Saga of the Jetta GLI

This veers away from the usual content I share, but this story is too good to not tell. It’s not quite as astronomically impossible as The Story of ECT 2018, but still pretty improbable and mind-blowing. And hey, I’ve been naming my cars after Loki’s children for almost 20 years, so there’s your Loki-connection to justify this post. Bear with me, there’s a lot of background to set up The Improbable Story.

Anyone who’s ever had the misfortune of meeting me knows I have an unhealthy attachment to my VWs. I grew up in them. My first ever car ride, homecoming from the hospital where I was born, was in an ’81 Rabbit, and we upgraded to a Jetta in Germany (after an accident involving a tractor trailer that should have killed me, but that’s another story for another time). So when it came time to buy my first car, I knew I was getting a Jetta.

November 2004: I’d graduated college, was accepted into Army OCS, and promptly destroyed a good portion of my skeleton during BCT. I’d been home from FT Jackson for less than a month when I decided to use my Army pay towards a new car.

That car was a 2005 Jetta GLI, 1.8T with a DSG trans, Urano Gray, body kit with the sport skirts, and cloth Recaro race seats. I called her Sleipnir because she was my trusty gray steed carrying me around the world. It was the last year of the MK 4 body style, the pinnacle of Jetta design, and I’ve scowled at the redesigns ever since. This is where my car obsession kicked in, for real. It was the most perfect car, and I had her for 10 years. I only ever had service done at the VW dealership where I’d bought her (which, in absolutely no coincidence, is the dealership I currently work my 9-5 until my health allows me to get back to mortuary work). There was one time I allowed someone else to do maintenance: my boyfriend at the time was car-savvy and offered to change the oil himself. He drained the transmission fluid instead. My baby had a sealed transmission, so putting the trans fluid back in wasn’t a simple task. Needless to say, that relationship fell apart not long after. Not because of the crime he committed against my GLI, but that incident certainly didn’t help things.

During my mortuary internship, the seams on the bolster of the driver’s seat gave way from years of me knocking against it as I got in and out of the aggressively deep seat. Upon finding a brand-new, never used S curve needle in the prep room, I decided to practice my baseball style suture and repaired the tear. Unfortunately, we only had white thread at the funeral home, so I colored the exposed bits with black Sharpie. It wasn’t a VW-sanctified fix, but it worked, and my Sharpied stitches were far more discreet than the yellow foam of the bloster glaring through the fabric.

A few years later, I had to make a terrible, responsible decision. By this time I was working for a funeral home about 16 miles from home, and we didn’t use 3rd party removal services: when a call came in the middle of night, the funeral director on call was responsible for going out to take the decedent into our care. My GLI was amazing at everything except for driving in blizzards on unplowed roads. It was time to trade Sleipnir in for something with more than 1.5″ of ground clearance and 4 wheel drive.

November 2014: ten years after taking the keys for my GLI, I was back at the same dealership, fighting with the sales guys about having to give them back. When they insisted I take the keys to the certified pre-owned Tiguan I’d just signed for, I burst into hysterics and had a full on meltdown in the showroom, right outside the managers’ office. I begged them to let me take her for one last drive up the auto mile and back while my mom tried to sink through the floor in absolute shame and embarrassment. Thankfully, they allowed this. As I coasted to a stop at the first red light, I collapsed on the steering wheel in a fresh torrent of sobs and snot. I was a 32-year-old licensed funeral director and embalmer, and I carried on worse than anyone ever had at any of the funerals I worked.

The Tiguan was a good car, and an absolute beast in bad weather. It was used, but it was immaculate because it had actually been leased by my service writer before I got it (and that service writer is now my supervisor, and the finance guy who made me surrender the GLI keys is my boss. Thankfully, he’s actually much nicer than I make him out to be in this tale of woe). However, it wasn’t a “me” car. I hate leather/ette seats, and I longed for sport suspension, DSG transmission, and a low center of gravity. My GLI was a torquey little beast that hugged curves and made driving a delight. The Tiguan was punchier than the Escalades I drove at work, but it was pretty much a practical car that served a functional purpose, nothing more. I was miserable.

Then 2017 rolled around, and I had my hysterectomy because endometriosis had jacked up my internal organs like whoa and scar tissue was fusing everything together. I had to resign from the funeral home because recovery was going to take a while, and I wouldn’t be able to sling bodies for a long, long while. I applied for sales at the VW I’d been patronizing since ’04, and I made customers laugh with the story of my emotional breakdown that fateful night in 2014. “Careful about buying Volkswagens,” I’d say. “They get into your blood and you’ll end up weeping on your last drive when you have to trade it!” Somehow, this didn’t discourage people from buying cars from me.

