Generally speaking I’m pretty secure in who I am. Contrary to the angsty U2 song, I pretty much have found what I’m looking for. I’m married and have kids and drive a Honda mini-van and use phrases like, “Is this poop on our bed?” I’ve pretty much given up on the notion of trying to be cool, and I’m okay with that. I’m open about the fact that I’m a dweebish nerd who enjoys video games and science fiction. I tend to make a lot of offhand Star Wars references.
In my younger days I was obssessed with making a good impression on everyone. I wanted to wear the cool clothes (Starter jacket), the cool shoes (Reebok Pumps then Doc Martens), and listen to the cool music (Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, etc.) Now I’m more of a sweatpants or gym shorts guy. I’m okay with looking like a person who has given up on life (as Jerry Seinfeld would say).
But there is one way to make me feel insecure very fast: start talking about cars.
My dad passed on a lot of great knowledge to me. I can identify Beatles songs by their opening riffs. I know the difference between a Stratocaster guitar and a Telecaster. I insist upon drinking good coffee. But car knowledge does not run in my family.
I know little to nothing about cars. When I’m around a group of guys who know a lot about cars I feel like a twelve year old kid trying to hang with fifteen year olds. They use strange terms and speak in a series of grunts and clicks and subtle nods. They pop open the hoods of their cars and stare intently at the engine. Then the conversation starts. It typically goes like this:
GUY #1: “Last night I bored out the double defibrillator and popped the pistonite radiator. Thing was all gunked up so I had to strip er’ down to the crankshaft. The crankshaft was bent so I had to sight it in at 100 yards.”
GUY #2: “Is that a 458 or a 329?”
GUY# 1: “Originally it was a 372 but she didn’t have enough pickup on the hills so I added in a capacitor and four tesla coils. I also opened up the muffler port and installed a roundhouse shifter. Now she roars on the straightaways.”
ME: “So, uhhh, what sort of wiper fluid does this bad boy take?”
GUY #2: “I’m restoring an old Pontiac Trans Am. The modulator was totally shot and the bubble point was misaligned. I’ve got a buddy whose going to help me replace the old modulator with one he pulled out of an old Cessna airplane. He thinks we can zero point energy the flush switch.”
ME: “Yeah, I’ve got a buddy who beat Call of Duty on like, the hardest mode. Talk about stressful.”
GUY #1: “Shoot, you shoulda asked me first. My old T-Bird has double down picker upper that easily could’ve replaced your modulator. You’d have to up the metachlorien count on the double down but that wouldn’t be a problem if you used the right exhaust fluid. I’ve got a buddy who has a lot of extra exhaust fluid. Exhaust fluid ain’t cheap you know.”
GUY #2: “Yeah but wouldn’t that cause the sump breaker to overheat? The last time I did that I sprained the reactor spring in my headlights. The last thing I can afford is a sprained reactor spring.”
ME: “Yeah that could be a problem.”
GUY #1: “Heck no! If you align the pickup sticks with the square burner you’ll only get a little bleed out. You know what they say: ‘Bleed the pickup stick until it burns.'”
ME: “Yep. And don’t forget about the brakelight fluid.”
The longer the conversation progresses the more uncomfortable and insecure and little kiddish I feel. I feel like a foreigner trying to follow a complicated conversation in a foreign language. I feel like I’m back in junior high school. Like I’m a punk trying to fit in with all the cool kids.
Will I ever be comfortable talking about cars? Probably not. But if you ever need to know the difference between Tatooine, Endor, and Hoth, I’m your man.