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What a Car Enthusiast Looks Like to Everyone Else

I used to take it as a given that an interest in vehicles inherently made sense. People were either into cars or they were not. I assumed that even someone who wasn't into cars understood the fascination, even if they didn't share it. When I took the time to really look at the world around me, I had a realization. I. WAS. WRONG.

To understand how a car enthusiast must look to anyone else, I needed an angle. I initially thought of using the perspective of a "car hating Millennial," which seems to be a popular bogey-man. There were problems with this. For one, no one seems to agree on what a Millennial actually is or if they really all hate cars. Secondly, I wasn't looking for an antagonistic perspective. Instead, I decided to work from the mindset of someone who views cars as another appliance, like a washing machine. Frightening.

Illustration for article titled What a Car Enthusiast Looks Like to Everyone Else

[Enter Steve, Washing Machine Enthusiast]

The other day, I was visiting Steve. I'd overheard him at work, talking to other wash-heads. I was mildly curious about the hobby, I'd known some people who were into it, so I decided to bring up the subject. Steve perked up immediately and asked if I wanted to see his laundry room. I can say this: my laundry room is simply a place for my washing machine, his was something wholly other. All over the place were posters of professional washers, and vintage metal signs advertising long gone brands of soap and fabric softener. On the wall was a peg board with little silhouettes so that things like irons and detergent bottles always went back in the right place. He also had a collection of tools, some of which were familiar and some that I couldn't imagine the purpose of. In the corner were many boxes which seemed to be full of vintage washing machine parts. Most shockingly, in contrast to my laundry room, he had not one but FOUR washing machines.


"Why the other three when you have that one?" I was referring to the newest of the four. I'd seen advertisements for it and I was pretty sure it could easily do anything the others could.

"Oh, that one. Never use it." He goes on to explain that his wife picked it out for when she has to wash clothes. "Given the choice," he continues, "I'd have skipped the purchase, but she says mine are too complicated and touchy." He then motions proudly to the other three. "These are mine!"


I'm a bit confused by what I'm seeing. All three machines have all sorts of esoteric levers, switches and gauges that seem outdated and out of place even on these machines. All of them are at least a few years older than I'd expect someone "into" washing machines to care about. "Er. What does this lever do?" I'm sort of embarrassed to ask, but how else will I learn anything.

"That one engages the linkage between the wash drum and the motor." The tone of voice he uses suggests I have asked a profoundly stupid question.


"Why you want to do that? I'm pretty sure my does that on it's own." I'm sort of confused at this point.

He looks at me as if I've grown a second head. "Well I suppose if you've never tried it wouldn't make sense. Let me tell you, once you get the hang of it you gain a fine control of the exact engagement point that is far better and smoother than those automatic linkage systems. More efficient too."


"Wait just a second," I reply. "I'm pretty sure when I was purchasing my last machine the automatic drum linkage was actually slightly more efficient than the manual version."

"Lies," he insists. "Those numbers only reflect the EPA tests. I've monitored my own usage quite carefully and I always manage to exceed the estimate. Well, I suppose that's only when I'm not washing spiritedly, but when I want to I can get better efficiency."


Over the course of this tour I find out that he has three machines because, he says, they all offer distinct washing experiences. The newest, is what he calls his weekly-washer. It's a strange pale orange color. I swear last time that color was popular had to be at least a decade ago. Compared to the others it's the most boring, but it's also the toughest and the most easily replaceable. Next comes the very loud green unit. This is apparently the "fun" washer, it has a larger motor, upgraded stabilizers, and tons more done to it. "Spins 20% faster than when it left the factory," he announces triumphantly. The last one, I learn, doesn't work. He's restoring it and upgrading certain components along the way. I'm told that good examples are too rare and too expensive but that he always wanted one.

Apparently, all three washing machines have a bottom mounted drive attached to the wash drum, while most modern washing machines (like his wife's) have side mounted drive. I had thought side mounted was better, even though I rarely consider it at all. He informs me that it was all clever advertising to hide the fact that they were cheaper to manufacture that way. I then ask about models with dual drive that have both bottom and side. Once again I am apparently wrong; Steve says those dual drive machines lack soul, and detergent is far more important than extra driven parts.


Steve often washes clothes that are already clean because it helps him relax. I can kind of understand that. Sometimes a load of towels is kind of meditative for me because it requires almost zero effort and lets my mind wander. This, I am told, is not what he meant. For some reason he picks the most technical garments he can find to wash, because it requires full attention and really lets him test out the capabilities of his machines.

I learn about washing machine shows. Steve apparently hates something called the "Pantz" movement. These guys modify the stabilizers because it makes the machine look "cool" somehow. I'm told the result is a machine that can only be operated on the gentle cycle. "These guys are ruining otherwise good machines," he says. Honestly I remember most of those models from high-school. I never thought they were very impressive, but I don't tell him that.


At this point my brain is overflowing with technical jargon and details I once considered irrelevant. My head is spinning faster than the drum in the strange olive green number which he fired up so I could see it in action. Now that I look at it, I notice it has a bulge molded into the access panel to allow clearance for a larger motor. The obnoxious whine it emits does nothing for me, and it looks kind of silly. In short. I just don't get it.

I resolve never to bring up the subject again to him. I may, however, ask him for advice next time I buy a washing machine. I probably won't follow it.

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