a group of men and women together
and you will have that group eventually
talking about driving styles and stories.
Horror and comedy stories. It
doesn't matter how normal these people
are, it just happens. If its
a party, sometimes the people that
arrive together will even depart together
after one of these conversations,
but not always. The men always
love to criticize the women and the
women always want to nag the men.
My point here is, of course, that
one of the other of the sexes will
begin to criticize the other, usually
just in fun at first and for the amusement
of the crowd, then going for that
shot to the heart as the talk continues.
It finally ends with neither party
speaking to the other for the remainder
of the evening. Do you know
this feeling? I have experienced
it myself, before I learned the fine
art of not chewing endlessly on my
foot, once it was safely inserted
into my mouth. I mean, there
is only so much you can get away with,
and past that point you are asking
for a nice funeral and a decent burial.
is another story. He is my '69
Bug and I bought him in 1974.
He was my very first, very own car.
My dad still owned Vernon then, so he
was not yet mine. But Bogie was.
I try to keep my driving down to manageable
limits when I am driving him, which
is most of the time. He was the
car I relied on to get me where I needed
to go, every day, till I bought my GTi His
each and every need is carefully attended
to, and the guys in the shop know him
by name. He has rewarded me with
years of faithful, reliable service
and I wouldn't trade him in for anything.
I said I try to keep my driving in him
reasonable. I don't always succeed,
as evidenced by that speeding ticket.
But it is sometimes hard not to appreciate
how nimble he is around turns, how he
stops on a dime, how easy he is to park.
His slight lack of horsepower is easily
forgiven (and I gave him more with a
new engine not too long ago). After
all, Volkswagen made him this way for
a reason, and Volkswagen reasons are
usually the best ones of all.
Like Mother Nature, do not fool with
them. Besides, if I had more horsepower,
I'd just get more tickets. With
any luck it'll be another 17 years before
the next one. Regarding horsepower,
one cannot miss what one has never had,
right? Can they? RIGHT?
My husband seems like he is constantly
berating me for my driving.
By the way, in case you fear for my
future safety, I have had the presence
of mind to obtain his permission for
all that you are about to hear.
It is all try, I swear it, and really
happened to me. He usually drives
almost everywhere we go. This is usually
because he is too afraid top ride
with me. Never mind that I have driven
without incident for almost 17 years.
Also, my dad was of the Listen-To-Me-Or-You-Will-Die
school of driving. He, not my
mother took my siblings and I out
and taught us the fine art of driving.
And a good thing too, as his methods
have saved me many a time from a perilous
situation. He impressed upon
me that driving is indeed a privilege,
and not one to be taken lightly.
Our driving lessons would turn this
perfectly normal, kind man into your
worst nightmare. Then, once
home, Dr. Jekyll magically disappeared
and Mr. Dad returned. But my
husband cannot seem to see all this
fine training that made me what I
am today - a most skilled driver.
He sees me only as The Person Who
If he is unlucky enough to be a passenger
with me, he is either constantly white-knuckling
it on the edges of my seats, or grabbing
hysterically for the chicken handle.
He shouts Slow down!! and various
other obscenities at me while I am
driving. His feet stomp the
floorboards, searching for imaginary
brakes to stop the car. Doesn't
he KNOW its not supposed to have brakes
on that side? It's a left-hand
drive! Funny, but he keeps forgetting
this. Sometimes one of his hands will
let go of the handle long enough to
shield his disbelieving eyes from
the carnage he is sure is about to
happen. Not being terribly brave
myself, I keep peering at him to see
what it is that I am missing, but
I never see anything. Whatever scares
him is always gone by the time I look.
Why would he do this?
He says I take chances and drive too
fast. I say I'm alert and skilled.
He's had three tickets and a couple
of fender-benders. I've had
one accident. He almost killed
his '68 Beetle, Humphrey, three days
after he bought it. I say that's
ground for tarring and feathering.
He backs into poles. I bump
the curb now and then. Sure,
I drive like Danny Sullivan, but he
drives like Mr. Magoo! He makes
me crazy, plodding along and getting
in everyone's way. He signals
4 miles before his turn. By
the time he actually MAKES the turn,
the drivers behind him think he's
fooling. His poor Beetle went
on after that first accident to live
with him for another 14 years, enduring
all sorts of abuse before we sold
it to someone who restored it.
