Convertibles are fun, right? Except for
what they don't tell you. gets in the driver's seat.
You're probably not thinking about convertibles right now. Nobody
thinks about convertibles in the dead of winter. Not enviously, at
any rate. Smugly, perhaps. Or curiously. (Hmmm, wonder how those
babies do in this weather?) But not at all covetously. Which, in
the end, is the only way convertibles were meant to be thought
If they were food, convertibles would be ice-cream cones. If they
were clothing, they'd be bikinis. If they were parts of speech,
they'd be verbs. By way of comparison, and also because I enjoy
taking gratuitous swipes at them, SUVs would be meatloaf,
overcoats, and nouns.
Convertibles are summer. SUVs are winter.
Which is why, if you are thinking about convertibles, you are
crazy. Either that, or you, like me, own one.
We bought a convertible not long ago. I thought it was going to be
fun. And it has been. But it's also been nerve-racking.
You might expect the reason has to do with the top. But they
prepare you for that. They tell you in advance about pulling over
before putting up your top when it begins to rain, because
otherwise the wind might rip your car's top off and send it flying
down the street like a hat. They tell you about how to put the top
up and show you how to latch it.
The problem is what they don't tell you. What they don't tell you
is that the most important consideration when purchasing a
convertible is your taste in music.
Because you have the top down, the music you play can be heard by
the whole world. Because you are in a convertible, you have a
responsibility to play certain music.
Say, for example, you are driving down the street, when out of the
blue, the Carpenters' song "We've Only Just Begun" comes on.
Needless to say, you immediately turn the station. Changing "We've
Only Just Begun" is a no-brainer. But let's say Gloria Gaynor's "I
Will Survive" comes on. What then? Does "I Will Survive" possess
that certain something that you as a convertible driver want the
world to hear as you whiz by? Or is it the kind of song that
pedestrians, upon glancing over at the car and sizing up the music,
think, "Great car. Too bad the driver doesn't have the taste to
If, on the other hand, Barry White's "Can't Get Enough Of Your
Love, Babe" comes on, you blast it. This is a song made for
convertibles. "Girl, I don't know, I don't know why
enough of your love, babe." Barry White's deep, rich, bedroom voice
is romance personified. A convertible is romance automobilified.
The two together would be a marriage made in heaven, except that
neither Barry White nor convertibles are about marriage. They're
about freedom. So you could say that Barry White and convertibles
are a one-night stand made in heaven.
Anyone who owns a car radio knows, however, that there are a lot
more Carpenterses than Barry Whites on the dial. So driving a
convertible is a nerve-racking thing.
I'm here to help.
You may not be thinking of driving or buying a convertible at this
moment. But you will. And when you do, let me provide a guide so
that you don't go through that awkward stage of not even
recognizing the importance of playing music that says the right
things about you and your car.
First off, almost anything by Aretha Franklin is great, but
especially "Respect." Nirvana is also good. So are most pre-1971
Rolling Stones songs. Ditto same-era Stevie Wonder. And, of course,
Funkadelic, although it's not very often that Funkadelic gets
played on the radio.
It's okay that these are oldies. A convertible is nostalgia in
motion. It embodies simpler times and the abandon of youth. Oldies
owe their lifeblood to car radios, which came of age in the
That is not to say you can't listen to contemporary music. In fact,
you should. Current popular music captures a fleeting moment in
time. In their own way, convertibles do the same thing. They are
the pop songs of vehicles.
Keep in mind, however, that place makes a difference. If you are in
a city, for example, hip-hop is perfect (unless you're a
middle-aged white guy, in which case you'd be like a toupee falling
from a bald head at the coolest nightclub in town). In the country,
you might want to bring along a CD of Hank Williams (the elder) or
Asleep At The Wheel.
Some songs rely on the weather. Take, for example, Bob Dylan's
"Positively 4th Street." This is undeniably one of the all-time
great songs. But it is also a mean song. ("I wish that for just one
time you could stand inside my shoes
You'd know what a drag it is
to see you.") On a pretty spring day, this song just sounds harsh.
But it is perfect for one of those oppressively hot summer days
when everybody is already on edge and the viciousness of the song
rises up from the streets like the heat itself.
Which is one of the reasons our convertible is more my wife's car
than mine. She doesn't care as much about these things. If she
likes a song, she listens to it, worldly obligations be damned.
Personally, I find that irresponsible. But there is another reason
the convertible is her car: It is a chick car.
Now, you're asking, what happens if, despite your best
button-pushing intentions, the best you can do is Lenny Kravitz?
Good question. Kravitz is fine as far as he goes, which, owing to
his derivative '70s' licks, isn't very. In this case, you have two
options. If you like Kravitz, you can listen just loud enough to
ensure that only you hear it. Or you can turn off the radio
entirely and feign deep thought, as if something big and
complicated is going on in your life, something too consuming for
frivolous distractions like pop music. In the old days, you might
let a cigarette dangle loosely from your fingers, your arm extended
out the window. In these anti-smoking times, you might consider
running a hand through your hair in a tortured manner, à la James
Dean. I know. This one's a toughie.
But that is precisely my point.
Nobody said owning a convertible was going to be easy. Actually,
everybody says that. Or thinks that.
But they're wrong.
Don't even get me started on sunglasses.
Just be glad it's wintertime and you don't have to be thinking
about convertibles. AW