Having said that, I have come to the realization that sometimes, being a car enthusiast simply sucks, and you're stuck wondering why you put up with it at all, but more importantly, why the hell you just bought advance tickets for Fast 8: Alabama Tractor Pull.
#5: You're auto tech support for everyone you've ever met.
Cars are your passion. You love working on your own projects as long as there's a wrench to turn and a beer in the fridge. The local Pep Boys staff knows you by name, and you have a permanent spot at the Thursday Night car meet.
And then it happens. It may come in the form of a random stranger, relative, or long-lost friend that found you on Facebook.
"Hey, you know about cars, right? My car is making this weird noise at 57mph, when I slightly turn to the left. It's like a "psh" or "tuk-tuk" sound. There! It's doing it right now. Can you hear it? I can't tell if it's coming from the rear or the front. It might be coming from the wheels or the engine. On second thought, I don't think that's the noise. I'll just call you when it happens again so you can magically hear it through the tiny speaker in your phone, through all the road and wind noise."
I completely understand when people want to ask an expert for help because they don't have the knowledge or can't be bothered to do their own research. What really drags the experience down is when people do their best to exploit you for your skills, because they think you "like cars".
"I don't have any money, can you fix it for me really quick?"
Yes, I love cars in general. I love working on my own cars and making my own schedule and budget. It's a fulfilling experience to put a turbo kit on a car and feel the difference in performance. It's quite another to get guilted into doing a Rear Main Seal on your cousin's friend's '88 Oldsmobile because they heard it was an "easy job" and they trust you with their hand-me-down rustbucket.
#4: You can't bring up your passion in conversation.
Have you ever met someone new and attempted conversation? Of course you have, because you outgrew your self-diagnosed Asperger's in freshman year. What will you likely bring up? The weather, the state of the economy, politics, religion, celebrity nip-slips, ANYTHING other than the fact that you think the Datsun 240 was the best of the early Z cars and that variable vane turbochargers seem to work on pure magic.
There's a few things that happen when you talk to someone about cars who doesn't have the knowledge/ability/intestinal fortitude to talk at length about them. Their eyes glaze over and look for stimulation elsewhere, perhaps a TV or a particularly colorful wall. They give you a strained smirk and force themselves to sound interested, like a parent whose 8 year old just gifted them their 10th macaroni necklace.
"..and that's why I prefer 5-point racing harnesses over 6-point."
In an interview with Adam Carolla, the host asks Adam about his AC Cobra Replica (1:15 in the video), referring to it erroneously as "the Ferris Bueller car". Adam talks about his cars for just a bit, but you can obviously see the host's mind wandering. This is what car guys everywhere have to deal with on a nearly daily basis.
"Warning: Contains Cars"
#3:Your spouse/significant other hates it.
Unless your family owns a race team or your girlfriend is Danica Patrick, odds are that your more-than-healthy obsession with getting dirty and buying parts for your depreciating asset in the garage is taking its toll on your relationship. There's only so many ways you can explain that you needed that ball bearing turbo because it makes full boost 2000 rpm sooner and that'll help your 60' time at the track. That trip to Paris can wait.
"The kids don't NEED to go to college, do they?"
Even if you're not spending money, time is your greatest asset in life, so giving a fair bit of it away on a hobby (even if you're not spending a cent) can push any relationship into harsher terrain. Maybe it's something that we've inhereted from our caveman days and just dont know how to stop. Maybe it's because we like shiny things that make loud noises and knowing that within that raucous symphony of sound is a device that produces thousands of explosions per minute and pushes you back in your seat when you stand on the right pedal.
Not much has changed.
However, there is a method to curb the sting.
First, find someone who's supportive and don't abuse that support. It's probably OK if you have a major build deadline and you pull an all-nighter to finish. It's not OK when you do that every other day and you haven't seen your kids in 3 weeks when you live in the same house.
Second, take your budget (realistic budget, not a dream budget) and double it. Now go and buy that person something nice. A bag, a pair of shoes, that all-expense paid trip to Burma. It's a lot easier to come to terms with the fact that your partner is a car-obsessed maniac when you're getting a royalty check every time a major build happens. Just sayin'.
#2: You're attracting the wrong kinds of attention.
Let's flash back to a not-so-distant past. You live in a quite densely populated area with a decent car culture. In your local theater, there plays one movie that aims to shed light on a certain aspect of this culture. I'm speaking, of course of Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.
The only way the audience could have been more excited when they left the movie was if the theater staff had laced the popcorn with a dosage of ecstasy large enough to restart the sex drive of a comatose silverback gorilla. Although I think the effects of ecstasy would be over long before the euphoria of driving a race car on the street would. And for around $500 you could get a secondhand early 90's 4 cylinder coupe and the party would never end.
"Don't worry, race cars are supposed to look like that."
Imagine me, having a modified Lexus with a twin turbo engine and manual gearbox, trying to enjoy a nice cruise on the highway on a Saturday night. Immediately a noise eminated from behind me that resembled something not unlike a rather angry bumblebee trying its hardest to play the kazoo inside a Folger's coffee can.
Similar to the Eddie Murphy: RAW skit where the short Italian guy tries to take on the world after seeing Rocky, I could see that this kid was out for blood, because he just experienced the cinematic masterpiece that was Tokyo Drift, and he was freaking invincible. He had his girlfriend in the car, and the jury's out on her thoughts on the matter, but I'm sure she wasn't thrilled at racing strangers in a secondhand automatic Acura RSX with a chinese exhaust and a brake light out. It didn't matter, the laws of physics weren't going to stop this kid from making his dream a reality.When I declined, he took off as if his hair were on fire, and gave me the common courtesy of turning on his hazard lights to inform me of my crushing defeat.
"If you can see the Altezza lights on my '02 Automatic Civic LX, you just LOST."
The night was abuzz with fly-bys and abrupt lane changes until I considered my cruise a lost cause. It was abundantly clear that these kids weren't car enthusiasts but boys with a superiority complex and something to prove. They had no respect for the power their machines possessed, nor did they care about the people that they put in danger. When your car is visibly and audibly modified, you'll attract these guys like flies to a sugar-covered turd.
But that's nowhere near the worst of the attention you'll get.
Pop quiz, hotshot. You're at a light with a mile of straight road in front of you. An incorrigible youth that just voided the warranty on his mom's Mazda 3 wants to race you. He revs wildly at the stoplight, and signals for you to go on green. You take off normally, but he gives it the full beans. A traffic cop watching you at the intersection pounces, with his christmas lights in full effect.
"You, Sir, are about to put my kids through college."
He says you two were racing, issues you a ticket that now may have the power to take away your driving privileges for good, on top of any other tickets he might feel like issuing for one reason or another. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?!
Even if you fight the ticket in the courtroom and win, that's an entire day you have to set aside to go to one of the most miserable places on Earth. But wait! It's not over, because...
#1: You're going broke.
There are two words that usually go along with a car that has a lot of time, effort and emotion invested in it: Money Pit. Car modification can get ludicrously expensive, not to mention track time, pump gas, race gas, safety gear and maintenance. That's not even counting the ticket you just got, and the bumper you have to respray because that speed bump came out of nowhere.
You may not be eating off the streets just yet, but ask yourself one question and assess your own obsession a bit more objectively:
If you were offered a garage full of your dream cars, but you subsequently had to live out of that garage for the rest of your life, would you do it?
If you answered no, feel free to leave. We don't need no stinking amateurs.
To everyone else, welcome to your addiction. You'll like it here.
Not pictured: IKEA Futon, half bath and mini-fridge. Move-in ready.