Saturday, February 16, 2008

Can you have a New Beetle and a new baby?

Hi, everyone! First, a note: This is an insanely long blog post. It's just my "intro" to my blog, so please note that this won't be typical. Future posts will be much more reasonable in length! Back to the post...

I am currently, excitedly 16 weeks pregnant (the weekly update says the baby is about the size of an avocado this week). My husband, Brad, and I managed to contain our giddiness for starting a baby registry (or two) until last weekend, where we took turns going nuts with the scanner gun at Babies "R" Us and Target.

Now, in our enthusiasm for adding baby stuff to our registry, we scanned with wild abandon, with three restrictions in mind: 1) the baby's gender is a surprise (for now, at least), 2) I am all for non-electronic-music-spewing toys, and 3) our family cars will be a Toyota Prius and a VW New Beetle.

The Toyota Prius seems like an amply large family car to us both. To me, it seems enormous.

My first car (that I held onto until this last year) was a 1992 Suzuki Swift (named Suzi, for her abbreviated name on the car registration). Suzi was a spunky, spirited, candy-apple-red hatchback, which my dad and I made as spiffy as we could: fat tires, new paint, an added CD changer (her tape deck wasn't going to cut it), three different sets of nice speakers over the years (after they somehow kept blowing out), and even a new, shiny chrome tailpipe in the back.

My dad also added some mechanical stuff I didn't really understand, but I think she ran better because of during all my years of driving to high school and then on my 20-mile commute to UC Davis. I was assured she always had top-of-the-line spark plugs and a K & M Supercharger filter. I never really understood the true significance of those types of things (making it all the sillier that I have started an automotive blog!), but I did appreciate their result: Suzi was very forgiving of me when I learned to drive a stick-shift, she always was quick off a "starting line" (aka, a green light at an intersection), and she always fired up every morning.

I joked that I was going to buy some BMW Z3 logos to put on her, since she felt like a sports car to me, but she didn't need logos; she could zip around plenty without them.

Plus, she had amazing powers of storage space; far better than a sports car. With her back seat folded down, I could fit any giant art project needed for one of my classes inside. When I pulled up to the ceramics studio to haul home some enormous sculptures I'd made, the class TA admired Suzi and said that she had a similar car, and they were "the best little cars!" because they could hold anything. Suzi was definitely like the Mary Poppins' carpet bag of automobiles. She even held a 4-foot-high "sculpture" I'd made of my interpretation of pop-art-style swiss cheese, with room for me and Brad (who had to help me carry the cheese from UCD's art building to the parking lot.). Since I made the cheese with holes (naturally), I could even see out of the back window (sort of).

But, when I got my first post-college job, which would require a much lengthier commute until we moved into our house, it was time to buy a new vehicle. On my 23rd birthday, we went car shopping. I drove a Civic, but that particular one had no spirit to it. The dealer tried to convince me it was sporty because it came in red. Well, I already had a bright-red car that was punchy enough, thanks.

Then I did a test drive for an adorable, curvy, seemingly massive (to me) black 2003 Volkswagen New Beetle, that I couldn't stop thinking about all night. I wanted it, and looked up all the safety data that night to convince myself it would even be safe (it was). We went back the next day and got the same Beetle I had taken for a test drive. Even though it already had some miles on it, I had gotten attached to that one (OK, and they were all out of another color, but I wouldn't tell the Beetle that).

I then drove the new New Beetle right to the nearest Circuit City, because it needed a CD changer added, too! Go figure.

It was instantly clear that while Suzi had been a feisty female car, the Beetle was definitely a boy. It felt surprisingly, reassuringly heavy on the road, and, although it too was a hatchback, it seemed to command a little more stay-off-my-bumper respect from other drivers. Everyone tailgated little Suzi. Maybe only every other driver tailgates the Beetle.

Just as Suzi was my high school and college car, the Beetle was my "grown-up" car. It took me an hour each way to my first job. It took us to our wedding (we drove there together), got decorated by my bridesmaids with all the "Just Married" paraphernalia, and then took us on the most fun trip ever down I-5 to Disneyland for our honeymoon (instead of being tailgated, it seemed every other car beeped at us, had its occupants hanging out the windows waving and grinning at us, and giving us thumbs-up). And then it took us home from our honeymoon, and to our house! It was definitely my "grown-up" car.

