Persons, places and things: The Beetle Bug: companion on the journey


By Barb Arland-Fye

Something started rattling as I drove to work last Tuesday morning on Interstate 80 during rush hour traffic. Fear crept into my thoughts. Was the dysfunctional passenger window on my two-door, 16-year-old Volkswagen Beetle about to fall down in its track? I focused my morning drive prayer on the window staying in place.
Safely off the interstate but still about five miles from the office, I heard a scraping noise on the pavement coming from my Beetle. Apparently the rattling noise wasn’t coming from the window! Was it the muffler, which had started getting noisy? I pulled off to the shoulder of Welcome Way Road and looked beneath the car. Something was hanging low to the ground but it didn’t look like the muffler.

Steve Fye
Barb Arland-Fye stands with her VW Beetle which has been with her on journeys across the diocese.

The newspaper’s deadline loomed but the Beetle clamored for attention. I pulled into a service station just a few blocks away. As I entered the lot, a metal cover the size of a suitcase dislodged from the Beetle. One side appeared to be oily. I called my husband Steve to see if he could identify the piece over the phone. It was the skid plate, a protective cover for the oil pan, he told me. Even without it, the car would be safe to drive to the office.

That nerve-wracking experience signaled a turning point in the relationship between me and my beloved Beetle. Family, friends and I have been joking for months that the car is held together by duct tape. Blue duct tape on the inside window button of the passenger door reminds us not to roll down the window. Clear Gorilla tape holds the inside of the driver’s door in place. The knob on the glove compartment broke off several years ago and the headliner is becoming unglued from the roof’s interior. It appears to be time to take this Volkswagen to the “old volks” home!


But the Beetle has been like a companion on the journey with The Catholic Messenger. Steve bought the shiny “Blue Lagoon” car eight months after I began my career as the Messenger’s editor. The Beetle has transported three bishops (William Franklin, Martin Amos and Thomas Zinkula), one Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award recipient (Sister Simone Campbell, SSS), family, friends and acquaintances.

Bishop Franklin had to disassemble his crosier because it would not fit at full length in my cozy car. He also gave me driving tips. When each of the other two bishops rode as passengers, they didn’t have vestments or crosiers with them. Thank goodness! The back seat of the Beetle is always full of stuff I need: gym bag, box for storage and tote bags with reading materials and other necessities. The blue Beetle became a landmark in the Chancery parking lot!

Last Saturday, Steve and I returned to the dealership where we had looked at cars earlier that week. One of the dealership’s employees advertises in The Catholic Messenger, which is why we chose to do business there. We made a deposit on a vehicle with manual transmission, just like my Beetle.

But it’s not a Beetle. As we left the dealership, I felt sadness and regret. The Beetle and I have been on many amazing adventures together since Steve purchased it in October 2002 as a surprise for me to replace another aging car that served us well. The Beetle has been a good and faithful servant, a companion on the journey, loved almost as much as my human companions.

(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at

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