What would you do if you had a Porsche convertible for a single day – phone a friend and go out for a rip, right? Would you spend the time driving, or tweeting and Instagramming photos to make all your friends jealous? Is it more important to have the experience, or to capture and broadcast it?
Halfway up to Whistler, this is the conversation I’m having with my good friend John, whom I have known for (gulp!) close to two decades. He’s a high school administrator and has four kids of his own, so he thinks a great deal about the modern consumption of technology, and what it means for education and growing minds. The insidious nature of this stuff is on my mind too, what with the constant electronic pressure of the freelance life and a young growing family at home.
It all boils down to the question, “What is real?” Well, this conversation is real. And this landscape is real. And this road is real.
Drop two gears and the Porsche’s flat-six double-whaps as the first hairpins past Pemberton hove into sight. Behind us is digital cacophony. Ahead, there is only room for the flow of the tarmac and the fury of the 911. This isn’t a car – this is an escape pod.
On my right wrist, I wear a manual-wind mechanical watch. To some of you, this immediately marks me out as an idiot. Mechanical watches are expensive, more jewellery than functionality – I have a friend who flies B-52s for a living, and he wears a digital watch because he actually needs precision and accuracy from his timepiece.
However, there’s something comfortingly durable and solid about the weight of the metal. I bought it when my daughter was born, and since then have infused it with memories and covered it in scuffs. As I’m a leftie and wear watches on my right hand, I’ve had it on when I’ve shaken hands with Mario Andretti, Walter Wolf, Peter Bell. I’ve worn it while covering Le Mans, F1, WRC, and the Indy 500. I’ve banged it against the wall while leaping to prevent my daughter from grabbing something off a countertop, and watched her hold it to her ear and listen as the seconds of our lives ticked away.
An air-cooled Porsche is a lot like a mechanical watch. The modern 911 is more like the Apple Watch – slick, packed with tech, lets people know you’re well-to-do and cutting edge, works far better than any relic. The only real problem I have with either is the vast expense and the programmed obsolescence. Someone will pay to keep the collectible limited editions on the road, but once the electronic guts of this red beast start getting a bit cranky, that’s it. Game over.