this i believe

This I Believe | Revved up about cars

April 26, 2014 

“Mitch, why are you such a knucklehead?” my dad says as he follows me out of our house and into the front yard.

“Only a complete idiot would do something this stupid. Sometimes I wonder what goes on in that head of yours. ...”

SLAM! My dad’s voice is suddenly cut off by the reassuring thunk of my car door. I jam the key into the ignition and start the engine. Before my dad even has a chance to finish his sentence, I’m turning out of the driveway, leaving him behind.

I lift the clutch and hit the gas; first gear, I can feel the stress starting to melt away as the RPMs increase. Second gear, what was the stupid thing I did again? Third and fourth, a smile starts creeping across my face, and by the time I hit sixth gear, I’m completely at peace; no upset parents, no problems.

It’s just me, my WRX, and the open road.

Call me a gearhead, call me a redneck, call me whatever you like, but I believe in cars.

There’s just something about the thrill of driving and the excitement of fixing up a car that makes me completely at peace. Nothing in the world can match that feeling. Maybe it’s because cars are the one thing my dad and I agree on. The space under a car lifted up on a jack is the only common ground we share.

Around cars, my dad goes from being my biggest critic to being my best friend. Even though we disagree on what brand (make and model?) is best, it doesn’t matter, because the love we have for automobiles overcomes that.

The deepest and most personal conversations I’ve ever had with him have been under an engine block. No matter how bad my day is or how terribly I failed my last exam, nothing matters when I’m behind the wheel or under the hood with my dad.

Out of the garage, it’s “Mitch, you have a screw loose.” But inside the garage it’s, “Mitch, we have a screw loose.” And that one change makes all the difference. The world of cars is just simpler.

You may have a father who judges you, a girlfriend who cheats on you or a professor who picks on you, but your car will never do any of those things. On the open road or on the garage floor, you’re free to be whoever you want to be because your car sure isn’t going to care.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, there’s nothing else I can say to make you feel how I feel, so I’m going to leave you with this: If you ever get the chance to rip down a back road, Martin Garrix blasting through the speakers in a car you just spent a week working on, maybe you’ll begin to understand where I’m coming from.

Maybe then, you, too, will start to believe in cars.

Mitch Hoffman lives in State College. His essay aired April 3 on WPSU.

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