“Cars? Your hobby is cars? So, like, you’re into money and stuff? My neighbor has a Maserati.”
No, not exactly. The above quote is my paraphrasing of an oft-held conversation between numerous ex-girlfriends and acquaintances regarding my hobby of choice. You can’t blame them, though; answering such an inquiry with an ambiguous answer like “cars” invites suspicion. A response like “deep house music” or “Duck Dynasty” immediately ushers you into a realm of black-and-white understanding, even if it may inspire revulsion. The washing machine viewpoint is a coherent one – replace “cars” with anything else that’s viewed as a commodity (like watches) and you’ll understand the apprehension.
Life is basically broken up into three sections: work, sleep, and the space between the two. This is a strong argument for having both an excellent mattress and bearable employment. Though it’s a minority member of our mortal coil’s triumvirate, “spare time” is arguably the most crucial of the three. The allocation of time to our interests is how many of us define our identities. And assigning a major portion of this time towards the research of an object, maneuvering said object at high speeds around unnecessary curves and/or cones, or working on old versions of this object, is an invitation to criticism.
To have a hobby is to do something, like mountain biking or crocheting. It may include the use of an object or tool, but the focus is on the action being performed. Plus, to repeat what is lamented frequently in many auto publications, a growing majority of people look at transportation as an inconvenient necessity tinted with materialism and assholery. The population as a whole gives less of a shit about driving dynamics than they do infotainment and Facebook integration. So it goes.
I’m not ranting against this, because doing so is about as played-out as Hozier or comparing acceleration times to a modern V6 Camry. It’s also completely futile, as I believe cars are soon destined to go gentle into that good night. Instead, I appreciate the modern era’s lack of auto enthusiasm as a yardstick of sorts: oh, so this is why people don’t get the “car” answer. When you think you may be a weirdo, nothing is more liberating than the realization that you actually are one.
So how do you “do” cars (and not in the “dragon” sense)? Or more specifically, how do you explain to someone that you’re a car enthusiast in a nuanced way that doesn’t frighten and confuse them? It’s tricky, and there’s not an easy answer – but here are a few options:
1. Find Common Ground (preferably with something they’ve seen on Netflix):
“Well, you know how you really like Sherlock, and the first few episodes were really awesome but occasionally they have weird ones like the one with the giant hound or the episode where Sherlock falls in love but not really but maybe? And how you’ll watch any new episode that comes out because you’re so in love with the characters, even though they frequently disappoint and befuddle you with their actions? I’m like that, but with cars.”
God, that Baskervilles episode was stupid. They drove a nice Defender, though.
2. Gussy it up:
“I enjoy exploring the dynamic slip angle characteristics of heterogeneous tires made in B.R.I.C nation-states during simulated urban skidpad demonstrations under adverse atmospheric conditions.”
Transcend your childish hobby by making it sound like an engineering practical. The above sentence is wholly more impressive than “I drift my shitty Nissan with mismatched tires in the Best Buy parking lot when it’s raining outside.” They still won’t understand you, but they probably won’t ask any more questions.
3. The Hipster Special
“I love… well, I loved cars, but their new shit is too corporate and unfeeling. I guess you could say I appreciate the craftsmanship and aesthetics of post-War Western European auto design. No, not like Lamborghinis – well, maybe the early Gandini era, but not the nauseating hulks of greed and excess like the 5000QV.”
Cars are probably something you wouldn’t understand, but I’ll make a condescending attempt to dumb it down. What’s that, Jalopnik reader? You weren’t there during the DAF vs. FAF era? Well, I guess a name like Ash78 means nothing to you.
4. The Honest Truth
“I like reading about the mechanics and engineering behind cars, and I’m also a fan of auto racing and sometimes participate in sanctioned events. The development of the automobile, though it occupies an admittedly small epoch of human history, has had a remarkable impact in the fields of design, manufacturing, and technical innovation. ”
Boom. Period, point blank. It covers all the bases: what you like, why you like it, and why it’s worth liking. There’s something to be said about a straightforward answer that… oh, you’re looking at your phone. Oh, haha, yeah, I love those memes too, mmhmm. Why don’t you tell me more about your trip to Coachella?
5. The Safe Choice
“I like football.”
It’s not a complete lie. Being a car enthusiast in the coming years will be akin to life as a Chicago Bears fan in the Cutler era: you love something with an illustrious history that is frequently let down by the decisions made at the top, with nary a bright spot on the horizon.
In all honesty, it’s a Sisyphean task. To borrow a phrase from my alma mater: “From the outside looking in you can’t understand it, and from the inside looking out you can’t explain it.” Thank God you can fall back on your charming wit and Jon Hamm-like good looks to win friends and influence people, right?