The Jetta is out. Good-bye, my dear friend.
by Heidi Obermeyer
Have I ever told you about my most teenager-ish moment ever? It happened while I was finishing up driver’s ed, a requirement in the state of Colorado if you are one of those cool kids who wants to get their licenses on their 16th birthday instead of a lame 6 months after. For my driver’s ed course, we were required to do two one-on-one sessions with a driving instructor in an embarrassing student driver beater car. You know, one of the ones where they’ve installed an extra set of brakes for your passenger and that have the huge, and hugely mortifying, “STUDENT DRIVER” sticker across the rear fender.
When I went to go do my first one-on-one driving session, I was feeling pretty good about my skills. Pretty confident. Let’s just say it- I was a cocky motherf***er. I had been driving trucks around in grassy fields for years! We OWNED a go-kart when I was a kid. How different could this possibly be, especially given how unknowledgeable about driving all my driver’s ed classmates had been?! This was going to be a piece of gasoline-fueled cake, I could just tell.
I get dropped off after school to go do this driving session, and the guy is reasonably friendly, which to a teenager is one of the most offensive things you can be. TALK? TO ME? IN THE CAR?! Sir, we don’t even KNOW each other. At the end of this, we will both be going our separate ways, and I for one will be pretending that this never happened! Our first stop was a gas station, which to me meant we were low on gas, and to my instructor meant the first learning opportunity of the day. We get out of the car and he starts giving me the gas safety spiel that had already been thoroughly drilled into my brain by my father, always a repetitive if not effective lesson-giver when it came to driving. The guy finishes up his speech about how to fill up your vehicle of freedom, and then it happened. He had the AUDACITY to show ME how to wipe down the windshield. THE WINDSHIELD, PEOPLE.
Obviously that is a) the funnest part of a gas station stop so I had already done it before, and b) so similar to just washing a window that it is ridiculous. After one clean, successful swipe for demonstration across the front windshield of the prison I was to sit in for the next 2 hours, he hands the squeegee over. “Go ahead and give it a try!” said the nice driver’s ed dude, probably just some retired man trying to make a few extra bucks risking life and limb to teach sullen teenagers how to behave on the road. I, as he turned back towards the pump and slightly out of my line of vision, gave the biggest eye roll I have ever given. It had scope. It had power. It have every ounce of distain for that particular task expressed, out there, ready for the world to see and know, “I am Heidi, and this is stupid.” The only problem? My instructor saw the whole thing. He saw the upward glance, he saw the exasperated sigh, and he saw how I saucily began wiping down the windshield with a bitchy look on my face. It was bad guys. It was really bad.
He came back at me with some well-deserved snarky comment and I, never really one to be a straight-up jerk to an adult, was very embarrassed. And that’s the story of the moment where my quintessential teenage life met just another average, pretty nice adult in a way that made me feel like a real jerk. I tell this story not to illustrate how good I am at washing windows (because I’m not bad, let’s be honest) but instead to show how much time has passed since I first got my driver’s license, and how the whole time I’ve been bombing around the state and country in just one vehicle, my faithful VW Jetta. The very same Jetta, in fact, that betrayed me in a shocking tire blowout on I-25 a few weeks ago. How could she?! I put almost 80,000 miles on that car over the last seven years.
When I first got it, the Jetta was a pretty nice car for a 16-year-old. It had a sunroof, got GREAT gas mileage, and had automatic windows, a serious luxury in those high school days. Over the years, I’ve watched my friends upgrade to newer vehicles, and the Jetta has slowly become less and less of an impressive piece of machinery to be zooming around in. Stuff started breaking: the antennae, once so great at ensuring that I got my alt-rock fix on the way to school, wilted like a cut flower; the driver door handle suddenly started coming loose every time you pulled on it the wrong way; and most recently, the automatic lock ONLY on the driver’s door failed, forcing me to use the physical key every time I needed to secure the car.
The Jetta played host to so many weirdly important moments that make up life- shuttling me and my friends to a variety of events, from prom, to graduation, to another graduation, to hiking and skiing and whatever other shenanigans we could dream up- and it’s so strange to not have realized how much that little car had seen before she bit the dust. I don’t even want to count how many people (mostly unsuccessfully) attempted to learn how to drive stick on that car.
Jetta may have lost some of her charm over the last several years, but I’m still glad I got to drive such a fun little car for so long, especially given her awesome fuel efficiency. I probably won’t get another gas attendant running out in a panic, asking me very seriously “Wait! You do realize that’s diesel?!” only to be impressed by my uniquely TDI VW. Gone too, are the jokes about how German my life is, right down to the Volkswagen, and the loud, tractor-like hum that once signaled my arrival and departure. I’m not sure what my vehicular future holds, but the Jetta will always have a special place in my heart.
Auf Wiedersehen, Jetta. It’s been real.