At last, summertime has arrived in Toronto, with the sun spending the better part of the day high in the sky, the city clutched in its hot embrace. There’s a scent of heated asphalt mixed with sweat, fresh grass and dirty sidewalks. You know the open road is beckoning with a wink …
In other words, it’s time for a convertible. And what better choice than a chocolate brown 2015 Volkswagen Beetle ragtop? This cheerful little buggy is made for meandering down the road, leaving all cares and woes behind. Good thing, too, because traffic was shaping up to be a nightmare, with the PanAm Games mere inches from my doorstep. Every city authority was pleading with the driving public to either leave town, work from home, take transit, walk, or hire a broomstick to get around. Anything, just avoid the highways with their High Vehicle Occupancy (HOV) lanes, which required a driver and two passengers.
Of course, locals responded with usual irreverence. One driver was caught with mannequins posing as passengers in the HOV lanes – naturally, this being Canada, all mannequins had their seat belts done up. Enterprising youngsters posted ads on Kijiji, offering their services as passengers-for-hire. Those of us who couldn’t skip town, well, we drove around in a Beetle convertible. How on earth can anyone feel oppressed in a gleaming brown punch buggy?
Inching along the Gardiner Expressway, the blue sky stretched above me like a heavenly canvas, while sunbeams danced on the Beetle’s shimmery brown dashboard. I sank into the buttery leather, soft as feathers, while a light summer breeze ruffled my hair. Finally, the traffic eased up and we flew down the highway, with gusts of warm air whipping through my hair and whirling around my ankles.
The Beetle was the colour of chocolate ice cream, and just as much fun. It gamely sped along the highway, riding the sweet goodness of every wave of open blacktop. With Sirius satellite bopping out soul tunes, I was in heaven. Every now and then the traffic backed up, and we were mired in truly nasty congestion. But hey, I was in a Beetle convertible.
Surrounded by all that candy creaminess, in a delicious scoop of motoring metal, I was about as happy as a person could be. As I nodded and tapped the wheel in time to the music, onlookers seemed puzzled that I could muster such cheer in the face of stop-and-go traffic. But the only decision I had to make was between Stevie Wonder and the Isley Brothers. The Beetle was an ode to its German engineering, stopping on a dime, deking nicely into open spaces at my slightest touch, tiptoeing when it had to, leaping forward as the gridlock burst and the road spread out. That convertible was my “room without a roof!”
Later, I parked by a yacht club and admired the cocoa Beetle among the soaring masts sprouting from the boats like so many beanstalks. Front and back, its friendly round contours cascaded in synchronicity, with circular headlights nested like contented orbs.
I thought of all the German words I knew for happiness – gemutlichkeit, niedlich, schnukelig, lustig.
But Beetle convertible – that’s happy in any language.