I could just imagine waking in my palatial estate with nothing to do but earn interest. I would go down to the garage and peruse my collection. Here are a few of the cars I would like to have in my possession.
- 2006 Subaru Baja
- 1982 DeLorean DMC-12
- 1973 Super Beetle
- 1977 Black TransAm
- 1958 Chevy Corvette Roadster
Now, you have to understand that I am not just your typical dreamer when it comes to owning cars. I have no interest in owning Mercedes and Porsches, BMWs or Ferraris; I have practical interests in cars. They are either from movies or just designs I thought pleasing. One may ask, "Other than being the wrong model for Herbie, The Love Bug, why the hell would you want a VW Super Beetle?" The answer is simple, childhood nostalgia. You see I spent 2 years of my adolescence riding around in a 1973 Super Beetle painted red with a black stripe and white interior. It belonged to a friend of mine in high school. That car represented the freedom I took for granted. The freedom to just get up, get in a car and just drive anywhere is paramount to being a teenager. There was no having to pack up a diaper bag, extra bottles, and clothes for a little one. There was no thinking that I had 12 things to do around the house before sunset of Sunday or I would have to wait until next weekend. There was a sense that I could just leave. I could get away and go have fun with my friends and not have to worry about bills or a job. This car got a lot of miles in a short time.
During the summer of 1991 I was just learning how to drive and did not have a permit as of yet. I relied on older friends to cart my ass around. That summer I spent a lot of time with a small circle of friends that didn't go to school with me. They attended a nearby high school and were met through another childhood friend. Scott, the owner of the car, couldn't have been 120 pounds soaking wet. He was very shy and introverted but on occasion he could get very wound up and hilarious. His parents had bought him the car and had gone to great lengths to instill in him that this car was not a tank and needed to be driven with care. Unfortunately, his parents gave no such lecture to his friends and we had other plans for the car. There are two separate incidents come to mind with this Super Beetle detail this total disregard for parental advice. Trust me when I say, I wish I could make this stuff up.
The first incident occurred on a road trip to Seven Springs, a local mountain resort in our area known for skiing. During the winter months Seven Springs is hustling and bustling with skiing and snow tubing as well as lodging in chalets or condos that overlook the slopes. During the summer months an alpine slide operates in one area while the main lodging area of the resort is home to all kinds of meetings and events such as craft shows and school reunions. This particular day the Italian festival was taking place at the main lodge and it was filled with party goers. While the main lodging area is situated at the base of the slopes, along the top of slopes construction had begun on condominiums. At this time they were still unfinished and roads had not been completely established to and from their location.
We took the opportunity to drive up around and investigate the structures simply because, it was new, and we had no better place to be. The road that led to the plan was already finished and was easy to navigate. We were unsure as to how the road traversed the plan. Was it a dead end or did it loop back around to the entrance? We opted to just blindly drive on in and take our chances. As we reached the end of the plan the paved portion of the road ended and dirt and gravel continued around the back of the condos. We were split on the decision to just simply do a 3 point turn in the middle of the road or to soldier on the unbeaten path. Ultimately, we decided to forge ahead and continue on around the back of the condos using the dirt road. As we rounded the backs of the buildings it was easier to see why these would be desirable. You could literally walk out the back of your condo with you skis on and just head down the slope.
Reaching the end of the condos we expected the road to just connect back onto the paved section and allow us to make a complete circuit around the plan. Unfortunately, it appeared as if the road did not reconnect and we soon found ourselves heading into a wooded area. "Perhaps this is a service road." We thought, "Eventually it will end up back on the main road." We assumed too much and drive suddenly became steeper and bumpier. Up ahead a hiker did a double take as he noticed the red bug bearing down on his position. The dirt road gave way to grass and Scott found it increasingly difficult to keep the car from sliding around as we twisted and turned down this path. Up ahead we gained hope when a clearing became visible. What we didn't know was that we had just come down the mountain by way of one of the slopes. Imagine if you will, you are a party goer at the Italian fest and just happened to catch sight of this VW Beetle being launched out of a wooded area onto the ski slopes. The sight would make you question whether the last shot of Sambucca was one too many. Realizing we were now visible to just about everybody at the lodge we hightailed it for an access road that allowed us to get back onto the main road and we quickly left before anyone got a chance to come find us.
The second incident occurred that same summer and once again involved us going somewhere we shouldn't have. Being high school students without full time jobs we didn't have the luxury to enjoy the local pastimes to their fullest. We often had to improvise or make do within our own means. Four of us had got the idea to go to a ballgame downtown. The Pittsburgh Pirates were riding high this season and getting close to a pennant race. This of course was the year before the dreaded Sid Bream incident in which Barry Bonds failed to throw Bream out at home, but we won't talk about that.
