safe. She has an appointment to have the shift lever bushing replaced. She thought the sunroof was really nifty until the day she got in just to go to Safeway for a moment and a spider hung down into her face. Sunroofs, after that moment, were not something she cares to have in any of her OWN cars, thank you. But I think she really LIKES this car. She'll take it to the store or to pick up one of the kids, because it's already outside and I don't have to uncover it to go. I think it's because she LIKES it. She has allowed that it's fun to drive and the reason it's fun to drive?? It's DIFFERENT.

Janice, that's something we've all known for a long, long time! WELCOME, SIS!!


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