There’s no other reason for buying a Volkswagen Beetle than making a statement. We bought ours in 2003, before they got squashed. Mechanically it has been a good little car, but, despite the fine engineering, the hood latch is made of plastic. And we all know what plastic does. Yesterday was sunny and a Saturday so I spent at least four hours trying to get the hood open. (Unsuccessfully.) Now, I’m no gear-head, so I watched a video on YouTube that 23,000 views (some 22,000 of which were me) on how to work around this major design flaw. After three hours in the sun I had my face pressed to the bumper, trying hard not to think of all the bugs that have met eternity there, so I could see up to where the inaccessible latch smugly sits. No tool in the history of humankind can reach it. After another hour I gave up, although just one weekend before this trick worked.
YouTube is an alternate universe. There, latches can be made to work. Men who appear larger than me can wedge their entire hands in that unforgivingly tight space while my knuckles are going to take days to heal. They use simple tools that trip well-oiled springs and their engine blocks are revealed to them like the commandments on Mount Horeb. Clearly I am not counted among the blessed in this mechanical paradise. I do pretty well at this kind of thing if someone shows me how, but with a broken hood-latch you’re working by faith with car parts unseen. Kind of like wrestling with an angel at night.
I did notice among the YouTube videos an unexpected sense of tradition. The new Beetle (although ours is well over a decade old) has the engine in the front. The original Beetle (one of which I drove until the cost of parking in Boston compelled me to sell it) famously had it in the rear, making the front the trunk of the car. That nomenclature has persisted despite the passage of time and changing the facts. In my mind the front of the car, where the engine is located (or so I hear) is called “the hood.” The rear is “the trunk” (more spacious in the new Beetle, as I know from experience). Although the design and layout have changed, the old language remains. It seems to me that all of this conforms to a belief in special revelation. Once uttered it cannot be changed. Or opened, apparently. Please excuse me, but after all this typing I’ve got to get some ice for my knuckles.