It was Father’s Day today, and so I spend part of it with my father. And we spent it as we usually do, over at the Father’s Day car show that they have here in Santa Rosa. My father — like many men of his generation — is very interested in cars. He has restored a 1950 Buick. It’s the car with a grill that looks like it is going to eat you. Personally, I’m not that fond of it. I’m not that fond of any cars. They are just noisy, smelling things that create no sense of romance in me.
My disinterest is not a generational thing. I know a lot of people my age who have much the same feelings about more modern technologies like computers and phones. I also don’t care about these things. It’s not that I feel above people who are into these things. I have my own fascinations, as regular readers of this website will know. For example, if there were a puppet exhibit every year, I’d definitely go. Or a conference on Don Quixote, I’d look forward to it every year. But let’s face it: these car folks are not “my people.” I mean, good God, they spend tens of thousands of dollars restoring old cars!
What I noticed about myself as we walked along is that I’m attracted to colors. “Oh, there’s a pretty car!” And all that means is that it’s red or orange or some shades of green. And I kind of like little boxy cars from the 1950s and 1960s. But mostly, I look at the convertibles and think, “What a death trap! Why isn’t there a roll bar on that?!” My father’s 1950 Buick had to have seat belts added because they didn’t come with the car. Of course, even if you don’t die in a collision, you might die from the CO emitted by the inefficient combustion.
But at one point, I came upon this late 1950s Chevrolet Impala that sums up car shows to me. In the back seat was a sign instructing people, “No Touching.” I understand. People spend a lot of money on these things. Then again, it isn’t like they are Modigliani paintings. They are old devices that have been cleaned up good. What’s the point of having them if you can’t, you know, use them. But the other aspect is the coarse — and implicitly sexist — joke: only nude people in that car!
The kicker is that it has a grammar error, “No touching Impalas unless your [sic] in the nude!!” Again, I’m not placing myself above these people. They are just different. They care about cars and I care about at least getting the grammar right on a professionally printed sign. It’s a clash of cultures. Clearly, I think mine is superior or I wouldn’t have it. But I know that isn’t an objective truth. And regardless, what’s most important is to spend a little time with dad, even though he would surely see me as some kind of space alien if he weren’t so used to me by now.