Tales of a 21st Century Gypsy
December 4, 2003. The VW Thing
My van – which I finally did buy - broke down in Westchester coming back from Thanksgiving, and I had to get it towed to a VW repair place in Mt. Kisco. I was lucky on the repair place. They understood old VWs. The proprietor was a delight to talk to – he wanted me to understand my van, he was lucid and intelligent and clearly in sympathy with my van. We talked about how it was hard to find them these days, and about the changes from air cooled to radiators, and round eyes vs. rectangular eyes. I left their shop feeling that my ownership of this van has put me in a new group, of people who value these vehicles and see them as delightful, wonderful creatures to be cherished and cared for.
Driving out of the shop, I felt privileged, a valued entrant to a community I had not known of before. But as I thought about it more, it seemed a bit unreal. I was feeling respected and valued and honored, but am I any different from who I was before? Is it right that I should be pleased to be part of that group? It’s a bit like the respect that my kayak gets – yet sometimes I feel that all I did was buy it, I do not really appreciate Greenland kayaks as do those who have made them their lives – Harvey Golden the historian of traditional kayaks, or Greg Stamer the racer and bulwark of Qajaq USA or the Coles organizing symposia at Arrowhead for years. Does my decision to purchase something mean anything about who I am?
Perhaps it does. Perhaps the fact that I would want to live in a van, and would choose a 1989 Vanagon instead of a modern Winnebago means that I’m the kind of person who appreciates a certain technology and style over convenience. But does it? I have never really thought about vehicle purchases as a way of broadcasting image or identity. I have purchased my vehicles because they seemed like the right ones for my needs and wants – a practical small Honda, a hybrid car, and now a vanagon. I never thought of them with image in mind, but perhaps they still do say something about who I am, or my values. I did buy a vanagon in order to join a select club of old VW owners, but perhaps what makes me a member of that club is not that I chose to join it, but that I chose this vehicle for its utility, that this vehicle is the one that meets my needs.
Does that mean I can feel pleased to be welcomed into this club?
I don’t know.
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