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My Life with the Volkswagen Bug

I was sixteen when I met my first Volkswagen Bug. My father had just left his C-suite job at Ford, and we arrived in St. Maarten where he was building a resort. I had come from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan and my Cougar XR7 convertible with air conditioning. It was 1969.

My dad took me outside, and there was a red VW Bug in the driveway. He said, “This is your car for the vacation. It’s a stick shift, and if you want to go anywhere while you are here, you will learn to drive it.” We got in the car, where he spent three minutes (his attention span for any of his daughters at that time), and he left me to it. Considering how much I ground that stick shift, the car was very kind to me on my first foray into independence.

I loved that car. I loved that I felt it was a friend, not just a vehicle. I loved getting in it. I loved its size. I loved backing up in it. I simply loved it. I did get stuck in it when I went to Mullet Bay Beach, and three guys pushed me out of the beach sand I had backed into. Maybe they lifted the car, instead of pushing it; I can’t remember.

When I arrived at the University of Nebraska two years later, with my matching pants and sweater sets, my Student Assistant, in charge of our floor and the young female residents, came in to say hi to the foreign girl from St. Maarten. I was sitting on my bed, looking very New York.

“Do you have any jeans and a T-shirt?” she asked.

“No, but I’m good.”

“You have some money, right?”

“I do, yes.”

We went outside, climbed into her royal blue VW, and drove to the store where I got bell-bottom jeans and lots of T-shirts, a few with “Nebraska” written on the chest. One of them was the same color as the VW, and that’s the one I walked out of the store wearing. We got back into her Bug and went for pizza.

Over the next four years, I found myself in that car many times. Happy times. Sad times where we cried while she drove us somewhere off-campus to get something to eat and heal our hurting hearts. Between her and the cozy VW, we always arrived back an hour or so later feeling better. Sometimes laughing the whole way home.

That was fifty years ago. Can you believe it?

Then, in the summer of 1983, when I was thinking about marrying H2, my second husband, and the father of the fabulous Sarah, he took me out to his country house in the Hamptons. After lunch, we went to the garage with tennis gear to go to his club and play, and in the garage was a red VW 1969 convertible. Yep, red. He bought it in 1969 and to this day still drives it, forty more years later.

I sat in the passenger's side of the car and watched this icon of an investment banker driving his VW Bug, top down, with a big grin on his face, and that was the end of that.

I’m in marketing and when asked about my favorite ad of all time, I answer the same every time: "Think Small," by Volkswagen. Believe it or not, until this moment, I never made the connection between my own small moments of joy, growth, and intimacy to the ad. Silly me.

I recently read that in 1972, the Volkswagen Bug surpassed the Model T in the number of cars sold. It sparks my memories and a realization that the car was more than just a car. In these days of lost simplicity and intimacy, I think I should buy another one, just to drive around my quiet town in Maine that has given me great peace these last few years after I unexpectedly moved here for no good reason.

Thank you, Volkswagen for being part of the wallpaper of my life.

-Christine Merser, Founder, Blue 2 Media


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