HEY, WHAT YEAR IS IT ?
The world of classic cars is not the ideal world for the introvert to live in. I can tell you this first hand. In fact, when I really sit down and think about it, the irony makes me chuckle just a little. I mean, picture it: A guy that just wants to get from point A to point B without being hassled, harassed, gawked at, or forced into some kind of stop-'n-chat scenario often choosing to drive a shiny, nearly 100 year old car down the street. Makes perfect sense, right?
(my old deuce-32 /photo by Trent Sherrill)
Look, I've learned to deal with it. Mostly. I know when I'm looking out the window at my "regular" truck, then to the shop where my old cars live and weighing the pros and cons of each option that if I drive something out of that building, I am most assuredly going to have a least one conversation with someone who I would otherwise not have to. Likely a non-car guy too, my least favorite guy to talk to. Most often my desire for the connection that you only get from driving an antiquated piece of machinery outweighs the dread of having to listen to some slack-jaw tell me about how their dad had one "just like it", so I am used to the dance. But there is one breed of "Normie" that makes me cringe a little: The "What year is it" guy.
(name a better lookin car than Travis Eubanks' '57 Bel Air, I'll wait..)
Now what could be so bad about someone inquiring about your car? I mean, it's just a guy trying to connect with ya, right? I guess so, and really I'm ok with that. I'm totally fine with the "what year is it" guys when push comes to shove. I'm less in love with these guys: "HEY WHAT YEAR IS IT, '57?" or worse yet, the guy that says nothing other than to just shout a random year at you. Nothing is less fun than getting out of your car at Home Depot and having some clown on top of you before you even get the door shut, yelling " '41???????" at your face. (I'm just here for some 10 penny nails pal, let's not turn this into an assault) I find these guys *slightly* annoying.. I think their only rival is the rare, but insanely annoying guy-who-yells-random-makes-and-models-at-you. I get this a lot in my maroon '36 Ford. It goes (ready for this??) just like this: "STUDEBAKER!?" (Sigh.)
(my favorite car, there's just something about an old Studebaker..)
It still annoys me, but I've learned over the years to let it bother me less. Depending on my mood and depending on how big a schmuck the year-yeller appeared to be, "old-me" could have reacted in any number of ways ranging from purposely undisguised annoyance in my reply, to downright verbal assault or worse. One chuckle-worthy outburst I can recall occurred at a stop light probably five years or so ago. For context, I should explain that it had been a particularly long and shitty day, and I wasn't in the mood for any interaction, but most especially an unsolicited conversation about my car with some avid golfer type.. It went like this:
Guy in an Infiniti, yelling out his window: "Tight" (strike one)
Guy: "What year is it?" (strike two)
Guy: "44??" (strike THREE)
Me: "Are you asking me if this car is a 1944?"
Guy: (sensing something may be amiss) "Yeah.."
(It's also note worthy that this is all happening over his blaring music, which he for some reason did not turn down before instigating this conversation.)
Me: "They didn't even produce cars in 1944! What the fuck is wrong with you - "44?" are you serious? Read a fucking book! - World War Two, dumb shit, look it up!"
Guy: ………. "Shit man."
So, yeah, not exactly the nicest way to handle the situation maybe, but at the time... you get the idea. Luckily, this dude was a surprisingly good sport about it too.
(my friend, Clayton with Conan O'Brien, driving Clayton's '38 Buggati)
It took me a while, but I figured out that even though these guys are sometimes mind-bogglingly annoying, at the end of the day, they really are just trying to pay you a compliment. A thumbs up is a thumbs up, even if it's accompanied by some of the stupidest shit you've ever heard. One thing we can easily forget is just how small of a world we the car guy live in. Most people simply don't know a Model A from a '40 Ford, they just don't. But that doesn't mean they can't appreciate it just the same. We just have to remember (or in my case, learn) that these guys don't mean any harm with their BS, they just don't know any better.
(Robbie Davis' Model T/photo by Kleet Norris)
So, am I a reformed man? Well, try this on for size, it just happened a couple of days ago as I was getting into my car at the store:
I was just climbing in when John Q. Public, who I hadn't noticed lurking two cars away shouted "What's that, about aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa …. '49 ?"
Just as I felt the ice begin coursing through my veins, I took a deep breath, winced and through a forced smile simply replied, "Yes."
I glanced over at Joe Sixpack, who was giving me an approving nod and a big thumbs up as he climbed into his Dodge Durango. He started it up and drove off, waiving as he went by, happy as a pig in shit. I shut my door and sat there a minute smirking at my own reflection in the windshield glass. Then I fired up my '36 Ford and hit the road. So yeah, reformed...
(life is short, take a drive in a '49 Ford)
Just be happy people show interest. Every question is an opportunity to share our hobby, and to educate.
Oh man my cars aren’t nearly as nice as your stuff but when I take my Buick wildcat out I get a lot of odd comments. “Oh mercury huh, didn’t know they made a truck model…” ???? I’m usually trying to keep to myself but have realized they usually mean well. I much prefer The older Couple that just smile and wave.
Absolutely love the article. It’s great to see we all have to deal with the mouth breathers of society.
OMG! This is the most accurate thing I have ever read. I have been fortunate to have had hot rods in my life since 1974 (Off and on) (When I was 13 years old). I used to get SO tired of John Q. Public. But now that I’m 59, I have realized the same thing, and cut the other guy a bunch of slack! You are so right, a compliment is a compliment, whether you realize it or not. Those guys (a lot of ‘em) just WISH they could have an old car like ours. But sadly (for them) life has told them "they can’t have one". GREAT, GREAT article!!!