The temptation in this day and age is to keep your tappet-head proclivities under wraps.
Failure to do so will reveal you to be a twelve-toed cousin-lover and ensure that you spend the rest of your miserable days on the very fringes of society. Or so it seems to me sometimes.
Frankly, however, I’m getting a bit tired of being expected to apologise for enjoying my motoring. And let’s face it, there are plenty of other inexplicable hobbies and past-times, aren’t there?
I mean, can somebody – anybody – explain stamp collecting to me? Or what about train-spotting? And yet admitting you’re a petrol-head is only one back from developing an interest in kiddy-porn. Beats me.
But get this: I don’t think we’re as alone as society would make us out to be. I went to a neighbour’s 80th birthday last weekend. And of the 20 or so people gathered on the verandah, quaffing cheap wine and making wise-cracks about turning 80, roughly half were card-carrying petrol-heads.
Okay, maybe not half (because half were the wives and squeezes of the blokes in my street) but of the chaps, more than 50 percent were brave enough to express an interest in internal combustion.
The bloke right across the road from me shares a hillclimb Nissan with his son and they’re currently working on turning the NX Coupe from front- to rear-wheel drive. Don’t ask me why, I’m just telling you what happened.
The birthday boy is still driving competently at 80 and has just bought himself a newish Corolla, the kid two doors up has a Golf R32 and the big bloke who lives next to him has an F150 ute with an improbably large V8 on board. Even the bloke who hosted the party admitted to a shed full of old dirt bikes. I felt as though I was among friends.
Thing is, these were just blokes at a birthday party on a Sunday afternoon. And while my suburb ain’t full of million-dollar houses, it’s not Sunnyvale, either. Pretty soon the discussion turned to speed limits, rabid highway patrol coppers and whether two cars doing 100 clicks having a head-on was the same as one car hitting a brick wall at 200. It’s not, apparently, although the bloke with the F150 reckoned it’d still be one hell of a mess.
So if this level of interest in things vehicular is not uncommon in modern Australian society, why the bloody hell do I still feel so marginalised by law-makers and those paid to uphold those laws? Why does the government wish to make me feel like a criminal and an environmental terrorist (especially since the last election proved there’s no such thing as climate change anymore)?
I don’t think the stamp collectors and train spotters would appreciate being treated with such disdain and even the kiddy-porn mob get a fair trial. Yet here we are, with cameras and radar guns trained on us the moment we wheel out our driveways, with a team of dogs waiting to tear our flesh open the instant we exceed an arbitrary speed limit by a single kay-em-haitch. I’m kind of sick of it. What about you?
Speaking of the last election, I see that the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party has won a Federal Senate seat. What this means for motorists is anybody’s guess, but looking at the AMEP’s website – and hopefully I’m wrong – I’m not filled with hope.
For a start, the party’s logo includes the southern cross – a graphic that has been well and truly hijacked by the redneck movement – and there’s a gallery pic of a young lady draped in the Australian flag next to a V8 Commodore.
And there’s me wondering why we’re all tarred with the hillbilly brush.
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