As soon as I could, I traded the Tiguan for something more my speed. I didn’t know when I’d be able to get back to the morgue, and I decided to use my employee discount as a consolation prize. This time, it was a MK 7 GTI, 2017, Carbon Steel Gray, with the Clark Plaid seats. This is still my whip, and I’m madly in love with my GTI. I’m glad I traded in for it because a few months later, my appendix rotted and filled my lower abdomen with sludge and misery. Cue hugely invasive abdominal surgery #2, less than a year after the first one. This is the one that REALLY messed up my health, so much so that I had to move from sales to a more administrative position. Still doing the admin work, a straightforward 40 hour work week with nights and weekends off, and barely even able to keep myself upright despite how physically easy it is compared to mortuary work and car sales. So boo to my internal organs jacking up my career indefinitely, but yay for having a GTI.

Still miss my GLI, though, and every time I see a MK 4 GLI on the road I gawk and squeal and geek out with zero shame. And this is where the Improbable Story begins.

It’s worth noting I live and work in a metro region in the tri-state area, and our customers come from NY, Jersey, and Philly. We’re not the only VW dealer in the area, either.

I escaped my penalty box desk area and wandered over to one of the service writers to bitch about something, and I noticed a gray MK 4 GLI parked right outside. I promptly forgot what I was pissy about and screeched something about “gotta go check the VIN brb hahahaha”. As I approached, I got a weird, weird feeling. Peering through the driver’s side window, I saw baseball stitching in white thread colored black.

My car had come back.

What I glimpsed from the service writer’s desk

I. Lost. My. Mind. I was more excited about this than I was upon learning my Loki and Sigyn book was getting a deal with Llewellyn. I practically attacked the sales managers (including the one who made me surrender the keys 6 years ago) and demanded to know which customer it belonged to and if they were trading it in, because I called dibs. I made everyone go outside and look at the stitching on the seat and the light scratch on the back door from when a kid rode his bike too close to it in the parking lot of the apartments I was at in 2006. The customer was identified, and I moseyed on over, eyes wide and crazed over my mask.

“Is the MK 4 GLI yours?”

He beamed with pride, a pride I knew all too well. “Yup, and I’m not trading it, it’s not for sale.”

“Smart. So, wanna know the story behind the baseball stitches?”

He (and his mother) burst with excitement as I regaled them with stories, because it was pure insanity that the car we loved had been originally purchased new from the dealership they were sitting in, and then surrendered at this same not-local-to-them dealership, and the original owner just happened to work there when they came by to look at getting a second car. I showed him pictures from when she was mine, and he fawned over them like they were pictures of puppies. He gave me the keys and told me I could take her for a spin, but I declined because I was on the clock and because I couldn’t guarantee that I’d surrender the keys a second time.

For a nearly 20-year-old car, she’s in fantastic shape. I’m proud to say the sutures have held beautifully – the cloth on other parts of seat and interior is getting loose and saggy, and there’s some seam separation lower in the bolster, but my sutures have held true all these years. My stitches don’t leak, my bodies are eternal! Little bit of embalmer ego there.

My heart still aches over the loss of my GLI, my first new car, the one I bought with my Army pay, that carted me to mortuary school and internship and my first job as a licensed funeral director and embalmer. The car that I bought a house with a garage for – my baby needed her own little brick house, too. That’s the car that took me to my alma mater to meet Neil Gaiman, and to a liquor store to meet Dan Aykroyd. I have so many wonderful memories of that car, and I’m thrilled she’s still going strong and making new memories for a new owner who loves her dearly. She’s in good hands, and this time, I was able to walk away from my GLI with a smile.

That car is special. I’m glad her current caretaker recognizes how wonderful she is and treasures her instead of modding the hell out of her and running her into the ground. And I’m grateful that I got to have that little reunion, to see her again at the same place I first saw her, parked only a few feet away from where I last saw her. Everything came full circle, and even though she’s not at all local and I’ll probably never see her again, it’s awesome to know she’s still on the road and turning heads.

That said, I didn’t cry when I traded in the Tiguan. But my GTI? Brace yourselves: if I ever have to give up my GTI, it’s going to be apocalyptic. I haven’t had that little beastie for even a third of the time I had my GLI, but we’re already pretty bonded. And mine is the last model year for its body style and color, and I just don’t care for the look of the MKs 7.5 or the upcoming 8. Just as my GLI was the pinnacle of Jetta styling, my GTI is the pinnacle of Golf design.

What can I say? I love my cars.

One thought on “Saga of the Jetta GLI

  1. I am so glad I found your blog! I have been seen your purses channel, and was wondering how you were doing.
    I too was so aad when my mom sold my first car while I was studying abroad, a 1994 white beetle vw , that car was my first paid with my first paycheck at 19 car…so many adventures, now that I live in a super cold country and have 3 kids and drive a van ..I still remember my vw and its majesty.


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