Sure, I wasn’t the only kid who grew up with a treasured, worn-out copy of Herbie Rides Again, purchased at exorbitant rates because no one bought videos back then. The local Albertson’s never had a copy of The Love Bug for sale, but I made do. Certainly I wasn’t the only one to seize upon the incredibly cool Disney Store Herbie beanie despite the gross inaccuracies in racing decal design. And the fact that I had to drive all the way to Concord for a Herbie bowling shirt and they only had it in medium could only mean that the shirts were popular with many others as well. Even so, I like to think I stood just a few inches taller than my fellow Herbie fans, for I was the only one to drive proudly into my high school’s parking lot behind the wheel of the real live Love Bug himself. Despite the jeers and taunting, I could tell my classmates were jealous.
“You’re daft,” they’d say. “That isn’t Herbie.”
“Look,” I’d retort, “When are you going to wake up and believe in this little car?”
“This isn’t even a Volkswagen,” they’d continue, eyes burning with barely-concealed envy. “It’s a Honda. And your stripes aren’t even painted on. They’re red and blue ribbons stuck on with tape. Crookedly, I might add.”
“I didn’t believe it at first either,” I’d concede calmly. I was used to skepticism. The idea of a VW Beetle with thoughts and feelings of its own is a tough one to get used to. “Say something, Herb,” I’d tell Herbie, winking. “Good old Ocho.”
“Beep, beep!” Herbie would honk cheerfully.
“You just did that yourself. I saw you reach in through the window,” they’d cry, their minds constructing obvious fabrications in an effort to make logical sense of the unbelievable.
“Tell you what. We’ll go for a little ride, and see if that can’t convince you.”
“Wait a minute,” they’d say, the pieces falling into place. “You’re not even old enough to drive.” This was in fact true. I was a freshman at the time, and still just fourteen.
“Don’t worry about that. Herbie takes care of the driving.”
“I’m not getting in that stupid car with you.”
“You shouldn’t say things like that. Herbie’s very sensitive,” I’d call out after them as they walked quickly away.
“It’s a good thing you walked away earlier. Herbie was just about to spurt oil on your shoe for insulting him,” I’d tell them later that day after catching up with them. Actually, instead of “them,” I should just say “her,” or alternatively, “Michele Green, the prettiest girl in school and secret love of my life.” “Them” is misleading because it was really only her. No one else ever talked to me.
“Would you like to go out on a date sometime? You and Herbie could patch things up.”
“I’d love to. Herbie is the cutest little car and you are absolutely the cutest guy I know,” Michele would say in my imagination immediately before rejecting me in real life.
But each day, as Herbie took off from the parking lot with a spectacular wheelie, my hopes were rekindled. Even now, years later, my hopes remain high as Herbie and I wait patiently outside Michele’s house, the front door of which she hasn’t used in weeks. We’ll soon wear her down; I’m sure of it. No one can resist the Love Bug’s charms for long.