When I was a wee lad (I’m referring to my age) I was all about
piecing together those plastic car models. You know, the ones
that came in boxes that you had to paint, assemble and glue?
(Not in that order.)
I was recently walking through a craft store with my wife. While
she was off smelling the fake flowers and petting the dog
figurines, I meandered in to the car model aisle. I saw all
sorts of badass muscle cars that were dream machines when I was
a kid. When I was looking at the display, I saw an assortment of
vehicles that reminded me of the fun I had when I was younger
assembling models. It was an art. It was a craft. But it was no
artsy-craftsy bullshit; it was cool. And people wouldn’t make
fun of a boy who collected toy cars like they would make fun of
a boy who collected shades of pink crayons.
I was completely fickle between the 1969 Charger General Lee
(only $4.99!) and the 1970 Dodge Charger. They were both equally
beautiful, but the 69’ only had an assembly difficulty of +1,
whereas the 70’ was somewhere around +478. So, being your
typical male, I opted for the formidable task.
OOOO! PRETTY CAR! VROOOM VROOOM!
When we met at the cash register with our respective items the
wife looked at me cross-eyed, but she can’t help it because
“Do you have to get that?” she asked while glaring at my new
interest. She had a miniature wooden birdhouse that was the size
of a matchbox, to which no respectable bird would dare fit. How
could she dare question my purchase?
“It’s a done dizzy for shizzy,” I said. That means, “It’s a done
deal for sure.” I like to talk all gangsta’ and shit when I’m
dealing with manly matters - especially when I’m in a girly
store. You’ll find me slangin’ Ebonics while watching sports and
when doing car maintenance. Hell, I’ve even known to let out a
falsetto “Beeeoootch!” while shaving my nuts in the shower. It’s
a man thing.
She doesn’t understand the male affinity for mechanics, despite
our collective lack of knowledge. I don’t currently know much
about cars, except for the basics; changing tires, washing the
windshield, putting in unleaded gasoline, setting the interior
ablaze with cunningly liberated lit cigarettes, etc. Basically,
I know enough to survive. And even though I know which side the
gas tank is on, I frequently park on the wrong side of an empty
station and end up stretching the gas line across my car, in
short making myself look like a dipshit. “Huh? No, it’s okay. I
know which side of my car the tank is on. I’m just doing this
‘cause I’m in a hurry. Huh? Yeah, I know all the other spots are
open and I’m one of two customers, but…” *SCREEEEECH*
It’s always a stab to the ego when you get a bunch of guys
talking about cars and it just so happens you’re the only one
who doesn’t know what the fuck is going on. It’s like standing
in the shower and it just so happens that you’re the one with
the penis the size of a circus peanut while all the other boys
have circus elephant trunks. That’s what it’s like not knowing
anything about cars.
So we pretend we know what we’re talking about. I manage to make
out the occasional “1.7 litre engine” or “Dual Overhead Cam”
during my seldom car conversations. But because my enlightenment
is based on plastic models scaled down small enough to cause
eyestrain when attempting to distinguish the gas cap from the
rear-view mirror, my conversation is limited. I’m always
referring to the “fragile chassis” and how hard it is to put
decals on the car because they “ALWAYS FUCKING TEAR!”
Brian: "Dude, I found a cherry 1.7 down at Old Man Humps car
dump. I took the 1.4 out of my monster and dropped this bitch.
Fit like a fuckin’ glove! My fucker will hum now! I’m pushing
five thousand RPM’s before I put the car in first!"
Eric: "No shit? Is that a straight four or what?"
McClain: "Yeah? Is that a straight four or what?"
Brian: "No fuckin’ way, man! It’s a fuckin’ V6."
McClain: "Oh, yeah. Of course. So, is that, like, a straight V6
Eric: "What the hell are you talking about?"
McClain: "Well, you know how when you piece the plastic caps on
the engine and you have the choice between the aluminum and
shiny metal colors? Isn’t that like the piston intake? Which,
you know, connects to the regulator hose… on the… V6 block?”
Brian: "You’re stupid."
Eric: "Out of the club."
I would build these models and imagine myself (on a 1:64 scale,
of course) driving around in the toy. I didn’t really know how
an inanimate engine was supposed to crank, seeing as how all
that glue inhibits movement. And because of my excessive glue
usage it was difficult enough to remove the model from my hands,
let alone shrink down to the size of a GI Joe and getting
Here's what I'd probably look like if I were to
shrink myself down close enough to fit in the car.
But my whole world of model building was surrounded by the power
of imagination, and my mind could drive to the corners of the
earth without stopping for gas.
Have I mentioned that I’m not mechanically inclined?
I recently bought a secondary car. It’s affectionately referred
to as the “hoopty” or “beater” or “fucking piece of shit.”
Actually, it runs pretty good considering the odometer stopped
at 200,000 miles (about 50k miles ago) there’s no radio, the a/c
is busted, there’s no power ANYTHING and a loud grinding sound
streams from the rear when I turn left.
"Hey baby, want a ride?"
My limited expertise came in to play when purchasing this $800
car. I managed to state everything I knew about cars. That only
took about two minutes. The remaining eight minutes of the ten
minute sale were composed of him talking about fine details of
this car, which, from what he said, might as well have been a
rocket ship to me because holy shit, it has, “a 1.4 liter
engine.” Well I’ll be a monkey shot in to space!
And while he’s heavily engaged in impressing me, Mr. Car Chaste,
with his vast technical knowledge of radiator belts and
temperature sensors, I’m inwardly engaged in remiss. “How come I
don’t remember anything about all those cars I used to assemble?
This freak is making me look like an idiot and I can’t recall
one single thing about piecing together a car!”
Then I realized that I never really knew. “McClain, those were
toys.” Not even close to the real thing. But I’ll be damned if
anyone will ever know that the mass amount of technical wisdom I
had was lost because I was too busy sniffing the glue to
remember the name of that twisty piece that fits between that
funny engine segment and that roundish wheel thingy.
Damn! For some reason cars in real life
have a lot more underneath their hoods.
Then I also realized that I wasn’t even that good at piecing
together those plastic models.
“That’s a nice job, son. Is that the Millennium Falcon?”
“No, Dad! It’s a '69 Camaro!”
“What’s the muffler doing on the hood?”
“What’s a muffler?”
And when I wasn’t busy mucking it all up, I’d get about
three-fourths of the way through assembling the vehicle then I’d
get bored. I’d leave an assortment of plastic pieces and
uncovered paint bottles lying on a sheet of newspaper to run
outside and play BB gun tag. It’s a real game. One person would
be in the house with a BB gun and the others would be outside
the house throwing rocks at the gunman through windows or doors.
If you hit the gunman, you took his place. If you got shot with
the gun, well, you pretty much just got shot.
I wasn’t ADD, but my attention could be swayed fairly easily. I
guess I wanted to be like that kid who had all the cool cars on
his shelf, but I didn’t want to take the time and effort to do
it myself. I just wanted it.
So the guy selling me the car starts to finish up with his
dissertation on advanced mechanical theory as I slowly returned
to reality. This guy sold me an hour ago, so listening to him
ramble was painful. But because I didn’t want him thinking that
I wasn’t paying attention, I asked him a quick question. You
know, just so he didn’t think he could take advantage of my
“So, is that, like, a straight V6 or what?”