'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
MUSCLE CARS AND MANHOOD
Recently I was shooting the breeze with a business associate, and he began to describe to me the technical details of rebuilding the transmission on his vintage 1969 Pontiac G.T.O. I tried really hard to appear interested, nodding my head periodically and saying, “Hmmm” and “yeah.”
But when he noticed my eyes had glazed over, despite all my nodding and hmmming and yeahing, he paused in mid-sentence and said, “You’re really not a car guy, are you?”
Possibly he was making nothing more than a non-judgmental observation. However, I sensed in his tone of voice the slightest hint of testosterone-fueled disgust, as if my lack of interest in, or lack of understanding of, his rebuilt transmission (to be honest, it was both) was a sign that I am a few belches shy of real manhood.
Defensively I replied, “Sure I’m a car guy. I mean, I drive a car every day. I, uh, I love cars. Oh yeah. Vroom, vroom! Horsepower. Pistons. Uh…carburetors.” I recited various car parts in as deep a voice as possible, and I even scratched my crotch although I wasn’t itchy.
He just stood there starring at me. I felt like Liberace trying to explain to a stone-faced Vince Lombardi why I had been lurking around the Green Bay Packers’ locker room.
Well, the truth is, I’m not much of a car guy—if car guy is defined as someone who understands the intricate mechanical details of how cars work, and more importantly, believes that the ownership of loud, powerful, chrome-encrusted vehicles has a direct correlation to male virility.
I blame my parents. If I had been born in 1946, which means I would have turned 16 in the year 1962—when gasoline cost $0.15 per gallon and “muscle cars” were all the rage—then I’m sure I would have grown up to be a car guy. At this very moment I’d probably be in the middle of rebuilding something on a 1969 Pontiac G.T.O. (possibly the transpistonburetor).
But instead, I was born in 1957, which means I turned 16 in the year 1973—the year of the first oil crisis, when gasoline prices jumped overnight to 78 dollars per gallon (at least according to my father who, moments after I got my drivers’ license, informed me that if I even THOUGHT about asking to borrow his car I would be grounded for the rest of my life).
At the exact moment in my life when I should have been getting excited about big hulking slabs of Detroit steel with engines the size of refrigerators and pistons the size of canned hams, the ownership of which was necessary to develop the proper level of male virility, I instead was taught to view automobiles as nothing more than transportation. And the cheaper the better. Like countless other cost-conscious weenies who came of age post muscle car era, I was attracted to little tin sardine cans from Japan, which come with teeny 4-cylinder engines that sound a lot like Felix Unger clearing his sinuses, only not quite as loud.
It was ingrained into my brain that V-8 engines are more harmful to society than Ted Kennedy and Donald Trump combined, so much so that during the entire S.U.V. craze of the last decade I continued to drive a Honda Civic. But I must say, when gasoline hit $3.39 per gallon this past summer, who was scratching his crotch and belching in triumph? Mr. Four-Cylinder Weenie, that’s who.
So I only have one thing to say to my muscle car, ’69 G.T.O. friend: “Buuuuuurrrppp!!!”
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