Scott's parents had again warned Scott not to have the bug on the four ways (highways) as the suspension was not in tip top shape. I have no clue if our little slalom down the slopes had any contribution to this, I didn't even want to ask. We got the bright idea to take the back roads to Pittsburgh turning a forty five minute trip into an hour and a half one. Being of little funds we sat in the nosebleed section paying at most five dollars for our seats and had packed a cooler full of pop and sandwiches to save on spending exorbitant amounts of money on hot dogs and crackerjacks.
The game ended around nine o'clock and we headed back the same route we came in ensuring us of a before midnight arrival or so we had thought. Just before the George Westinghouse Bridge on route 30 east we stopped at a gas station to replenish our drink supply. Scott was a bit worried about making it home before midnight and we assured him we would be quick with our purchases. Scott had decided to wait in the car but I offered to buy him a drink. He got out of the car and made it three feet before his face lost all color.
"What is it, Scott?" I asked, "You look like someone just walked on your grave."
He quickly ran back to the car and confirmed his fear. He had locked his keys in the car. Thankfully, it was not running, but now we were stuck in East Pittsburgh after 9pm. It wasn't the best of neighborhoods and we didn't exactly blend in very well. Scott performed the usual routine of continually checking the handle as if the car was simply joking with him and would unlock itself. We tried all manner of entry to the car including trying to jimmy open the triangular wing window on either side. Now, the easiest and most correct course of action would have been to call Scott's parents informing them of our predicament. Thinking back to his parents' lecture, we considered this a last resort just beyond grabbing a rock and breaking the window.
Being novices in this situation we sought out more experienced help in the matter. We entered the store and asked the attendant for help. The best he could offer was a screwdriver. Apart from dismantling the car in order to gain entry, I didn't see this as an answer to our problem. Ascertaining from our dumbfounded looks that we had no clue on how to use the screwdriver, he offered to go outside and help if I stayed and watched the store, not letting anyone enter. Not that I was any kind of criminal but you have to be some kind of idiot to entrust the safety of mini mart to any 16 year old not employed there. Especially when you are asking this one to play black knight and declaring, "None shall pass."
With a changing of the guard in place, mini mart man and the rest of our crew headed out to the car while I held the fort down. Within three minutes I was ready to surrender the Alamo as a truck pulled up and about fifteen people jumped out, heading for the store. I yelled to the attendant that there was no way I could stop these guys from going in and he returned to the store relieving me of my post. He suggested that we try the local garage within walking distance down the street. After all, as long we got the car unlocked in the next fifteen minutes we would be OK.
We banded together and headed down the darkened street to find the garage open. Two guys who in my mind were the embodiment of Cliff and Norm from Cheers sat outside of the bay watching bugs take a suicidal flight into the bug zapper. We explained our plight to them asking if they had anything that could help us get into the car. Deadpan and without missing a beat, Norm suggested the baseball bat he had sitting inside. Granted, we were two steps away from that option, but still kind of hoped they had some more useful tools. Politely dismissing his suggestion we asked if they perhaps had a slim jim. Cliff said the best he could do was a bent up coat hanger. "We'll take it." We answered and went on our way.
Back at the store we began feverishly working on the car with the hanger. Scott continued to work on the wing with the screwdriver provided to us by mini mart man and just when things couldn't get any worse, the cops showed up. Now, as an outside observer to this situation, don't you think you would think it odd to see four guys standing around a car with various tools in a bad part of town? Apparently, this was a regular occurrence and the police just kept on trucking. We figured they would at least show some sort of interest and the need to flag them down wouldn't be necessary. I guess if we would have shot of them, they would have least stopped to look at us.
With the departure of the police cruiser a new potential threat presented itself. Some locals approached the parking lot, one brandishing what looked to be some sort of weapon. We began to take measures to stop using the hanger and screwdriver as tools and start using them as weapons. The truck full of guys had finally left and Mini mart man returned to help us out. He seemed to know the local guys and they engaged in friendly conversation. Our guard dropped and while half of us continued to work on the car, the other half approached the locals and chatted. Now, in better light, we discerned that the one guy was in deed not brandishing a weapon but was in fact carrying a shoe. Not asking for any explanation he offered up a declaration that, "I lost my shoe." Upon close inspection of his feet we noticed that he indeed had both shoes on and we began wondering if maybe he lost his other leg instead. Taking notice of our little operation they offered to help and two of them tagged out two of our guys and took over at the doors.
Now the cops came back. This time they actually pulled into a parking space on the side of the store and asked what was happening. We explained our situation while he continued to sit in his car assessing the scene. When he returned a blank look to our cry for help, we followed up the request with, "Do you have a slim jim?"
