That idea is: liberty.

Imagine you’re a director.

You want to convey a sense of freedom, the sense of being released into wide, open spaces.

In a quick series of shots you want to get one idea across. That idea is: liberty.

How do you do that?

Well, with a convertible car, of course.

Have your heroine clutch a chiffon scarf aloft that will catch the wind.

The driver – your hero –  will rakishly prop his left elbow on the open window while managing the wheel with a confident, tanned, right hand. Everyone else in the car will perform a variation of sun salutation yoga: arching their backs, raising their faces to a glorious, blue sky, stretching both arms overhead. Be sure to capture a shot of your actors’ hair billowing in the breeze. Have your heroine clutch a chiffon scarf aloft that will catch the wind.

Photo from iStock

Ahhhhh, what signifies freedom better than the convertible automobile?

Well, that’s all changing.

The convertible is all but dead.

… “Let’s put the top down”.

In 2021, in the US – which lays claim to more convertible-conducive weather that we have in the true North, cold and free – only one in every 200 cars sold was a rag top. There’s a generation of kids coming up that have no idea of what it means when someone says, “Let’s put the top down”. Conversely, there’s now also a generation of people that don’t wake up on a rainy morning bemoaning that they forgot to ‘put the top up’.

Appreciation for Triumphs and MGs gave rise to Corvettes and Thunderbirds.

Collectively, we’re making different choices now. Today, the category of vehicle that outsells everything else is the SUV.  And trucks – we love our trucks. The convertible had its heyday back in the late 1950s and for pretty much the whole span of the 60s. Convertibles were everywhere back then. Soldiers returning from World War II brought back an appetite for British and European sports cars and the North American automotive industry took note. Appreciation for Triumphs and MGs gave rise to Corvettes and Thunderbirds. The ‘rag top’ would quickly become democratized in the form of the affordable and iconic Ford Mustang. Soon, convertibles were an achievable dream. Just ask Mustang Sally.

… convertibles aren’t all that practical, …

We started ghosting the convertible somewhere back in the 1970s. The industry kept making  attempts to recapture our hearts with models like the 1982 Chrysler Le Baron soft top, but we’d lost interest. The unspoken truth had started to rear its ugly head: convertibles aren’t all that practical, and they’re not quite as safe as a regular car. Structural strength has to be expensively factored into the doors and chassis, and storage space is gobbled up by that movable roof. Millennials don’t want convertibles – there’s nowhere to put the $600 buggy and the empty growler bottles. The people buying convertibles are the people who don’t need to transport a working model of Mount Vesuvius to the science fair – the plus-55 market.

Photo from Unsplash

The top selling convertibles in 2020 were the Mazda MX-5 Miata with the Ford Mustang taking third place. The other top slots went to luxury brand automobiles: BMW Z4, 3 and 4 Series,

So, if it’s the wind in your hair you’re craving, get a bike.

E and C Class Mercedes Benz and the Porsche 911. If you went back to 2005, the ranking of top-selling convertibles was less glossy, more affordable: the Mustang, the PT Cruiser, the VW Bug, then the BMW 3 and 4 Series, Chevrolet’s Corvette, Chrysler’s Sebring, with the adorable Mini Cooper coming in at seventh place. Convertibles used to be cheap(er) and cheerful.  Now, they fall in the domain of the luxury vehicle.

So, if it’s the wind in your hair you’re craving, get a bike. And you might feel better if you tie a chiffon scarf to the handle bars.

This week’s question for readers:


Now, in return, will you do something for me? Will you sign up for The Plain Jane, my newsletter? You can ignore it, if you want, when it shows up in your inbox every few weeks, but my rotten kids will think I’m a star if I have a decent subscriber list. 

Make sure you add to your email address book.

Here’s further incentive to sign up: PRIZES!!!

Submissions to last week’s question:

Where has your thumb taken you? Would you pick up a hitchhiker today?

In the early1970’s I was Crown Counsel in the prosecution of a murder trial at the Kamloops criminal assize.  The case involved a kindly car driver who made the mistake of picking up three hitchhikers as he drove west to Kamloops, his intended destination.  It was a stiflingly hot day and his passengers, one young man and two young women, suggested they stop for a swim at Adams Lake which took them off the main highway and onto a less travelled road.

