Topless in the East? Bicoastal Dreamer Keeps the Lid On


The desire was nothing quite so outrageous as requesting a limousine with a whirlpool and sauna, nor as exotic as a Ferrari Testarossa to take me from 0 to 60 real quick. Those I could get. For a price, sure. But those I could get.

I wanted a convertible.

You see, a good friend was to be married in Connecticut, so I thought: why not get a rag top, hit the road and, while I'm back East, tour the Other Coast with my girlfriend.

We would then arrive at our rented vacation house on Martha's Vineyard the way people are supposed to arrive at rented houses on Martha's Vineyard: in a convertible.

It would all start by flying into New York where a convertible, any convertible, would be conveniently waiting for me. Or so I had hoped.

I hoped wrong.

Surely, I'm not alone in this vision of the perfect summer vacation on the shore . . . the sea breeze whistling through the car . . . your arm draped gently around your beloved . . . Mozart bouncing off the sounds of the surf.

When I arrived in L.A. three years ago, I thought this city's love for cars was a little neurotic. I don't mean to recklessly add to the myth that L.A. is eccentric, but you've got to admit that it's a bit strange that one of L.A.'s greatest cultural monuments is a car wash. Naturally, I never thought I would succumb to this L.A. Car Disorder. But I fell hard--for the soft tops.

Convertibles are ubiquitous in L.A., which has caused me to suffer from a serious case of convertible-lust. The symptoms are pretty obvious:

* You have a feeling stirring inside as a convertible screams by that you want to drive your car underneath a tractor-trailer to rip the top of your car off the old-fashioned way.

* You are visibly upset that some people waste their convertibles by driving with the top up.

* You think such persons are fools. You want them to swap cars with you and lose the right to drive convertibles.

If you haven't already guessed, I don't own a convertible.

I've noticed that those of us who don't are the only ones who think they are terrifically wonderful autos. I recognize convertibles are a novelty that one can get used to, but I haven't. I frequently rent them for short trips around California, and I have always enjoyed the luxury of driving down the coast to watch the sun's last rays bounce off the shimmering ocean.

So, I thought it would be reasonable to rent one for my drive up the eastern shore.

I didn't think it would be too tough to find a ragtop in New York, the self-professed capital of everything including, I suspected, convertibles.

I called them all, one after another after another: Hertz. National. Budget. Thrifty. Dollar. Even Rent-a-Wreck.

The conversations were all the same: "No convertibles in New York."

Well, how 'bout New Jersey? Connecticut?

"No convertibles. Period."

What if I was a friend of your cousin? What if washed and waxed it every day? What if I treated it like I actually owned it?

They weren't buying it. No convertibles.

My heart sank. And then my blood boiled: You can buy or rent an AK-47 in Times Square, but you can't get a convertible? The city that claims to open its arms to "huddled masses yearning to be free" forgot to mention: no convertibles.

To be fair, I should add that Avis offered hope--it had a convertible. Of course, it was long gone, even at $400 a week.

"Maybe I should reserve it now for next year?" I jokingly added. "That would probably be a good idea," I was told.

The car rental agencies all said the same thing: no convertibles because of the weather. But I don't think they've done enough market research. There are at least 12 million Americans who would be happy to rent convertibles in winter.

I went on my vacation without the convertible, and I wasn't happy about it.

My bride-to-be friend explained that because of all the arrangements she had made, she couldn't move her wedding to the West Coast to accommodate my convertible desire.

So I reserved a car with a sunroof and hoped that I'd see a tractor-trailer parked along the road.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World