Volkswagen’s Actions and Consequence

Every morning I get an email from Medium with their top stories. Today’s batch included a lovely article about the demons who run Uber, Volkswagen and Zenefits.

I’m sure Zenefits, and I know Uber, must be doing awful things to alienate customers, employees and innocent children but my beef today is not with them, it’s with Volkswagen.

Which pains me to say because I love the VW Beetle(Bug). I love the VW Bus. My mom’s first car was a VW Bug. When she was pregnant with my older brother and decided to run away to California so as to not “bother” my dad with it, she drove cross country from Baltimore to LA in a Bug. When my dad flew to LA to tell her he loved her and they could make it work they drove back to Baltimore in her Bug. When my older brother and sister were babies my mom would lay them in a basket of laundry and drive to her mothers house to do a load of warsh a few blocks away in that Bug.

For years my mom and dad were bugless. After that first Bug went to the great salvage lot in the sky they went through a variety of other makes and models.

Until a few years ago. My mom needed a new car and wanted one of those clean diesel VW Jetta wagons she was reading so much about. My mom loved the environment. Her home was in the garden. It still is.

I went with them to the VW lot on York Rd. in Timonium where she picked out this sweet looking black Jetta wagon. I even donated my Ford Focus and all of its $400 value toward this new car.

She was so proud of the fact that she was saving money, saving the environment, saving the whales… and then the recall was announced. These “clean” engines were actually not doing the job they promised. They were actually not clean. In fact, as I learned this morning they were far from it. They were actually polluting the air at a much more alarming rate.

A few months ago my mom died.

It was extremely sudden. She was the type of woman who never looked or acted her age. She loved Zumba, she loved dancing, she loved Pinot Grigio, she loved her husband, she loved her kids and she was the youngest 70 year old you ever met.

Then one morning after feeling a little under the weather she collapsed. She had a stroke. A few days later as she battled in the hospital she had another one. Apparently the stroke was caused by a sizable blood clot that orginated in a cancerous mass around her lungs. In case you’re wondering my mom quit smoking when she was in her twenties.

This dancing queen never wanted to live like a vegetable and so we granted her last dying wish to be taken off the machines and we let her go.

I’ve struggled to find answers for my dad who lost his love one day before their 49th wedding anniversary. Some nights and days are easy than others. I know my siblings feel the same way.

Recently though we had a rough night as my dad, wading through paperwork related to the recall of her Volkswagen Jetta Wagon, dealt with a VW customer service rep who, despite knowing that my mom had died and that was the reason for my dad’s umpteenth phone call, told my father that what they needed to complete the procedure was my mom’s signature.

My father, always the gentleman explained much better than I ever would that it was probably time for him to speak to a supervisor. He was then connected to a supervisor who apologized profusely, promised to get back to him the next day and straighten this mess out.

That was three weeks ago. Still waiting.

We’re doing our best to allow him the space to live his life. He is a wise, capable, loving man who doesn’t need his kids to be on top of him every second, despite our confusion at trying to do anything else with our lives at this point. But he doesn’t deserve that sort of treatment.

I guess I should be clear that I’m not insinuating that VW and their cars somehow increased the severity of my mother’s cancer. Maybe it did. It certainly didn’t help. Perhaps if they created a car that ran on rainbows and hugs instead of oil and gas but thats a different article for a different time.

In general I hope this adds to the wake up call for large and small corporations everywhere that your heartless actions, whether they be; designing inferior cars, ordering your engineers to create systems to trick the EPA, training your customer service reps to ask for the signature of a dead woman or simply promising a great man, who happens to be suffering the greatest heartbreak of his life that you’ll help him, all of these actions have consequences.

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