Adventures in Automotive Wonderland: A Mediocre Wife’s Confessions
My husband is a Car Guy. He bought his first car, a black primer 1955 Chevy, at the tender age of fifteen. His father took it away from him before he was sixteen. Apparently, mysterious black rubber burn out tracks started appearing in the street in front of his house while he was at work, shortly after Junior got the car running. Did I mention my husband is indeed a super genius?
My husband likes cars. He likes to drive them. He likes to watch them race. When he was young, he really liked breaking them. And he liked to work on them. Which was helpful, no doubt. When I met him he was working at a gas station with my brother Dana, who is also a Car Guy. They were not tinkerers. They were like Get Down and Get Dirty Working On Cars Car Guys. They were pulling engines and trannies and rebuilding them on a regular basis. Fast as Junior could blow em up, they could replace them. They collected carburetors like other teen age boys collected baseball cards. They spoke a mysterious language together, an unusual dialect featuring mechanical sounding words like coil springs, rear differentials, over head cams, stroked 350’s and lifters. They still do.
When we were younger (and still had functioning ear drums), my DH used to drag me to the NHRA Drags at Seattle International Raceway. It was loud. Very loud. Like the loudest Rock concert you ever attended times five. And the nitrous oxide exhaust fumes in the pits when they started those babies up was noxious. Thicker than the marijuana cloud at a 70’s era concert. It burned your eyes first, then your nose, then your lungs. Your throat would catch like your airway was closing to protect your lungs, which is probably a pretty accurate physiological description for what was actually happening. But I was a good Car Guy’s wife. I sat in the bleachers in the August Seattle sun and followed him around the pits on blistering hot asphalt gawking at the funny cars, the pro stocks, the top fuel dragsters. I plugged my ears with my fingers when they hit the throttle at the start light and kept them in for the four seconds it took those road rockets to cross the finish line a quarter mile away. The ground shook so hard it rattled the heart inside your chest. It was startling, that much power screaming by you at nearly 300 miles per hour. Impressive mechanics indeed. Environmentally disastrous no doubt. But impressive.
He likes car shows too. We’ve been to lots of car shows together. I like them to a point. There are some really talented builders that do incredible things with automobiles. I check out the colors and details on the paint schemes, the leather, wood and chrome interiors, the elaborate vintage trim and etched glass and mirrors–all the eye candy stuff. I really like the cars that have been chopped and morphed and hybridized from various makes and models to create one off designs that look like nothing else. There’s an artistry there that I appreciate. My favorite cars are generally red, purple or green. But I still don’t care if it’s a blown hemi or a six-pot fed small block V-8, whatever that is. I just like to look at them.
One of the oddest things about Car Guys is their fascination with junkyards–automotive junkyards of course. To me those places are creepy town—bashed up smashed up twisted up motor vehicles that once belonged to a real person is the stuff of nightmares for normal people. But it’s like Christmas morning for a Car Guy on a budget. The old man just visited one the other day with our neighbor friend, who is also a Car Guy. Dave knocked on the door and invited him to go to the junkyard with him and said he would be back in twenty minutes. Ten minutes later, my DH is sitting on the couch with his coat on watching the driveway for the magic coach that was coming to whisk him away to his automotive junkyard adventure. I about wanted to shout at him to be home by mid-night and hang onto his glass slippers. He’s so cute!
These days my DH doesn’t pull burnouts, blow up engines or break trannies, but he does work on a 55 Chevy again. This one’s Porsche Red. He painted it himself. He’s had it for a few decades. It started out whole, then turned into a pile of parts, and it’s slowly making it’s way back to a whole car again. It’ s getting close. When we get done with our latest home remodel, he will have more time to work on it. I hope he gets it running before he’s too old to drive it. He doesn’t go to the Drag races anymore. But he spends inordinate amounts of time on the couch watching NASCAR. The season runs from February through November. Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays there is some kind of Nascaring thing playing on our Television–qualifying, pre-race BS’ing by guys with twangy southern accents, and actual racing sometimes too. Which makes the end of the season a kind of early Christmas present for me. It’s annoying watching those cars go round and round and round two or three hundred times a race, ten months out of the year. They need to mix things up a little, throw in a couple of right turns now and then. And while some people like the nail biting drama and excitement of the crashes, for me, it just means the race goes into a caution, which means it’s going to last a whole lot longer. ACK! ACK! Kind of like watching Dr. Zchivago, only without Omar Sharif, the interesting plot and the beautiful frosty scenery. ZZZZZ. But it makes him happy…mostly…except when a Busch wins, or anyone else that drives a Toyota, which is NASCAR sacrilege to him. It’s an American sport people. Dodges, Chevy’s and Fords are for racing. Toyota’s are for commuting. He’s old school that way.
Car Guys like swap meets too. Not the kind of swap meet with dishes and glasses and quilts and oak furniture up the ga zoo zoo, but the smelly, rusty dirty kind with piles of old tires, oily spare parts and hulks of rusted metal on flat bed trailers everywhere. So this weekend we hit the automotive swap meets in Portland. The entire raceway and expo center were one big swap meet. Yee Haw! We spent four or five hours walking around looking at rusty shit that some guy pulled out of a barn and didn’t even bother to hose the cow manure off of. The old man bought a rebuilt carbeurator and a rusty exhaust manifold. He seemed pretty contented. We met my Car Guy brother and his wife there which made it better. At least my sister in law and I speak the same dialect. I suspect she’s a better Car Guy’s wife than me. She’s gonna be the kind that decorates their classic 56 Chevy wagon with fuzzy dice and glass coca cola bottles and vintage coolers. She’ll wear a poodle dog skirt and saddle shoes. She’s been trying to find one of those car-hop drive in trays that hook over the car door. Yes, she’s definitely into it. She’s a really good Car Guy’s wife. I’m just passing.
I think I’m actually an okay Car Guy’’s wife. Mediocre at best. I tag along. I smile and nod and look wide eyed at things that mean nothing to me and act like I know the difference between posi-traction and rear wheel drive like Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny, (Car Guy’s love that movie!). I’m not the kind that pulls on the coveralls and rolls under the car with a greasy little wrench in my hand and a smile on my face. Nope, sorry, not that good about it. But sometimes I hold the light so he can see something better and I’ve helped him find a socket he just dropped more than once. And I actually do know the difference between posi-traction and rear wheel drive. Kind of sort of.
It has something to do with that mysteriously monikered rear differential thing…I think.
©2016 Ilona Elliott