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Story by Lois Grace

Boy am I a lucky girl. I have a 1963 red Convertible Beetle, my dream house on my own island, enough shoes to make Imelda Marcos jealous, and I go dancing at clubs every night with a different handsome guy. Or the same handsome guy. Add unlimited shopping to this intoxicating combo and you'll think I've got the perfect life. Yup, I'm so lucky that sometimes I have to pinch myself to see if it's real! That's when I remember it's not: no, this isn't my Real Life, it's my Second Life.

Second Life started in 2003, brainstormed by a guy who had long dreamed of a virtual world. He formed Linden Lab in 1999, and the interactive Second Life was born. Through a free program you download from the Internet, you create and name an avatar (or character) and then live in a computer-generated world complete with business, real estate and jobs. Second Life has its own currency, known as Lindens, which may be earned by working a job, or camping (which is nothing more than sitting around doing nothing for a certain dollar amount per minute). You can also buy Lindens, through PayPal or your credit card account, and the money goes directly into your Second Life bank account. You don't actually need money in Second Life though, anything you need there (like clothing!) is readily available for free, including housing. But if you are like me, you enjoy the finer things in life and all those come with a price. So having a job or camping a lot makes sense if you want to spend. Communication in world is done through Chat, where you type into the chat bar what you want to say and it goes out to everyone within a certain range. Or, you can talk via Instant Message, where you send a message privately to another resident. Each resident has a profile, and that allows you to tell other residents as much or as little about yourself as you like, including Real Life or Second Life photos. My avatar happens to look a bit like the RL me, but they don't have to - you can be any gender or species you like......even an animal. I was once bumped into by the KoolAid man. If you need to go somewhere, say, a different sim to look at something, you can teleport. Click TP and it will dematerialize you from that location and rematerialize you at the new one. Oh, and did I mention you can FLY in Second Life? Yup, you click a button on the tool bar that says Fly, and your arms go out from your sides, one foot comes up and off you go. TOO COOL.

OK, if you have read this far it must be because you are either intrigued by all this or think it's so weird that you just have to find out how it ends. And before I tell you, let me get even weirder. Now, all this business is fine but it's no FUN unless you get personal relationships involved. And that seems to be the precise attraction of Second Life: the people. Second Life is worldwide, so you may be talking to a girl from Australia one moment, and a guy from Canada the next (like I was doing last night). I have met people from all over the world and right now have friends from Costa Rica, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Scotland and of course the USA. And when I'm not dancing or shopping or moving my house to the other side of my island, I explore. And one of the things I look for are Volkswagens. Of course in a world where I can fly I should have little use for a vintage VW, but you know me. I try to find them wherever I go.

During my first few days in Second Life I found several Buses, one of which had been converted to a Donut Shop (I know, huh?? but it was on a beach and I guess they thought it'd be a cool thing to sell donuts from). From what I could tell, two guys from Japan had built them and were selling them. For the mere sum of L$300 (about $1 actual US dollar) you could buy their Bus, and it would be delivered to your inventory list in a box. You drag that box from your inventory onto the ground, click OPEN, and presto! You've got yourself a Splitty Bus sitting in the spot where the box was. Again, TOO COOL. Imagine if things worked like this in Real Life. Well, since I had no use for a car in SL I didn't buy one and I think the place where I found them is now gone. Of course, the Bus I would have bought would have been only a virtual Bus and not anything tangible that I could have driven or even touched. But it was still cool to think about it being in my inventory.

The very first Second Life Volkswagen I found was a blue New Beetle. For FREE. So, of course I had to have it. It was a stylized version of the New Beetle, and a convertible, but still a nicely done version and I had fun learning how to fly it. Oh, yes, the New Beetle in SL flies. It got kinda tiring having it end up nose first in some sand dune somewhere so I left it in my inventory and teleported to where I wanted to go. After that I did the first search for VOLKSWAGEN and found the donut Bus. A few more weeks went by, and a friend found a car lot selling vintage autos. Sitting there on the asphalt was a gorgeous Red 1963 Beetle Cabrio. Of course I had to have it, and then I spent weeks learning how to drive it. It took me longer to master this Bug than it did to learn to drive a stick in Real Life. To drive this car, you set the chassis down on the ground and WEAR the body. Then, you sit in the driver's seat and off you go. While I have often felt like I am wearing my RL VW's when I drive them, it was an odd experience having a cabrio body ATTACHED to me.

Last week, I found another place with vintage Beetles. And, while Second Life seems populated by the old VW's, they are by no means the only VWs there. I stumbled upon a white Golf GTi in a shop on an island, built by someone from Brazil. Of course, since it was a VW AND a GTi, I had to have it so paid the price and downloaded it into my inventory. Once I got home I unpacked it from the box and, like the vintage Bug, BLAM! There was the GTi sitting on my beach! It drives in forward and reverse and turns on a dime. And, when you sit in the driver's seat (this one is right hand drive for some reason) the ignition growls and the engine charges to life. Realistic sound effects sure make it fun. The best part? This little gem was only L$59. Things change fast in SL when businesses start up or go away, so I am glad I bought these two when I saw them. If I ever find the Donut Bus again I'm gonna grab one of them also.

Oh, and how does all this end? Well, that's the thing: it doesn't! Like Real Life, it just goes on and on. Things change from day to day, businesses start up and have grand openings, some fail and go away......people marry and divorce......couples partner and separate.....babies are born and a few people disappear. But it continues. And, each time I search for one, I find a new Volkswagen somewhere in Second Life, like the place with the vintage models. Stay tuned, I'm sure it is still evolving.

**If you'd like to try living your Second Life, go to www.secondlife.com and download the free software that will allow you to connect to Second Life itself. Create your avatar (it's an easy, self-explanatory process) and you're off on the great adventure.**


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