Has it really been 34 years since I pulled my favorite silky pink shirt off the hanger, took it into Earl Scheib Auto Painting in downtown Salt Lake City (at a time when a car could be transformed for $99) and handed it to a perplexed painter with flecks of blue and white in his beard?
“THIS is the color I’m hoping for,” I’d told the guy after making the decision to give my 1972 Volkswagen Beetle a much-needed facelift. “Not hot pink. Not peachy-pink. Not fuchsia or rose or flamingo pink. I want cotton-candy pink. Do you suppose you could help make that happen?”
It was 1984, and I’d recently bought my third Beetle from a friend for $600 after selling my beloved burgundy-wine ’77 Corvette. Although I adored the ‘Vette, (silver leather interior, removable T-top panels, a deep and sexy vroom) the insurance premiums were outrageous, not to mention the gas bills. And when covering police stories for The Salt Lake Tribune, it felt odd to roll up to a crime scene like one of Charlie’s Angels. A Corvette was far too flashy and conspicuous.
What I needed was a pink Volkswagen.
When I held the shirt out to the auto painter, he backed up a bit in horror. “Pink? You want me to paint your car PINK? Are you sure? PINK?”
“Absolutely, I’m sure,” I told him. “Look at my car now, all splattered with gray primer. THIS will be an amazing improvement.”
“Hmmmmm. Really? I kind of like the gray,” he said. “We have lots of gray shades. Or maybe blue. How about baby blue?”
“My LAST Bug was baby blue,” I replied, exasperated. “And the one before that was forest green. This time, I’m thinking pink.”
“Well, look I’ve been here eight years and I’ve never painted a car pink,” he said. “Never. But it’s your money. Honestly, I should charge you extra since I’ll have to mix it up special. Plus, I’ll be going home tonight covered in pink paint. How do I explain that one?”
“That’s up to you,” I said. “Confident men have no problem wearing pink. My boyfriend has a pink necktie.”
“Oh, all right,” he said with a sigh. “Pink it is. Come back in two days at 5 and it’ll be ready. I’ll keep your shirt for now to make sure I get the right color.”
He did not disappoint. Two days later, I let out a squeal of delight when he rolled out my curvy Beetle, adorned in its shiny new coat. The heater ran nonstop and there were still large rust holes in the floor, but on the outside, my sweet Bug was blushing like a new bride. The perfect shade of cotton candy pink.
And as an added bonus, I never again had trouble finding my car in the parking lot.