Sunday, July 1, 2012

The "I Am A Writer" Defense

Yesterday, I did some research.  I didn't set out to do the research, but I was driving by a parking lot when I saw a little, pastel yellow VW Beetle convertible.  "That's it," I said.  "That is the car in the book I'm currently writing."  I had already done a scene that takes place inside the car, and I knew I needed to check out a real one before long.

I veered across the double yellow lines, cranked the helm hard-a-lee and bounced into the parking lot, braking to a stop in the empty space beside the car.  A camera is almost always sliding around on the floor of my car--because I never know when a bear might cross the road again, and I want to be ready--so I  scooped it up and stepped out of the car, taking pictures of the car as surreptitiously as possible.

But I needed to examine the interior, and wanted a few shots.  There was no way to see through the glare of window without cupping my hands and pressing my nose against the glass.

Really hard to be unobtrusive with your nose against the glass.  Besides, I was afraid I'd leave nose prints that would be admissible in court, and there was a woman in a minivan watching my every move.  I wasn't sure how the "But, Officer, I'm a writer, and..." defense would work on the police.

So, I locked up my car and with the camera strap dangling, I paced into the bowling alley, and straight up to the snack bar.  "I have a weird request.  I'm looking for the owner of the light yellow, VW Bug out in the parking lot.  Do you know who owns it?"

The waitress balanced a plate filled with beefy french fries, a thick hamburger, and a fat dill pickle in one hand, and a club sandwich with a bag of chips in the other.  She nodded to the way I came in.  "Yeah, it is one of the people in the hair salon, I'm pretty sure."


I raced out and across the parking lot to the beauty parlor.  Three woman sat in various states of dubious beauty, while three other women stood behind them with scissors, bottles of die, or blow-dryers.  They all looked up when I came in.

"May I help you?"  The nearest employee glanced at my hair and grimaced, probably realizing my hair is beyond help.

I took a bracing, I-am-totally-confident-and-I-do-this-all-the-time-and-it-it-no-big-deal-and-I-am-not-acting-like-a-weirdo breath.  "Yes, I have a question.  I'm a writer and I need to speak to the owner of that cute little VW convertible out in the parking lot."

One of the women stopped, scissors open above a clump of hair held up by a comb. She glanced down at my camera, then up at me. "That's my car."

I trotted over to her.  "I'm a writer and I've just written a scene which takes place in your car, well, not your car, but a car just like yours, and I realized I wasn't sure about the interior of the car.  Would you mind if I get a few pictures of it?"

"Door is unlocked."

As soon as she had finished with her client, she came out in the parking lot and answered a bunch of questions, pointed out how to open and close the windows, the roof, the automatic locks, and made me promise to bring her a book if I get published.

When I was finished, it occurred to me I could have gone to a dealership and looked at one there, but that is too dangerous.  I miss my VW Cabrio too much.  I was afraid I might trade in my Subaru.

Aren't those flowers cute?


  1. Kudo's to you for having the tenacity to ask for a look. And I know what you mean about going to a dealership. I used to drive a Rabbit and I miss those crazy 5 speeds.

  2. Anne,

    Is it our fault they make their convertibles so fun?

  3. I dread the day when my Cabrio dies...there's nothing affordable (and RELIABLE) to replace it. :o(
    I think "I'm a writer" is almost as good an excuse as "We just went to Disney World, officer." :o)

    1. Baby that Cabrio, Karen.

      Plus we had the back-up excuse of "She's from California," which seemed to explain everything to them.

  4. How impressive and magical, the words,...I'm a writer.'
    Good job! Oh, and great photos!


  5. Opinions,

    It is fun to say. Someday I hope to say I'm an author. :)

  6. "I'm a writer" is better than "We're from Idaho, were at the beach in Florida a few days ago, and then decided to come to Columbus, GA where the temperature is 100+ degrees and walk around the woods near your house." Savannah and her boyfriend, Eugene, know this.

  7. Danny

    Wish I could here the whole story of how well that lame excuse went over. LOL

  8. Hi Melanie! This is the kind of research that lots of writers skip (preferring to rely on imagination alone) but it gives an air of grounded reality to a story. It's really nice to hear a little "slice of the writerly life" on your blog.
    Elaine Ash

  9. Elaine,

    Thanks for understanding. As it happens, I had to rewrite the scene. Very successful research, I'd say.

  10. A book in exchange for a view of the interior and pictures of the car, that's a deal. You're a real writer. Get "it" because you must.

  11. Peaches
    I admit it. I am hoping for a deal on a haircut.


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