I have to presume you are petrolhead; after all you are on this website reading this blog. If you weren’t a bona fide car enthusiast you’d be elsewhere on the ’net.
I have come to the realisation, though, that not all petrolheads are the same, there are varying degrees of petrolheadedness. I realised this at a social get together at my son’s school. If you, like me, have been inducted recently into the revered role of fatherhood, you’ll understand the slightly embarrassing awkwardness of a school function. You see, everyone is new, exercising caution, testing the water as if to see who will be a suitable friend or acquaintance. This is quite tricky and usually out of your hands, because whomever your child chooses as a friend, his/her parents automatically become yours.
Naturally the men gather to one side while the women – who seem to have no problem whatsoever making friends at your child’s school, and consequently know everyone – well, do whatever it is women do.
Now, put a group of men together who don’t know each other and you will instantly understand the meaning of an awkward silence. Conversation pickings are slim, no one wants to talk about their work, for fear of being trumped by the possible entrepreneur extraordinaire next you. So, in traditional I-don’t-know-you-but-I-have-to-talk-you affair the conversation will slowly rotate between the weather, sport, previous weekend’s alcohol consumption and, sometimes, cars.
Predictably, as the function wears on like minded groups form within the larger social setting. Accountants huddle closely together relaying war stories of the latest account acquisitions, the oddball business entrepreneurs taking issue with staffing problems whilst simultaneously heckling the accountants, the sports buffs analysing in detail the previous week’s game. And then there are the car guys.
Now if petrolheadedness could be likened to a disease the most obvious symptom is a chronic case of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). And if I were diagnosed by a doctor he would say: “Sorry Mrs Preston there isn’t much hope for your husband he has full blown petrolheadedness!” There is no known cure, other than to water regularly and feed the inflicted patient a diet of the most up to date motoring content available, supplemented by a regular drive in one of his favourite machines – it must be noted though, that this can lead to further negative symptoms, such as an unending and insatiable need to drive”.
Full blown petrolheadedness is not an easy affliction to live with, everyday occurrences of walking through a parking garage become, unknown to your family and friends, time to feast and get ones fix. It can be embarrassing, too. Squatting down next to Mercedes AMG inspecting its race inspired brake technology whilst simultaneously quizzing oneself on the rim and tyre combination: “Are these 18 inch? No wait, these are the optional 19 inchers as I suspected”. “Well done Luke”, I think to myself. Having the owner stood directly behind you as you suspiciously inspect his wheels whilst mumbling incoherently is part and parcel of having full blown petrolheadedness. So too is peering through the darkened windows of a parked Nissan GT-R only to realise the owners are still in it and looking directly back at you.
But back to the school function. Eventually talk does turn to cars and a quick scan of the parking lot upon entering the school shows I am apparently in good company. My trained eyes picked out a BMW 330i and 335i Coupé, an R50 Touareg, a Cooper S JCW and a Porsche Cayenne Turbo S! I may add when talking about cars amongst relative strangers, you have to be very careful about your approach, say too little in the conversation and you’re glossed over as rookie, say too much however and you’ll be summarily shunned by the group as a motoring snob. Mention that you write about cars, even as a hobby, like I do, and well, the first question is usually, “Sorry, what’s a blog?”
As it turns out all the cars mentioned above were owned by either the accountants or the entrepreneurs leaving us car guys discussing the pros and cons of buying new versus second hand. During a brief one-on-one with a like minded car fan he asked me, “So what’s your favourite car?” He walked away mid-sentence. My answer was apparently too confusing and convoluted, leaving me nursing a beer and staring longingly into the distance, the parked 335i coming into focus and me thinking to myself, “I bet that accountant has no idea what a great car that is.”
I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter what you call me, petrolhead, car fan, car nut or car lover, I am nothing more than a geek, a car geek. I know this because in the same week as the school social I had to visit a computer store and a pet shop and I can say with all the confidence in the world that computer store employees and pet shop employees are one and the same, the only difference is one stays up all night playing with his PC, the other his dog. Thanks to this “geekology” alert I also know exactly how the parent at the school function felt and why he walked away from our conversation about cars. I almost did exactly the same thing to the fish shop geek when inquiring about a marine fish tank.
And I’m okay with being a car geek. I thrive on details, being able to spot subtle differences on an updated model or quoting verbatim power outputs and torque figures for a specific engine, why power-to-weight ratio is the ultimate representation of a cars performance or just knowing a little of the history behind a marque. It defines who I am, inspires me to learn more and to know more. I suspect it does you too, after all you are here on this website reading this blog and I’m almost certain if we met at a school function we’d have a lot to talk about.