When Brad and I wanted to embark on the biggest trip of all--having a kid!--we knew it was time for a four-door car. He sold his first car (a Mustang), I sold Suzi (to a friend of my parents, who I am assured loves Suzi as much as I did, and is even more interested in making her fully tricked out), and we bought a futuristic, snazzy, undeniably awesome Toyota Prius. To me, it's the ideal family car: lots of doors (well, more than two!), plenty big inside, and hopefully helping the planet that my kid will inherit.

When we found out we actually were expectant parents, I could already imagine a carseat in the Prius, and us reveling in all of its space and convenient door access to the backseat. I felt like it was practically a limo.

So I was surprised when we'd burst out with our upcoming baby news. I expected some of the questions: "When's it 'due'?!" (August 1), "Is it a boy or a girl (we don't know yet, and are trying to hold off on finding out to keep the surprise, if we can), and, "Are you getting rid of the Beetle?" Huh?

When my parents asked me, I could understand: My dad has spent many frustrating weekends and summer vacations working on the Beetle, and he now has a garageful of specialty European tools to prove it. It's strange that for a car that was originally so easy to work on by "the people," the New Beetles seem intentionally designed to be taken to the dealership to have even a should-be-simple battery replacement done. I thought there might be a little (understandable) relief in both my parents when they asked if the Beetle was headed for someone else's garage.

But so many people asked me if we were planning on trading in the Beetle that it was almost a routine question. How would we have room? Where would the baby stuff go? Is it really safe?

The Beetle, released in the U.S. in 1949, was originally conceived of by Hitler and intended to be a family car. Maybe a two-door hatchback could still be considered a family-sized car in parts of Europe, but in present-day California, it seems that no less than an SUV is the expectation for middle-class parents-to-be. (And let me just say here that I freely admit how lucky I am to be able to weigh the merits of different automobiles for fun. Having any sort of reliable transportation is pretty amazing, when you think about it.)

Brad and I hope that the Prius will be our primary car, but I'm planning on the Beetle remaining my car for errands, with and without the new arrival. I'm hoping that we'll find that it is entirely possible, practical--and even more fun!--to have a new baby and a New Beetle.

Let's find out how it goes!


Scrabadab said...

Go, Beetle, go! While I'm sure you'll find the Prius roomier with a car seat (I've had to sit in the passenger seat of a Beetle with a car seat in the backseat behind me. Leg room? What leg room?), Beetles and babies can surely mix. I've seen it firsthand! -Jill

Amanda said...

Hey, as long as you've got the Prius, you're golden. I LOVE mine. It's an obsession. I totally dig the Beetle too, except I bonk my head on the sides every time I sit in the backseat. Thankfully, babies have much smaller heads. :)

Rebecca Chastain said...

What's with all the blown out speakers? You're not secretly one of those hooligans bumpin' your gangsta rap, are you?

I think the Beetle sounds like a great car for a family of three (or four even, though I don't think you're there yet). I mean, it's got that enormous built in baby-changing station of a dash and the convenient "vase" for bottles. What more could you need? :)

Kim said...

Oooh... such an intriguing question to pose! Can't wait to read more & welcome to the blogosphere :)

Blips said...

Hi there. It doesn't really look like you still manage this blog but i was so thrilled to find it because i too have a little baby and a new beetle. When the baby was on the way, i was determined that I would manage with my beetle and I really have. I love driving my beetle and didn't want to trade in and it's worked fine. I also stuff the pram behind the passenger car seat but have been looking for one that fits in the boot because actually baby No. 2 is on the way and now they all need to fit in. I'll look in to the Maclaren. I was wondering though, did you ever struggle with sun coming in the back side window on Henry? If so, what did you do. Normal sunshades don't seem to fit. Please post a blog on that if you did or you can mail me on theinversespoon at yahoo dot co dot uk. Would love to hear from you. Megan