Finally understanding what we were requiring of him he opened the door and proceeded to approach his trunk. Meanwhile, his car proceeded to approach and in fact hit the side of the building as he had forgot to shift it into park. I can safely say our confidence in the police resolving this issue before midnight was dwindling and Scott began searching for a rock.
Once Barney Fife secured his vehicle, he pulled out the most bent up, tarnished, slim jim I had ever seen. It looked as if he had folded it up for easier storage. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth we accepted and he made his way over to the car and began to work his magic, or so we thought. After five minutes with no luck, he called for backup. A second police car arrived and felt a little better. Not because he produced a newer, straighter, shinier slim jim, but because he managed to not hit the building with his car when he exited it. Now, both him and his fellow officer worked from either side of the car while we contemplated Plan Z. We noticed a pay phone on the side of the store just to the right of Barney's Car imprint. Seeing as how both officers were having no luck unlocking the car, they decided to give up and turned the slim jims over to us and went to go lean on their cars and shoot the breeze over a cup of coffee. We realized as the hours passed we were only getting ourselves deeper in trouble and should just maybe put an end to this circus. Scott agreed and accepted fate. He went over to the phone and attempted to call and wake his parents. Unfortunately, someone had jammed gum or some other substance in the coin slot preventing him from using the phone. Luckily, we had a screwdriver handy.
At this moment I started to survey the scene. At the car, we had two of our guys using a slim jim on both doors while one of the local guys used the coat hanger to go in through the wing. Scott was using the screwdriver to chisel the gum out of the phone coin slot while both Barney and his fellow cop traded fishing stories. Mini Mart Man was talking to rest of the local guys while genius continued to look for his shoe and all I could do was think to do was laugh. At that moment Scott freed the gunk from the coin slot and dialed home. And with that our secret trip was blown as well as our curfews.
"Hel...Hello, Mom." His voiced cracked. "Yes, I know what time it is. Look I'm sorry to wake you but..." He paused realizing that the point of no return was directly in front of him. He could still choose to not divulge our location. He could just lie and said we had car trouble and were ten minutes from home. All was not lost. His conscience, however, got the better of him and he continued, "We're in Pittsburgh at a gas station and we're locked out of the car."
"HEY SCOTT, WE GOT IT!" The words pierced the air and it seemed as if all of Pittsburgh had gone completely silent as they traveled to Scott's now reddening ears.
"Shit!" He simply stated and apologized to his parents for both waking and disobeying them. He promised he'd be home in an hour.
Our congregation of idiots dispersed and went about their ways as we returned all tools to their respective owners....except for the coat hanger. Screw Cliff and Norm. We piled into the car and made our way back home. By the time I had made it into my house it was all into the one o'clock hour of the morning and I knew the full wrath of my parents would be making its way down upon my head. I could tell from the light on in their bedroom that while my mother was still asleep, the light served as a reminder that she was waiting for me to arrive. She awoke and looked at the clock becoming fully enraged at the lateness of my return. Now, dealing with the youngest of three children in my family, it is safe to assume, as a parent, that you have probably heard every excuse in the book from "I lost track of time," to "A UFO kidnapped me." As I began to quietly recount my tale of woe the deep set lines around my Mother's brow began to soften and change direction. At one point she had fallen off the bed in a fit of laughter. She said that there was no way I could have made this story up and decided that I had served enough of a sentence. No punishment would be doled out but that next time, I should have called right away.
Unfortunately, Scott did not get the same reaction from his parents to our story. Perhaps he should have had me tell it to them. Maybe there was something missing in his delivery. Needless to say, we didn't see Scott for a couple weeks and the Red Bug never made a trip back to Pittsburgh in its lifetime. A short time later Scott got rid of the car in favor of a Red Chevy S-10. It couldn't hold the four of us inside the cab, but at least if he needed to, he was small enough to squeeze through the sliding rear window as it was always unlocked. I don't know what happened to the Red Bug. I wish I could say that it belongs to some collector who has restored it to its prime, or at least has fixed the suspension. In all reality, the car has probably been junked and stripped down for parts leaving the frame to rot away in a junkyard somewhere in Southwestern Pennsylvania. However, in my mind that car will be eternal and everlasting, a testament to the freedom of a teenager to just gather his friends and just take off for adventure. Every so often, I drive down that stretch of route 30 and laugh to myself thinking back to that night and I still vividly remember our ski slope run at Seven Springs. One day, when I have those millions and am able to build that garage to show off my unique obsession with these hopefully unassuming cars, I will surely find a special place inside for a 73' Super Beetle painted red with a black stripe. And then I'll find a special place for a spare key as well.