2006 Porsche Boxster S. Photo: Greg Wilson. Click image to enlarge
By Michael Clark
The next time you see a Porsche owner exit their vehicle, ask them if they would like a hug.
While you may get the odd puzzled look or a face full of pepper spray, there will be a few Porschephiles that collapse into sobbing heaps when you offer them comfort. If you’re really into hugging strangers, offer up the same services to owners of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and especially those who bravely exit their circular driveways in anything with the Rolls-Royce or Bentley marque.
Those of you whose key ring still carries the name “Citation” or “American Motors” are no doubt scratching your heads. “Why would I care about someone with a car that cost more than my house? Why, I’ll bet their mustard costs $20 a jar, and they have three servants that open it, spread it, and put the cap back on for them.”
It is true that one’s station in life will dictate their mode of transport. Your first car was probably the family hand-me-down, complete with rust, dents, and different coloured body panels. As you advanced through school and career, you found yourself in an ever-increasing level of quality and comfort. Your radio grew the FM band, a CD player, even stereo sound. You rolled up your windows and turned on the air conditioning. Tattered seat covers gave way to supple leather hides. You worked for it. You earned it.
Not every Porsche driver was born with a platinum spoon in his or her mouth. Take a look at the median age of the exotic car driver. Aside from trust fund babies and flash-in-the-pan thespians, most 911 Carrera pilots have more creases in their face than an elephant’s skin. They worked for it. They earned it.
2006 Porsche Boxster. Photo: Grant Yoxon. Click image to enlarge
As an automobile journalist, it is common to find yourself at the wheel of sculpture that would only reside in your driveway by way of inheritance or Lotto 649. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it. (And no, there aren’t any openings).
I can’t speak for my brethren, but I do try to look the part when I slide into the seat of this week’s high-end press car. It might mean a sport coat and chinos with a 7 Series BMW, instead of my ripped jeans and Motley Crue t-shirt when I’m in my old Supra.
With my odometer rolling up on 37 years, I am also aware that my presence in such vehicles recalls a favourite ditty from Sesame Street: “one of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong.” When the car is $60,000 and up, there might as well be a flashing neon sign attached to the press car bumper that reads “Not His”.
What are people thinking? More importantly, what are they saying under their breath as the sculpture rolls past? This week, it was a Speed Yellow Porsche Boxster S. The sun of Spring beckoned, and I responded with the top down – and my ears open.
The one thing that can never be masked is the exuberance of a child. My 9 year-old daughter wasn’t in the car for more than a nanosecond before she asked how to put the top down. A forgotten lunch bag required a turnaround back to the schoolyard. As I drove up in front, the students in the after-school program dropped their jump ropes, super-bounce balls, even their Tamagotchis. They clung to the chain link fence like fish stuck in a net, screaming their approval.
2006 Porsche Cayman S. Photo: Peter Bleakney. Click image to enlarge
The teenage demographic was mixed. If it was a group of girls, they would hoot and holler, with the expected “Can I have a ride, Mister?” (Note: if anyone asks you a question and follows it up with “Mister” or “Sir”, you just keep right on going.) The boys would gawk in dumbfounded admiration. One almost walked into a lightpost, unable to remove his gaze. Sorry about that, Junior.
Most people respect a Porsche. There was the sweetest of elderly couples admiring it in a shopping mall parking lot. It was as if they were keeping a safe distance, as not to set off some new-fangled type of laser beam perimeter alarm. “We didn’t touch it,” said the storybook grandmother. I told them they could if they wanted to. They watched the top lower as if it was an ocean sunset.
A few more errands, and I found myself meandering through the streets of my youth, half-hoping to run into chums from school days. I had just rolled up to a four-way stop. When my turn presented itself, a beat-up green Chrysler lurched into the intersection. This wasn’t a confused old man, nor was it a pre-occupied soccer mom. This was on purpose. As the fiend made his turn, he slowed down enough to make sure I heard him. “FAG!” And off he went.
2006 Porsche Carrera 4S. Photo: Laurance Yap. Click image to enlarge
I was pretty sure that this wasn’t a British subject using that country’s accepted slang to bum a cigarette. Fag? Sorry squire, been off the fag for a fortnight. Cheerio! No, this was the usual low-brow comment that was hurled in high school, usually for the lack of an I.Q. score capable of a witty retort, or the ability to avoid summer school. If the remark was meant to specifically challenge my orientation, I suppose that the Speed Yellow hue was maybe a bit too festive. For the record, I did watch “The Producers” the night before, and I laughed my head off. Or had I mistaken zit cream for my fiance’s cover-up? I was so confused.
Perhaps the hue of the Chrysler was more of an emotional indicator for the driver than a mere paint job. Envy is a natural emotion, though one of the ugliest that can be displayed. I did not know him till that moment. I wondered if I would see him again, and possibly receive a further volley of his disapproval.
I had the opportunity to drive the Porsche that evening. Instead, I found myself securing it in the garage. This is probably the fate of numerous exotics, which probably explains the low mileage when they are offered for sale. I remember my youth, with a room plastered with car posters, and shelves of plastic models. I dreamed of the day that I would have my very own supercar in my driveway. In another house, someone else dreamed of taking a key to it. A Porsche is a beautiful thing. To be afraid of using it seems horribly wrong.
I kept thinking of that elderly couple. They were as excited about looking upon the Boxster as the children of the schoolyard. They didn’t ask what I did for a living, how much it cost, or just who the heck did I think I was driving it. There wasn’t an envious bone in their bodies. “You have a very beautiful car,” said the grandfather. I could have explained it wasn’t mine. I just didn’t feel right about altering that smile. Perhaps seeing a thirty-something getting into a car like that made him believe that the same could happen for his children. Study, work hard, and all this could be yours. Sure beats calling people names.