Note: This piece was originally written on the side of the highway while waiting for road assistance and recently edited for blog purposes.
The term “car jar” is slang for car fanatic, a variant on the combined expressions “jar head” and “car head,” a term coined by a friend to describe my husband. I’m with the “car jar” now as he trailers his race car to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. I’m to be dropped off at my son’s home in Atlanta, but we are currently parked alongside the on-ramp to interstate 85, somewhere south of Charlottesville. My husband just pumped twenty gallons of gasoline into our diesel truck and we are waiting for service. The irony of it all is keeping me from getting pissed.
My husband’s passion for cars is nothing new. When I met him, he was driving a purple Porsche, his second or third or fourth sports car. He watched car tv, read car magazines, taught our sons how to change the oil in a car before their feet reached the pedals. And then one Christmas, generous and tolerant wife that I am, I gave my husband a fantasy-race-car-driver-experience and his demon emerged from under smoldering tires. My husband races cars on the club level up and down the East coast and has done very well in his class. This is the real-deal racing, road tracks, not ovals, with souped-up, stripped down, fast-assed cars. I’m not a big fan of the sport, frankly, I’m not a fan at all. The race season runs for about 7 months and I’ve come to love the weekends that I’m home alone, but massaging the car in the garage eats up the rest of the year, and that can be problematic. Racetracks are hot and loud, races are short, downtime is long, and an hours worth of watching is about all I’m interested in. And it’s dangerous and expensive, and while my husband has been doing this for some time and I have (for the most part) reconciled with the danger element, I continue to struggle with the cost.
I’ve only been to 2 races—one at Road Atlanta and one at Watkins Glen in Upstate New York. The Road Atlanta racetrack was 500 degrees or more and while I did get to visit with my son and daughter-in-law, it was too hot to even converse. At iconic Watkins Glen, I did get a ride around the track with another driver and it was absolutely a thrill, but an entire weekend of car racing is long and boring. I just don’t care enough about cars or competition, and the drivers, the participants in this madness, are very competitive—and the most interesting element of club racing. They are typically older men, fifty plus, and a handful of women, most with the means to support this expensive habit, but many putting up whatever money they can to stay in the game. There are a lot of doctor, lawyer, investment type drivers, of course, but the majority that I have met are engineers, including my husband—geeks with guts who fantasize about taking home some enormous silver cup, who fantasize about becoming master mechanics or perhaps the driver that gets the girl. I understand fantasies, but mine do not include cars. They are all risk takers and all of them going for gold, and yet there is tremendous camaraderie and a team spirit in the paddock not evident on the track.
Car jar and I will be back on the road soon. The very nice young man who sucked the gasoline out of the truck, changed the fuel filter, filled the truck with diesel, is sitting in his truck writing up the bill. This will surely turn out to be an expensive pit stop. It has already added 2 hours to a very long ride. I’m being very good, not gloating, not bitching, my poor husband is very embarrassed and the young man tells us it happens all the time. Car jar thinks there might be something going on between the gas people and this young mechanic who just happens to be up the road from the station, and he wants to go back and take a look at the offending pump. Good God, no, just drive.
Postscript – My husband’s race car died on the track in Birmingham, Alabama, one day after the gasoline incident. The engine block blew a hole, or something like that. It has been out of commission since that trip but hopefully will be back on the road for Labor Day weekend.
photo credit: pvgp.org