After a swim all four returned to the car with the male getting into the back seat immediately behind the driver, the two girls occupying the other two seats.  Shortly after leaving the lake the male hitchhiker grabbed a hammer he found in the car and with several blows to the head, killed the driver.  The body was dumped in the woods and the three drove on to Vancouver where the car was sold to a scrap dealer and cut up for parts.

As the result of exceptional police work, the murderer was arrested, charged and convicted by a jury.  The appeal of the conviction was unanimously dismissed by the B.C. Court of Appeal and the accused was sentenced to life in prison.  Once again proving that crime doesn’t pay —and in this case, neither did picking up hitchhikers.

Grant Macdonald

In 1975, my husband and I went to Europe. I didn’t want to do the trip de jour to Greek isles or Israeli kibbutzim. I said, “Let’s do Africa!” So we hitchhiked from Lisbon to Gibraltar, then ferried across to Africa. We went through Morocco, Algeria, across the Sahara Desert, down Nigeria, then along the West Coast to Senegal. Life changing! We mostly hitchhiked and paid only for the trip across the Sahara and the train from Bamako to Dakar. We were never scared and had no bad experiences. We flew from Dakar to Montreal and, yup, hitchhiked home to Vancouver. 

Sheena Ashdown

In June 1973 my boyfriend and I hitched from Vancouver to Syracuse, NY. I was 18, he was 22.

Leaving on Sunday, five rides and 24 sleepless hours later found us near Revelstoke. I smiled

As a van with New Jersey plates passed by. Screech!! Three  guys on a Coors beer run to

Colorado speeding home to New Jersey for a wedding on Saturday had liked my smile!

Stopping only for gas, pizza and sleep, we were in Syracuse by Thursday. When I called my mom

in Vancouver she said, “No really, where are you ?”

Karyn Taylor 

A memory to shiver your bones.  My friendship with someone, who had been part of the hippie cohort, produced her recollection about her travels in the 60’s.  She was headed to San Francisco, via her thumb.  She parked herself along the highway giving space between herself and earlier hitchhikers.  A driver offered her a ride which she declined pointing him up towards an earlier arrival.  The driver then picked up that young woman.  My friend was shaking when TV news revealed that the picture of a woman found dead was the one who received her gift of the next ride.  She later saw pictures of the man who offered her the ride she declined: Ted Bundy.

Charmaine Kelder

1971 and school was out. My friend Bob and I were getting restless. We heard there was work in Nimbo Lake so off we went .

Riding in the back of pickups, in transport trucks and even a Cadillac we arrived to find there was no work. We continued on to Bella Coola and worked in a cafe for two weeks.

Then we headed for the Okanagan where we were picked up by the RCMP for loitering and taken to a farm work camp. Our parents had to send us $20.00 before we could go. We picked cherries for a few days and then hitchhiked to my Grandpa’s farm in the small town of Spaulding Saskatchewan. We spent a glorious Summer helping on the farm then hitchhiked back to Burnaby in time to start school. Yes I would definitely pick up a hitchhiker today 

Roy Harvey

I was an officer cadet at Coast Guard College, in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, in the late 70s.  Twice a year, at Christmas and summer break, cadets were given paid airfare to return home.  At Christmas I flew home to Ontario but, during the summer break, I chose to take cash instead of airfare and stuck out my thumb instead. I was advised by other adventurers to wear my # 1, dress uniform, and being a young adult female, I never waited long for a ride.  I met some interesting people, and never had a scare.  I would arrive at home with a pocket full of cash to have some summer fun.  

Susan Alcock

In my late teens, I hitchhiked on a regular basis. I grew up in North Van and would routinely thumb rides “overtown”. Later, when I lived in Kitsilano, I would stick out my thumb while waiting for the bus. Spent some time on Long Beach in the late 60s/early 70s and thought nothing of hitching there and back. In 1970, when I was 18, inspired by Kerouac, I hitchhiked to Montreal and back. Took 12 days to get from Vancouver to Toronto. In those days BC and Alberta were full of violent rednecks who hated men with long hair. Had a couple of dangerous encounters. In Vancouver I got picked up by a religious fanatic once, and once at night by a guy who was seeking a sexual encounter (I declined and got out at the next light). Never had any other problems locally. Guess I was lucky. 

Haven’t thumbed a ride in at least 45 years. To my amazement I actually saw a hitchhiker recently, outside Victoria. I did not pick him up. My first thought was “He must be nuts”. My second thought was that back in the day some people probably thought the same about me. 

