Posted on September 24, 2011

I will never forget my first car. She was a beige VW Rabbit hatchback, short, squat, and remarkably compact. I didn’t think much looking at her the first time we met, but that car and I were made for each other. She was even manufactured the year before I was born, so we were practically the same age. The key didn’t turn in any of the locks except the one on the hatch, so I always had to leave one door unlocked. Which was just fine, because the lock on the door I left open was smashed down and broken enough that it looked every bit as locked as the rest even when it wasn’t. Everything about that car was manual except the transmission. Turning the steering wheel constituted an upper body workout. Giving her gas required a lead foot and stopping her again required two. She wouldn’t be rushed, but she’d get you where you were going on time and with plenty to spare. On a cold, foggy morning she might be cranky and temperamental, but if you knew the way she liked to be stroked, she’d treat you just right. She’d putter around town without much of a grumble, but if you gave her an open stretch of highway to work on, oh baby, would she purr. She had no lap belts, only shoulder straps, and she almost always promised a bumpy ride. She was seasoned and quirky and sassy and maybe just a little rusted out underneath, but she had purple fuzzy dice on the rearview mirror and her name was Lola. And she was my car.
The year we spent together was not my best, but the moments Lola and I shared were sheer bliss. I was a high school senior, bogged down with homework, impending graduation requirements, college applications, bickering parents, a job, after school practice, and even more homework. Lola dutifully transported me to school every morning, work every afternoon, and back home again for dinner, where she would resignedly take up her place in the driveway with the other newer, more respectable vehicles. But every other Saturday, we would throw care to the wind and head straight up I-95 N to Ormond Beach. She would buckle and balk at 35, 45, even 55 m.p.h., but once she passed 65 m.p.h., she was as smooth as molasses. And oh baby, would she purr. We’d coast along the coastline of A1A without so much as a tape deck or radio, content to breathe in the salt breezes and listen to her engine hum.
Each time we passed that way, parked at the same angle in the same driveway overlooking the sea sat a little beige VW Rabbit convertible. Each time he came in sight, that Lola would skip a couple RPM’s and falter and blush the rest of the way to my boyfriend’s house. Of course, my boyfriend didn’t have a car of his own at the time. Once we arrived, he’d cram himself through the doorway into the passenger seat, his backside low to the ground, his head brushing the ceiling, his knees tucked up almost to his chest, no lap belt to save him from Lola’s jauntier moments, and every inch of his body so tantalizingly close to my own, my hand would quiver as it struggled to shift Lola back into drive. Then off we would go, the three of us. And when she passed that convertible heading out again – with an awkward Southern suburban hick salutatorian at the wheel and a handsome, seaside, rich-kid-school varsity football player in tow – Lola would of her own volition pump some extra gas through her fuel injection system as if to say, “You may look pretty sitting there with your top down in that driveway, but just see which of us has been found worthy to hit the open road!” Oh, I loved that car.
But times change as they always do. Following graduation, I found myself faced with a cross-country move that Lola just wouldn’t make. So under my mom’s direction, I took possession of the family’s Dodge Caravan and my mom traded in Lola towards a newer, sleeker car. The Caravan and I got on well enough. We spent a good deal of time traversing to the country together for my new job, and I regarded her as my gypsy wagon. She had a removable middle seat and a backseat that slid forward to create a spacious storage area behind the hatch. On fair weather days, I would prop that hatch open and lounge in the back with a good book and a snack. She did fine hauling all my junk from Florida to the Midwest. She did fine hauling all my junk to my very first college, and she would have done well hauling it all back again if her transmission hadn’t called it quits in the dead of winter. And that was the end of the Caravan.
For quite some time after that, I made do without any cars at all. I had two legs of my own, and they generally did just fine. Then my husband and I tested our luck with a couple used vehicles. Now we drive a car even newer and sleeker than the one my mom exchanged Lola for. It’s safe, comfortable, reliable, and efficient. Even more importantly, it’s warrantied. It plays our tunes when we want them, and doesn’t when we don’t. It transports the baby, her stroller, diaper bag, toys, gear, groceries, and even manages to squeeze my husband and I in. All in all, it’s a very agreeable, even likable, car. But sometimes on a gray day, when I’m hit with the irrepressible urge to pursue the open road wherever it will take me, I wonder if I might, just might be willing to trade it in for a quirky, sassy, slightly temperamental little beige VW Rabbit hatchback named Lola.

Last edited by Visual Lullaby on September 24, 2011, 8:50 pm

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One response to “Lola”

  1. Good write. Nostalgic, but funny. very human.

    My first motorcycle was a BSA Bantam, 175 cc, two stroke. I had to hand mix oil in the gasoline. I called that bike "Skippy". Skippy and I partnered all over the Wicklow Mountains, just south of Dublin fair city. She would just about manage 60 mph, maybe 65 on the way down a hill. Struggling up the hills, the speed would drop off to 45,40, even 35 mph.

    Same as you, I’ll never forget Skippy. That was my first true love, and my present day Honda VTX1300R can never rival that extraordinary first bliss.

    I like your prose. Thoughtful, and insightful. Feeling. Rich.

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