Choice is the absurdly annoying and constantly nagging variable of human reality, the fuel for the chain of events we know as life. From sunrise to sunset, we're all constantly bombarded with requests and situations that require us to exercise our free will. Escape is futile.
Some decisions are so aggravating and painfully difficult to make they'll decompose your brain into a thick gray soup sloshing about in your skull. When faced with the choice between two different shades of off-white paint to coat your bedroom walls in, you'd have to go home and choke down Fioricet while you mull over color swatches until you threw up bile and wept tears of blood.
Thankfully, it isn't always that horrible. In fact, most choices are almost so pathetically easy to make, they're pretty much primal instinct. Given the option between scrubbing prison toilets for minimum wage or sitting at home taste-testing craft beer for a yearly salary that would equal China's entire GDP, it's hard to imagine anyone short of a total masochist would chose to clean Bubba's head for "seven something" an hour.
So given the role choice plays in our everyday lives, it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the automotive marketplace is also choice driven. You can pick between a tiny car, a small car, a "just right-sized" car, and a big car. After you've selected which size cup you want your four-wheeled Big Gulp in, you can choose between these seven guaranteed-in-stock flavors: coupe, sedan, hatch, wagon (when a unicorn farts in Korea), crossover, sport-ute, pickup, and van.
Decided what you want? Okay, good. Now you have to figure out what engines are on the options sheet and choose between thriftiness or manliness. And while you'll most always be hooking your engine of choice up to some sort of lazy, benign automatic gearbox, occasionally someone will have the bright idea to give you the alternative of a manual one. Spoiler warning: you might have to choose there.
The dust hasn't settled yet, nope. After you've finally settled on what you want, you'll have one more decision to make — whether or not you can afford it. Ugh. Excuse me while I grab another Fioricet and a glass of water.
But don't misunderstand me. Having a world of choice when it comes to what you drive isn't a terrible thing. It's a great thing... except when it isn't. If you're Joe Schmoe, it means you can almost custom tailor your new mobile toaster, washing machine or fridge to better suit your point a-to-b lifestyle and live worry free. If you're an enthusiast on the other hand, the choices you've made concerning what you drive can sometimes make you hate getting out of bed in the morning.
Take me, for example. I drive a Dodge Charger. To Joe Schmoe, my silly oversized car with its vulgar, retro-macho patriotic styling, lack of chrome and big wheels alone most likely conveys to him the fact that I'm a petrolhead, a guy who likes and cares about cars. He doesn't know and doesn't care that it's the fleet-queen SE model that's as upmarket as a frozen Salisbury steak dinner. He doesn't know nor care that it "ain't got a Hem-mie." He recognizes the small aspirational image my car might have and that's where the buck stops.
What another enthusiast sees, however, can be a different story. Best case scenario, he'll see my car and might want to "talk Mopar" for a moment before he goes on about his way. Worst case scenario, he'll take one look at my car immediately know that, because of its lack of HID headlights, fog lights and tiny stereo, it's the base version. And because the base version only comes with a V6, he'll know that I didn't get the manly engine. Never mind the fact I was too broke to buy the eight-banger and forget the fact its still a big rear-drive car: that's an open invitation to him to give me grief about it.
"Why didn't you get the Hemi, dude? Why didn't you buy an SRT8? Man, you can't sit there and tell me you like cars if you didn't get the V8 and that big touch screen radio. I had one of these and I made sure I at least got the Hemi. Worth every penny and it'll beat that V6 of yours in a sneeze."
That's the first worse case scenario, actually. Second worse case scenario, he'll ignore the trim and engine and just point out that it's missing a third pedal. That's enough for him throw his supremacist's nose up and walk away.
Never mind the fact that I first learned how to drive on a woefully slow S10 pickup with a five-speed manual transmission and would do it again in a heartbeat. Never mind the fact Dodge never thought to offer the Charger with a row-your-own. If you buy a car, any car, with a slushbox, you're automatically disqualified as a "real enthusiast." You're plebeian, you're "casual." You should've just bought a beige Corolla.
Forgive me for being under the impression that the lone qualifier for being a car enthusiast was that, at the day's end when you've cleared your mind of criticism and cynicism, you generally love or at least accept and celebrate all cars good or bad. Not that what you drove had to reflect that down to the fasteners in the wheel arches.
Not all of us are like that, no, but there's still more than enough of these fedora-donning assholes (for those of you across the pond, substitute the fedora for an anorak) among our ranks, clouding up the pool water. Who let these clowns into the club? And who let them decide car-shaming was cool?
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