November 7, 2011

Confession #34: Car guys need their own table

1972 BMW 3.0 CSi
More often these days, I find myself at a table with several people, some of whom I know better than others. Those people don’t know what a car guy I am, how eager I am to contribute more than my two cents on current automotive trends. There’s always one other car guy at the table, though. Sometimes, he’ll be looking for a new car and you’ll be running down a list of every new model around $30,000. Or he’ll be the guy with a restored 1972 BMW 3.0CS and you’ll have to be careful not to be visibly drooling or express so much love of old BMWs and disdain for the new ones that you insult the inevitable person at the table with a new 3-series.

I try to keep my mouth shut for as long as possible. Flashing your Car Guy knowledge right off the bat is a bad move, since it polarizes the conversation and you’ll spend the rest of the evening either shunned from less polarizing conversation (like politics or religion) or talking in a corner with the one other petrol head. This must be what getting old feels like. 

No matter what the topic or intensity of discussion, the mere mention of cars perks up my ears. I can't help it, really. Instead of jumping up from my seat like an excited terrier, though, I show more restraint these days. My head sometimes contorts like Scooby-Doo's when he senses a problem, but I don't hijack the conversation right away. The strategy is to slowly wade into the discussion, quietly revealing automotive knowledge without overwhelming others. It's like wearing a muzzle and having it slowly removed. Perhaps then it's best they don't find out I watch Mat Watson's video reviews in my spare time as if they're Emmy-winning. (What can I say? They're detailed, amusing and "30 Rock" isn't back until the new year.)

There are bars for people really into sports. They get excited shouty over Bud Light and bar food while they talk about referee calls, plays, fouls and other terms (by now, I'm sure it's apparent I'm not the biggest sports buff). Where are you going to talk about cars? A used car lot? An auto auction? The local repair shop? What kind of food do they serve at these places? I'm not a car salesman and I'm hopeless around tools. That should be fine, because I didn't get interested in cars because I want to sell or fix them. I appreciate the engineering and love driving.

For now, events like Cars and Coffee must suffice. I'm sure in the not-do-distant future I'll be sitting at a table with people I vaguely know when someone brings up cars. I won't be able to resist chiming in and the rest will be history. There's still time to learn all about hockey before the season's out, right?