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February 25, 2012

The last photo.

Once upon a time I was a seventeen year-old bequeathed a lovely set of wheels: a 2004 Volkswagen Jetta Wagon in reflex silver. For the next six years, this car was my sidekick. Everywhere I went, as far as New England was concerned, the Jets accompanied me. Through high school and college, its trusty German engines and roomy trunk were there. Its kicking stereo system, its wild high-beams. 

That all changed in the summer of 2010, when I moved to Chicago…and I had to say “goodbye.” I still think of the car. Once it was daily, but now, perhaps once a week. In my rational mind I realize much of my romanticizing of the Jets was related to the fact it was my first car. And like all firsts, it left an impression. Perhaps more importantly, it was a car I had during that blissful stage of life, that one without responsibilities. College, high school. It took me to and from some summer jobs and internships, to be sure. But it mostly took me to class, to get ice cream, to go for walks with my dogs, to go on silly road-trips, to take nice girls on dates. In my emotional mind, the car will always hold court over me.

But Jets is long gone–now owned by an art student with a toddler.

Last weekend I went car-shopping for the first time in many, many years. It didn’t take long for me to realize that no car would have the soft purr or the comfortable seat of my old Jetta. Once I recognized this, liberation and relief was met with some disconcerting feelings about this whole car-shopping thing. How would I adjust? Would this new car come to feel as smooth, as glove-like? “No” I assured myself–“nothing ever will.”

I saw some Honda Civics, some Toyotas, some Ford Focuses, a few Mazdas. Their engines felt dead. Felt like pushing a heavy box across a basement floor. They were sleek, the modern amenities whipping my old Jetta’s. Then I went to my local VW dealership, only to find the Jetta Wagon GL I knew no longer existed. No, it’s been upgraded, like some girl whole stole from the house too young, married well, into a man of mutual funds and bond trading. Now, she’s the Jetta SportWagen. And she’s $12,000 more. Awww shucks. The wagen is to connote something more German. But I know it’s all wrong. So I reconciled myself to viewing some regular Jetta S sedans. Alas, none were to be had. Those of a higher trim were there, but they now look like Corollas. There’s nothing Volkswagen-y about them. They’re volks-y, sure. They look like every other car on the road. The sharp lines are no longer. I never did test-drive one.

But maybe, maybe I will. Give me time. I’ve decided the trusty Volvo V70 will be my good friend in the meantime.

Until another day, VW, maybe we’ll meet again. Or maybe my Jets is best left as a memory of a good time. A great time. Jets, I still miss you.

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