At one point this car looked so bad
that when my husband was stopped for
speeding (again), the cop actually
asked him if he had a job. Yes,
this is true, I swear. Perhaps
I shouldn't be so hard on him though.
This WAS a long time ago. Do old habits
really die hard? I hope not.
How much of this can be attributed
to chance? It is a tribute to
my skill that I have escaped for 17
years with only one speeding ticket
and an accident that wasn't my fault?
Am I making excuses? Maybe.
In one expose I told of getting nabbed
for speeding. This really upset me.
My husband giggled a little that night
when I told him about it. Yes, giggled.
It was not a pretty sound. Well,
he said, they FINALLY got you, and
he giggled again. A grown man,
giggling! Imagine! I think
he was actually pleased! I mean,
why didn't he just call the police
and tell them he lived with a speeder
and could they please come out and
give her a ticket? Really.
I do drive fast, I admit it. Not unsafely,
just fast. There is a vast difference.
You may be a slow driver, but it doesn't
make you a safe driver. Safe
drivers only happen when they are
fully aware of everything going on
around them. It amazes me constantly
to observe how many folks simply get
into their cars, start the engine,
and then point the car in the direction
they want to go. They GO, and
once there, they turn around and do
it all again to get back. I'm
not talking men or women here; I'm
talking bad drivers. My husband and
I get into trouble here when he tries
to lump me into this category by calling
me a bad driver. See the difference?
Opinions may differ, but I have never
forgotten what it felt like that night
in 1973 when Vernon and I were T-boned
by that Oldsmobile. Lost your
concentration for just an instant,
and you may kill yourself or your
I wish I could say I am the best driver
I know but I admit I am selective.
My driving depends on WHAT I'm driving.
If I'm in Vernon, it's as if an overfilled
fish tank is riding on the seat beside
me. I grit my teeth over every bump,
and maintain an entire zip code between
me and the other cars. I brake
carefully, and come to a stop S-L-O-W-L-Y.
Corners are done with smoothness and
while barely rolling. For those
of you not familiar with the heady
pleasure of driving these old Type
IIs, they are not know for their cornering
ability. Picture in your mind's eye
trying to pilot your backyard tool
shed safely around a corner at high
speed, and you have the idea.
Vernon tries to be accommodating,
he really does, but a guy has to work
with what Volkswagen gave him. And
the freeway? We don't even like
to think about this one. Top
speed here is about 50MPH, and his
gear ratio is such that he sounds
a lot like your mother's Mix Master,
running amuck. Yes, the whine
that ensues from the rear end scares
away wildlife and leaves passengers
deaf for the remainder of the day.
Nothing wrong here, mind you, it's
just the way he was born. He
is, alas, not what one could call
a Road Machine.
But put me behind the wheel of our
Saab, and I became a Monster.
Yes, mild-mannered optician by day,
and The Road Warrior while driving
this car. It didn't have such
remarkable horsepower or performance;
it was just a bit faster than what
I was used to and a whole bunch sportier.
I should hide my head in shame whenever
I behave this way, but I always get
carried away, and besides, that would
make it terribly difficult to see
where I was going. Anyway, I
think (although he denies it) that
my husband got down on hands and knees
daily to give thanks that this car
was not a Turbo. (I had looked
into ADDING it though) I was
forever trying to make it behave as
if it were. Only four cylinders, like
my beloved VWs, but whatta difference!
Front wheel drive, power-assisted
4-wheel disc brakes, and a build like
Arnold Schwartzenegger. Yes,
I almost named this car Sherman because
of his tank-like construction.
All this was hidden under a suave,
handsome, dignified exterior - which
I loved to an alarming degree (I have
since found that people either love
Saabs or hate them, and I LOVED this
one). On the highway in this
car, I was happily cruising along,
wondering why everyone else was slogging
along at a snail's pace. I passed
cars right and left, and glanced down
at my speedo to find..................WHOOPS!
Much to my horror and delight, I was
seeing 85MPH! The trip from
San Jose to Los Angeles (where all
those great VW meets are) was merely
the blink of an eye, as this car would
cruise all day at 80 without a whimper.
Smooth sailing while riding
in quiet, cushioned, stylish comfort.
Besides all of this, the Saab had
The Look. The Look is a yuppie's
dream - Snooty European Road Machine.
People got out of your way when they
saw you coming. Most of the
time. Could be too because they
were afraid you'd simply go over the
top of them if they didn't, and dang!
That car was heavy.