Objects of Desire – December 2012

The Sunny Side of the Street

By Emily Atkins

emily-atkinsIt’s been a long road from January to December this year. An eventful 12 months in the driver’s seat of my car(s). I’ve learned a lot about cars, driving and people this year, and I like to think I’ve come out the far side for the better.

The thing about driving is, it forces you to look forward… and up. “Driving in the mirrors” is a big no-no, and it’s something I love to avoid. Who wants to wallow in the past, when the future beckons? The future is that bend in the road, the curve you cannot quite see around, the promise of smoother asphalt just ahead.

Driving is an optimist’s sport. And not just because you have to look where you are going, rather than where you’ve been. It’s an optimist’s game because you know there will be expenses when things on your car break, but you hope they will be minimal. You know there will be crummy weather, but you pray it won’t fall on your track days. You know there will always be faster drivers and faster cars, but you know that, once in a while, you’ll be the best, and the fastest one out there.

I’ve never encountered a pessimistic driving enthusiast. The number of things you could worry about is legion, and I believe it would overwhelm all but the most stoic. It would be too brutal to be constantly worried about the price of gas, the cost of tires and brakes, and the danger of driving on the busy, crazy roads (the track is infinitely safer). How could you get behind the wheel and turn the key, knowing every rotation of the wheels is another dollar down the tube, and another millimeter closer to the big parking lot in the sky.

That’s why we never meet those kinds of people in our driving circles. We are a happy-go-lucky lot. Always eager for the next drive (some of us blissfully), unconcerned about the risks and costs of our hobby. It’s not that we are unrealistic. The buzz just overwhelms the doubts. Have you ever embarked down a trajectory you knew might not be the best choice, but pursued it anyway, just because of the immediate rewards? It’s fun, so you don’t care about the consequences.

Driving is like that. When I’m at the track, I know (from painful experience now – see September’s Provinz) that there could be expensive consequences from my enjoyment. But that nagging backseat driver is quickly drowned out by the turbo spooling up and the tires squealing at their limits, by the G-forces pressing me into my seat or into my harness, by the rush of passing another car, by the joy of executing a lap faster and better than the last.

There’s no thrill like it and, once you’ve felt it, there’s no going back. You have to have it. It makes you a little crazy I think, the need for the wheel in your hands, the pedals underfoot, the snugged-up harness making you one with the car. It satisfies all the senses at once, in a way that’s unforgettable and unique.

Do I sound like an addict? That may be a fair assessment. With the car going into storage for the slippery season, I am facing withdrawal symptoms – how will I get the rush if I cannot see my fast friend any more? The thought is crushing. Don’t kid yourselves; I know I’m not the only one. I know you also spend your winters watching YouTube videos, browsing magazines, sneaking peeks under the cover, sometimes even firing her up on warm, sunny days for a quickie.

Ultimately, however, these are unsatisfying activities, barely scratching the itch. And here again, it’s our optimism that keeps us fuelled. I know the snow will melt, the sun will return and soon enough we will be reunited with our objects of desire on the roads and tracks to fulfill our driving destinies.

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