I am pacing back and forth in a 200 square foot wooden building that I had exchanged for a 1996 Volvo 850 sedan back in 2008.
“What the hell am I going to write about? I know nothing about racing! Zip!”
“Well Steve, maybe we can arrange for a few interviews.”
“Would they be racers?”
“Owners? Hookers? How about the guy who fires the gun?”
The truth was that I didn’t want to go to any race. I had a long line of issues to deal with at the used car lot. Customers that needed help either finding cars, or paying for them. The grass was growing back where the gravel was, and I hated to leave money on the table. If I left, either some deals would be lost, or I would have my cell phone surgically attached to my ear for the entire time.
It wouldn’t be fun. But that was the big problem for me at this point. Life wasn’t fun when it came to my daily work life. I rate every working day from a 1 to 10 scale for that key elusive ingredient known as, fun. For the past year my days have been 2′s and 3′s. They used to be 7′s and 8′s, back in the time when I had not built this beast of the business up to the point where I felt like was a subservient tail of a great big fire breathing dragon.
I was dealing with too many cars with weird problems, and amateur bullshitters who thought they could get one up on me. There were countless times over the past two weeks where I just thought about taking all my retail cars, wholesaling them, and taking time off from what had become a pressure cooker of human stupidity.
Instead, I went to my first race.
I started out driving out to Atlanta and entering a humongous underground parking deck that had at least 12 or 13 levels to it.
Turn right, drive. Turn right, drive. I realized that I was doing a 15 mph version of NASCAR with an opposite turn, and all the cars thankfully either gone or parked along the side out of pity.
Once I reached the bottom of the bottom,I realized something highly unusual right off the bat.
I was the only one there.
No cars. No noise. Nothing but me and my car… that happened to have nothing in the trunk. At least for now. Gulp!
As a native Jersey boy, I briefly thought about the ease of whacking someone and moving a body in this parking garage. My southern twang belies the fact that I grew up in Northern Jersey during the Reagan era. A time and place where houses mysteriously burned down, the mafia always handled your garbage, and John Gotti was considered a not-so-bad guy.
This theatrical idea was tempered by me driving a seven-year old Corolla instead of the black 1980 Cadillac Seville I sold earlier that week. I missed that car. After about 10 minutes of quiet and no phone signal, I met my co-rider, and we quickly made our way back up to the same part of Northwest Georgia I had just left.
We would be spending our time in a 2014 Toyota Camry LE. The type of car that no supposed enthusiast or auto journalist wants to drive. Yet what did I recommend for my mom to buy back in 2012? A Camry. That is after she pretended to be open-minded and rejected everything else in the marketplace. The brutal truth of this business is that most folks have minimal needs to get from A to B, and reliability is still the #1 driver of sales in the new and used car markets.
As I exhume myself from this tomb of automotive storage, my mind wanders to the blandness of the American driving experience. Cruise at 70. Seats comfortable. Driving straight and uneventful. Talk on cell phones. That’s what the American open road is like these days. The media driven garbage about cars representing the penultimate of freedom and sexiness is, at least in my mind, castrated by the salient fact that everyone plays the game “follow the leader” when it comes to daily driving, and detailing is already a pure misery for most car owners.
This is what I’m thinking about while going through six different lights on one of 30+ Peachtree Streets here in Atlanta.
I enjoy a winding one lane road as much as anyone in this business, but city driving sucks and the suburbs aren’t much better these days. Traffic is a constant pain because turn signals are optional, people play with their cell phones, and drivers often turn for the hell of it.
Cars are mostly a burden in most cities like Atlanta, and what joy can be had by revving your engine every now and then is often throttled back by a city police force whose only opportunity for pay raises is to issue more traffic tickets.
The racing world is a healthy rebellion from what has largely become a speed hating society.
The light turns green. I hit Interstate 85 and after about 30 minutes of driving, we finally become free of the monetary clutches of quick changing stoplights and legalized theft cartels. I and my co-driver are hitting 80 on our way up to northwest Georgia and beyond.
The scenery gets better. I like to tell folks that when you’re in Atlanta, you’re in Atlanta, and when you’re in Georgia, you’re in JAW-JA! Never the twain do meet.
Atlanta is a bit of a weird place. Very corporate, yet not quite conservative, and often times city officials are downright delusional about where their strengths lie. A few years ago these guys wanted to get the NASCAR Hall of Fame down here, which would have been kinda like asking the New York Yankees to move to Winnipeg.
I’m not a NASCAR enthusiast at all. But one thing I do know is that the cultures of “NASCAR Country” and “The ATL” are about as close to each other as Mercury is from Pluto.
The College Football Hall of Fame will be in Atlanta, right near Georgia Tech, which is a great fit for the culture and the community. The guy I’m riding with is pretty much a foot soldier for promoting these types of projects around Georgia, and as the scenery around us changes from commercial parks to pine trees, we start changing a bit.
Our accents become a bit more country. By seeing my neck of the woods, I begin to relax. The phone gets turned off. The beauty of North Georgia becomes all encompassing, and I realize something at that very moment.
I needed this.