I love cars. That doesn't mean that I'm a good driver, that I could talk to you about the state of the automotive industry or that I could do anything to help you fix literally anything in any sort of meaningful fashion -- but I love the damn things nonetheless. This love actually extends beyond cars, to motorcycles, trucks, airplanes and basically any other marvel of engineering that, in a fair and just world, my incompetent fingers would never be allowed to touch. But as a dude who digs whirly things that go places, I find that most people either share that exact same love with me or else cannot understand the appeal in the slightest. So on behalf of all of us fans of controlled explosions with wheels on them, I figured I'd give a go at explaining this baffling affection, and maybe shed some light on what makes the box that occasionally takes you to the store something more special to us.
Two out of five douchebags will describe their hobbies to disinterested women as "a zen thing, you know?" They will go on to clarify that "It's like I'm really at peace when I'm windsurfing/quilting/strangling hobos on the F train. So like, do you do butt stuff or what?"
People who actually say shit like that with a straight face are clearly not spiritually enlightened men. They're callow conglomerations of dick that only want to seem like deep, contemplative people with real thoughts and emotions. But there is such a thing as daily, accessible meditation, and it doesn't have to have any kind of philosophic motivation. Take me, for example: I'm a writhing ball of condensed worry, fury and childish bullshit. If my brain's not mentally giving me cancer or spinning an epic revenge tale about the bitch who cut in front of me in line at the gas station, it's probably running a little skit about a knight slapping a dragon with a floppy dildo. Or else it's a combination of all three. My mind just frantically skipping back and forth from how shitty chemo is inevitably going to be, to stabbing Gas Line Bitch with my IV, to plotting the logistics of modding my hospital wheelchair to look like Optimus Prime.
So that when I back up, it looks like Optimus decapitated a guy and mounted his head on the roof, obviously.
But when I work on my car, or hop on my motorcycle, I suddenly gain focus. I'm no longer running the numbers on my budget for the next year while wrath-banging the wife of my old grade school bully -- I'm only wondering what, exactly, a PCV valve is, and why it has to be constantly fucking with my life so much. Or else I'm plotting my ideal line through the next corner while trying to discern if that pickup truck is going to pull left in front of me. Sure, all those emotions are still there: I worry that I'm screwing up my engine, I'm furious at the inattentive bastard who might run me off the road and I guess there's probably something juvenile about how I'm mentally screaming "Wheee!" at the top of my psychic lungs around every apex, but there's no more skipping about. If the inner monologue is a song, then mine is some shitty club DJ slamming together Leonard Cohen and Ludacris with occasional ironic breakbeats by Devo. But when I'm working or riding or driving, then my focus is one single melody, unbroken and pure.
I mean, I'm still me, so that melody is a little more "Walk Like an Egyptian" than "Mooonlight Sonata," but the important part is there's finally some mental consistency in this otherwise slipshod and fragmented psyche.
Everybody needs a puzzle solving fix. It's just the way our brains are wired. If you don't give the damn things a puzzle to solve once in a while, they'll keep you up all night scatting the melody to The Simpsons until you get up to go cry in the bathroom. Maybe you solve theoretical mathematical questions on AskScience, or do Sudoku on the train, or just slingshot disgruntled birds at ambivalent pigs inside shoddy constructions -- hey, nobody said the puzzles were all brilliant. Your puzzle could be just rapidly opening and closing the fridge door to see if the light stays on or not.
"It's like a zen thing, you know? If it's on, but I can't see it, is it really on? It's a modern day koan. So ... butt stuff, yea or nay?"
Some guys do the crossword on Sundays; I try to figure out why my Subaru is cranking but not turning over. Diagnosing car trouble really is more puzzle work than simple troubleshooting, I swear. Sure, maybe it's not cranking because the battery's low and any idiot knows that, but it's never that simple. You have to take every other variable into account first: Were you running heavier oil for the first time in this engine? Is there some corrosion in the ground cable? Remember when it did that strange shuddering thing when you gave it some throttle the other day? This could be connected. Because in any good mystery, the culprit is never the sinister Duke Murderfist; it's always the jovial butler or something. You can't just pin the blame on the obvious. You have to carefully track and plot a long series of events, examining every suspect and tracing the often conflicting, overlapping clues that lead to this particular crime. Because every mechanic is a detective: His cases are strange vibrations; the victims are innocent camshafts and naive, starry-eyed young tappets; his boss is a-
Oh, it was the battery? Shit.
I believe every human being needs two types of satisfaction: productive and creative. If you're lucky enough to have a purely creative job, like me, you spend most of your time tweaking and experimenting with concepts, putting words and ideas together. It's really rewarding stuff, but it's all a little abstract, too. Sometimes it leaves you a little empty afterward. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the builders: You spend your day assembling, measuring and crafting. Factory workers, carpenters, construction workers -- you all know a set of rules and how things fit together, and at the end of the day, you produce something real and tangible that was not there before. Rewarding stuff, too, but maybe you're also a little creatively empty. You probably do something to fill that void. You play in a blues band on weekends, you draw comics, you write one-man plays about the fantastical adventures of your penis, Sir Cockwell of Dongton Abbey, and perform them for unsuspecting subway patrons -- you know, whatever gets you through the day.
Truly, it is the most unappreciated form of theater.
As a purely creative worker, I need to go out to the garage on the weekends and put something physical together. There's no creativity to what I do out there -- I'm not good enough to design, build or even mod my own machines. And I don't have much interest in that stuff, honestly. I just want to change parts, check clearances and follow directions, because when I'm done, something works that didn't before. I see a tangible effect on the world.
There are a lot of perks to being a comedy writer on the Internet, but "I had a tangible effect on the world" is just not something I can say after I spend an afternoon making dick jokes about experimental science, you know?