On a wild Bug chase

By S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

Last Saturday was just an ordinary day. My daughter Amanda, a college junior, needed a car and she thought she’d found the perfect fit in an Uncle Henry’s ad: a 2002 VW Beetle, loaded, with a five-speed transmission and low mileage. If you know Amanda, you’d agree, “Yup, that girl needs a Bug.”

The only problem was the car was two hours away in Waterville and no one had answered the phone when we called on Friday evening. “Hey, let’s just get up early and drive over there. It will be an adventure,” I said. “Sure!” she said. Then, instead of being sensible and going straight to bed, we stayed up way past midnight.

The alarm blared just after dawn on Saturday morning and, surprisingly, I found my normally nocturnal daughter, who rarely rises before lunch (“Um, no, I don’t do a.m.”), all lit up and ready to go — bugs do that to her, I guess.

After stopping for designer coffee, we drove north in a steady gray rain, chattering away about her upcoming college courses, identifying road kill and quizzing each other on famous movie lines: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat,” “Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?” “No more rhyming, I mean it!” etc. Nearing the tollbooth, we had to scrape the floor mats for loose change because we hadn’t really thought that far ahead.

Once we left the turnpike, we got lost. It took a bit of hunting and pecking to find the address for the much-anticipated Bug. When we finally arrived, there was no VW in sight and the door to the building was locked. I tried calling again, but got nothing. A scruffy guy pulled up in a stove-in pick-up with a bad muffler and a smiling toddler on the seat next to him. No, he didn’t work there, but he thought he could help anyway, so I stood out in the rain while he gave me directions to another place where the mystery car might be. After describing a twisting 15-mile side trip, he said, rather vaguely, “You can’t miss it. It’s in Augusta — or maybe that’s still Sydney.” Then he roared off.

So, we sloshed our way over to Augusta (or maybe it was still Sydney) only to find another drizzly, vacant parking lot and another locked door. Our wild Bug chase was over.

On the interstate, heading south at a steady clip, Amanda tipped her seat back and fell fast asleep; and in the peace of the morning, with the wet pavement hissing gently beneath us and my favorite worship band praising softly from the CD player, I finally found the time to scratch at a patch of poison ivy that I’d had for a week. Then, I noticed that the check engine light had blinked on, and all I could do was chuckle and shake my head.

This is just life, I realized. Most days not much happens, and a lot of what does happen is annoying or somehow disappointing. We don’t get enough sleep, we pay way too much for coffee, people don’t return our phone calls, and we find ourselves yanking on too many locked doors. It rains a lot, we rarely have correct change, we get lost easily, have itches we can’t scratch, burn tanks of gas to go to nowhere and back, and there’s always some little warning light blinking at us.

I looked down at my little girl, all curled up wearing her skinny jeans, hand-colored sneakers and an Aeropostale hoodie. She had on pink socks and a thumb ring and was clutching her cell phone in her sleep. No, she didn’t get her VW this day — she was still Bug-less — but she took the news with a smile and didn’t let it interfere with her nap.

As I drove toward Portland, it occurred to me that I loved Amanda just a little bit more than I had the day before, that these fruitless hours were worth more than gold and that I wouldn’t trade this bleak morning for any other.

I thank God for ordinary days.


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