Growing up, cars intimidated me. I was your stereotypical gay kid — the kind who preferred tennis, debate tournaments, and musical theatre to tinkering with a V8. My dad did his best to interest me in the workings of his Mustangs and F-150s, but I didn’t even want to learn how to change my own oil. I equated gearheads like my father and brothers with the jocks who sneered at me in high school, and I didn’t want anything to do with them.
When cars weren’t intimidating me, they were busy leaving me cold. I’ve never been much of a collector — in fact, apart from my lifelong passion for books, I’ve always been pretty ascetic — so when my brothers professed their undying love of Trans Ams and Buick Regals, I just shrugged and went about my business. I already had a ride that got me from Point A to Point B, so why would I lust after anything else? I guess I was born with the second noble truth of Buddhism pre-installed.
So, fast-forward a few decades, and it’s a bit weird/ironic/laughable that I now spend so much time reading and writing about cars. It’s even weirder that I spent much of last week in Detroit at the 2012 North American Auto Show.
But weirdest of all is the fact that I really, really enjoy it.
Granted, I don’t spend much time studying gear ratios or torque — that junk bores me to tears. (Though electric cars grab my attention.) It took me a while to find my way into the field, but once I realized that I could skip all those powertrain stats and focus my attention on ad campaigns, legal issues, and the role of cars in pop culture, I started to feel right at home.
In fact, of the 15 “social media influencers” with whom GM grouped me last week, I was one of only three or four who knew much about the auto industry. Someone else in the group would ask a question about this model or that, and almost immediately, the answer started falling from my mouth.
So, I guess the morals of the story are:
1. Keep an open mind, and you can become interested in almost anything — even if you find it pretty dull at first glance.
2. If you do something long enough, you become an expert, whether you know it or not.
3. There are plenty of gays, even in the (allegedly) butchest of industries. Either that, or the show floor in Detroit was packed with Europeans. But I’m pretty sure those guys had a different sort of packing in mind.
And that photo up top? A slice of auto show weirdness. Remember how in Showgirls, Nomi and whatsherdoodle go to that boat show and shimmy on the poopdeck for no good reason? Those three women were doing the same thing, except that unlike in Showgirls, no one was watching them lip-synch to Motown hits like the Supremes’ “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”. When I first caught sight of them, I had my glasses off, and I thought, “Wow, Diana’s really gone overboard with the fade cream.”