It’s not the same world I grew up in, and people don’t like change.
As we get older, we are naturally drawn to the things that shaped us into who we are. As usual, cars become an example (C’mon…you had to see that coming…). What drives the market for people who invest in cars is the desire of those buying them to relive the days of old. Right now, everything with a manual transmission is being bought up by speculators like there are cases of EpiPens hidden in the trunk. Personally, I think these investors are going to lose their shirts, because the next generation of wealthy buyers – the young people of today who will make their fortunes with smartphones and social media and apps – they don’t give a happy crap about driving a stick shift. To be honest, most of them don’t care about driving at all. It’s just not the same world I grew up in. No, I don’t like these changes, but what I think doesn’t affect reality: this is the future, and I am getting old.
Which is why I traded my favorite car – my 2016 GT350, a total beast, possibly the best all-around sports car I have ever owned – for a Porsche Turbo. Hell, I am not even a Porsche guy. I have tried to like them, because they do make sense, but they just are not the car I lusted after as a 16 year old kid who thought I might get some attention from the girls if only I had a Ferrari. But there is one Porsche in my past, and not just any Porsche, this Porsche: a 996 model 911 Turbo, metallic grey with black interior, tuned for the track. And as I have been forced to embrace a future that I am not all that fond of but simply cannot ignore, I feel compelled to reach back and connect with special events from my past. If nothing else, perhaps I can retain a little of what I consider to be me.
It’s November 2007, Virginia International Raceway, Audi Club. I am there in my new, and very blue RS4, a car built to be a dual-duty practical family hauler and weekend track weapon. See the picture? I have a bunch like that. But it’s my instructor and her car that will leave a smoldering imprint in my brain. I don’t have any pictures of her.
Now, I am going to make a disclaimer, because there are many ways in which the world has changed, and I am getting ready to wade into swirling rapids: I believe women and men are equal (except at Hockey in Letterkenny, but that’s splitting hairs). In the world I grew up in – even in 2007 – you didn’t see a lot of women instructors at track days. You still don’t, but that’s not because they aren’t equally good, so I am splitting hairs again. But in my youth, if you put a woman in a non-traditional role – like a welder that also happened to be a dancer – it was considered attractive. I have become uncomfortable at even talking about what I might consider attractive, as this realm has become a veritable minefield.
By the way, Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher” is now stuck in my head. But only because it has an epic guitar solo, which is yet another thing from the past that has simply disappeared. <I don’t feel tardy…>
I am terrible with names, but I remember hers. That says something, but I sure as hell am not going to say it here.
Anyway, my instructor, she had a metallic grey 996 model 911 turbo. Hers was a tuned X50, which in the Porsche world is “the one to have,” but it makes little difference here. What matters is the memory: I remember going for a ride along with her in a slower run group. I remember her very calm, very clinical demeanor, which was one of the things that made her an effective teacher. I mean instructor. Anyway, I remember her positioning the nose of her 911 inches from the rear bumper of unwitting students in her way, patiently waiting for the next straight so that they might ever so kindly get the f*#& out of the… well, give us a point-by.
And I remember rounding Oak Tree, the slowest turn on the track leading on to the longest straight, whereupon she apparently harnessed the warp drive from the Millennium Falcon and quite literally bent the time-space-continuum in my head. I remember slower cars – hell, every car – being sucked into our vortex and unceremoniously spit out behind us if this epic machine had reached out to the horizon and literally dragged it inexorably towards us, stopping only at the absolute end of the straight, where we would again find ourselves gently rubbing the rear bumper of the next hapless wannabe in our way.
And I remember giggling like a school girl. Or maybe it was hysterical laughter. Or cackling. I don’t know. I am sure it wasn’t cool, but I couldn’t help myself, because day-em that car was fast!!!
And you wanna know what? It still is. Or at least it still feels that way. Because things have changed, and cars have changed, too. Yes, they are faster, but they are also more advanced. They have all of these computers and scientifically designed aero flaps and appendages and software and all of this stuff that lets anyone go extraordinary speeds, speeds that would have been unimaginable then, with little to no drama. But not this thing. It retains all of the drama of a car that rightfully earned the nickname “the widow-maker.”
And it reminds me of a very special experience from my past.
And the more I have to embrace the future, the more I want to hold on to the past. And like it or not, as much as none of us likes change, we simply can’t avoid the future anymore.
Smartphones, social media, and apps. These things are here to stay. They have changed the way we interact, the way we are educated, the way we get our news, the way we do business, even the way we fight wars. They have changed the way we live, and they are here to stay.
My entire education was directed towards my career as a doctor, specifically as a pathologist: chemistry, medical school, residency, fellowship. I have practiced in this traditional role for almost twenty years. But the world has changed. The challenges we face today are not the same as when I was in high school, in college, or medical school. They are not the same as when I was in residency, or even when I moved to Lynchburg and started working what was and is my first and only “real” job.
I am very much like the people of my generation: I don’t like a lot of what I see. Though I use smartphones and social media and apps and am probably just as dependent on them as anyone else, I am not happy with the changes brought on by these things. Like many of my peers, I have thought about ways we might limit their scope, to curb this surging tide of change. But these things will not be held back. And therein lies the problem: our dislike for change, our reluctance to accept the inevitable, it has put us in a position where we don’t have any idea what we are dealing with.
The youth of today are our future leaders, but we – the old people like me – we are the ones currently in control. And yet we have absolutely no idea what we are dealing with. And that’s precisely why things aren’t going so well. If you take a government run by people that know nothing of smartphones and social media and apps and whose only real goal is to stay in office, and combine that with industry leaders who know nothing of smartphones or social media or apps – or worse: ones who do, but whose only real goal is to make money; well, you can just look around to see the results: electronic medical record systems that cost hundreds of millions of dollars but make things worse, not better. Or Facebook. Or Uber.
Which means we have no choice but to face the future, to embrace it, to learn everything we can about smartphones and social media and apps, and see if we might not be able to use these things to our collective advantage. And that means that just as the world is changing, we – and again I am speaking to the old people like me – we have no choice but to change with it. It’s not the same world that we grew up in, and we don’t like change, but it’s time we let go of the past and do our real jobs and help lead the way into the future.
Still, I think I’ll hold onto one or two things from the past, a few things that are sentimental. Pardon me while I will grab my original copy of 1984 and feed it into the CD player of a tuned Porsche Turbo… I have some thinking to do.