I know. It’s January. It’s my oldest sister’s birthday, so Happy Birthday to Katherine in Long Island. But when I went to my ‘Out of Work Support Group” meeting this morning, and it was still somewhere around 50 degrees. The top on the car was still down, and no, I didn’t bother to put it up. The default position on the top on the car is down.
When I bought the car, I had more than one person ask me why I was paying extra for a car with a feature that I could only practically use a couple of months in the spring, and a couple of months in the fall. All I could think of is “they don’t know me very well”.
See, I’ve coveted a convertible ever since my dad had a Mercury Cougar convertible long before I was old enough to drive. I don’t remember a lot about the car other than it was red, had a white top, and the tail light assemblies had three lights each, that flashed in sequence when the blinker was activated. A really cool car.
I’ve been through a lot of cars, some practical, some not. The first was a Volkswagon Van. The classic box on wheels. Mine had a retractable sunroof that encompassed nearly the middle third of the top. Almost a convertible. I remember driving around Showalter Fountain (which we called “lady on the Half Shell”) with my friends hanging out the open roof cheering after IU won the NIT championship in 1978, I think. I’ve still not forgiven Coach Knight for winning national championships the year before I got to campus and the year after I graduated. The V-Dub was great, but it had a cable that pulled the roof open, which had a bad habit of slipping off it’s track, and my mechanics … the local version of Click and Clack … charged me $100 bucks every time they repaired it. I finally had them close it up, and removed the “trim tab” style crank. The stories I could tell about the van. The subject of another post.
I traded the van for my first new car … a Toyota Tercel SR5. 5 speed, hatch back, economical. I drove it from Indiana to California, up and down the coast from Santa Paula to Santa Barbara to work every day, and back to Ohio.
My second Toyota was a 1987 MR2. “Arrest Me” red. And that worked. I got more tickets in the MR2 than any car before or since. Two seats, mid-engine. It was a genuine sports car, and I drove it way too fast and got several speeding tickets. But it was a fun, fun car.
I traded the sports car for the SUV. Jenni had come along, we had three people, and the MR2 had only two seats. I bought the Ford Explorer (which I still have) a week before the 1996 blizzard in the DC area. 22 inches of snow. We lived at the bottom of a hill, and the only way out was up the hill. I was peeved that the guy with the Toyota 4-Runner across the street got up earlier and got up the hill before I did.
But when I got to Florida, my career was going great, and i decided it was time for the ragtop. I shopped, compared, and settled on a third Toyota … a Solara SE convertible.
I had a guy buy it for me at auction. I still probably paid too much, but I finally had my ragtop.
Since I’ve owned the car, I’ve driven it far more with the top down than the top up. I mean, why have a car where you can take off the roof if you’re going to leave it on all the time. Many people won’t drop the top in high summer here in Florida. They want the air conditioning. I want the sunshine. I’ll crank the AC, but I want the sunshine, and I can have it. Spring and fall are the best, of course. Reasonable temperatures day and night make for perfect ragtop driving. Now, in what passes for the dead of winter, pretty much if the temperature is above 50, I’ve got the top down. I’ll crank the heat, wear a jacket … and a big ‘ol grin.
If you recall a couple of years ago, one of the Super Bowl commercials was for the new Ford Mustang convertible. You may recall that it was simple. A long shot of the car sitting at an intersection in what looked like Minnesota in the winter. Snow blowing across the road … lots of blue light to make things look even colder … and as they zoomed into the car, you saw a guy sitting behind the wheel … frozen … with that big ‘ol grin on his face. I’d be that guy. Andie’s dad even gave us the Arctic military helmet hoods that just MIGHT make it possible.
How did all this come to mind? I was driving back from improv rehearsal over in Orange Park tonight … on 295/9A with the top down. When we came out of the restaurant, there were a few sprinkles of rain on the windshield. Not raining, but I knew it was only a matter of time. As I drove around the beltway, I saw a blue flash. I thought a transformer had blown. I drove on. By the time I got Butler Boulevard, I could smell the rain, and I knew the flashes were lightning. By the time I got to Hodges and Beach, it was flat raining, and I succumbed and raised the canvass.
So, I’m a ragtop man. Sort of like being a Floridian, I think I’ve been that for a long time, it just took me a while to get there. But as long as it’s possible, I don’t think I’ll ever have another car without a removable roof. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.