Gordon Watson

In 1971 I hitchhiked from Belfast to Dublin during Internment when the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland was at its height. I was picked up in succession by a priest and a minister who were both very personable but their version of the political situation there could not have been more polarized. I thought to myself peace was a very long way off….

Avrum Miller

My hitchhiking stories began in 1967.  I was a 14 year-old who didn’t care much for rules .  I left home with my 15 year old brother and we hitchhiked from Saskatoon to Vancouver. It took us three days to get there. We ended up living with the hippies on Third Ave for a while, picked beans and raspberries in Yarrow, then hitchhiked to Penticton and lived with the hippies there for two or three months. I also took side trips to Calgary and back and even took a side trip to Saskatoon and back  to the Okanagan. I was on my own hitchhiking around western Canada for five months and I have some amazing memories of that time. Let’s just say that I feel lucky to have experienced that and   also to have survive . While hitchhiking you meet some of the best people in the world and some of the worst and everyone in between.

Dennis  Cadrain

It was 1971, I was hitching north of Alice Springs, Australia, heading to Darwin. In two hours – no rides. But then, a car slowed to check me out, and it happened. I didn’t know I was standing on a monstrous red ant nest. They flooded up my legs and began biting. I screamed and jumped and slapped and hoped this potential ride would ask ‘What’s wrong?’ He didn’t. He surely thought me a crazy man. I stripped off my clothes and moved up the road a hundred yards. The next car picked me up … and I picked out dead ants all the way north.

Robb Lucy

My husband and I still talk about two memorable occasions when we’ve picked up hitchhikers, both when we were on holidays. The first was in Barbados when we were driving around exploring the island when suddenly my husband unexpectedly pulled over and picked up a young fellow. What really alarmed me however, was the fact that this young fellow was carrying a cricket bat!  I think my husband was just curious about what his story might be and why he would be standing on the side of the road seemingly in the middle of nowhere. It turns out it was nothing nefarious – he was heading to his weekly cricket match! While we drove,  he shared some local knowledge until we delivered him to the rest of his team on time and then carried on with our day. The second one was in Kauai, when we picked up an older weatherbeaten woman carrying a small pink suitcase. She was going further than we originally intended to drive, but she was a colourful storyteller who lived wild in the forest, after abandoning a more mainstream existence, so we continued further and enjoyed the interaction. But we still wonder what was in that suitcase! 

Allison Neumann

About 1969, right out of high school, my boyfriend and I hitchhiked across Canada to Ontario. We got a ride with a friend to Regina, then stuck our thumbs out.  First ride was with a couple of drunks who had just dropped their wives off at the airport.  We insisted they let us out and dropped us off at a rest stop.  We spend that night  in our sleeping bags on a cow trail.  In the Great Lakes area a storm was coming in and it was getting dark. We didn’t have a tent and were getting quite worried.  Just before the rain came, a very nice man with a truck and camper picked us up.  He drove us to Fort Francis, let us stay in his camper overnight, while he stayed with some friends.  Made us breakfast, then drove us to the outskirts of town.  Bert Davidson – we kept in touch for a few years.  It was a great experience and a different way to see the country.   

Sylvia Achtem

Three friends and I backpacked through Europe when we were 19 in 1981. We landed in Frankfurt and split up to hitchhike since it would be too hard to get a ride with four of us. We left from Heidelberg and would show up at the Eiffel Tower at 12 noon each day until we met up again. Rob and I were only half way there after three days and ten different rides so at the French border we caught the train. On the fourth day we met John and Dave at the Eiffel Tower. They got a ride the first day all the way to Paris. They sat in the back of Mercedes listening to Johnny Cash. 

Dan Riordan 

Back in 1955, a friend of mine and I went to visit relatives in central Alberta.We took the bus to Calgary, and as there was no bus heading north to Lacombe, we took to the street and hitchhiked.

Along came a car, fancy Buick 2-door. It stopped and let us into the back seat and went on its way northward. During the ride, the driver reached under his seat, pulled out a bottle of

beer, put it to his mouth and removed the cap with his teeth. Needless to say, we were kind of mesmerised; didn’t like that too much but as ‘prisoners’ in the back, we just took it all in.

Arriving at Lacombe, he pulled in to a gas station, so I told him,  “This is

exactly where we have to be”. They let us out and we went on our way to our relatives in that town.

Would I pick up hitch-hikers today? I don’t think so.

Matt Kwantes

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