I'm poking around the Aston Martin plant in Gaydon, England. I've been watching a group of women at sewing machines stitching seat covers, door panels, steering wheels, and so on. They are using some kind of high-quality English leather and the place smells fantastic. The scent puts me in a sort of memory coma. I'm back in my room during junior high, carefully oiling my baseball glove, jamming my fist into it as hard as I can. I put it on my face and breathe, Darth Vader-style, while stumbling over my uniform. I'm both nervous and excited for the upcoming game. It makes my hands itch.
The Aston plant makes me feel the same way. I have no idea why. It's not like I'm going to play them in baseball or cricket. But my hands itch something fierce.
And then it dawned on me; being in this factory is something of a childhood fantasy. I remember driving my Corgi cars on the living room table, especially the James Bond DB5. It had an ejector seat, tire-shredding wheel hubs, and changeable license plates. I imagined going to the Aston factory to pick up my own special car. Mine would have machine guns, a rear-facing flamethrower and bulletproof glass. I figured I'd need this stuff when I got older.
Realizing a childhood fantasy is a bit scary. You've spent much of your life fantasizing about this thing and suddenly it's right in your face. The long tunnel has ended, the golden ring is right there.
I excuse myself for the men's room. A few splashes of cold water bring reality back. Aston isn't building me a car. Those ladies at the sewing machines aren't stitching custom seats for me, the bodymen aren't placing Kevlar in the doors. I'm not leaving this factory with anything but a camera, notepad and a titanium washer I found on the factory floor. I stuffed it in my pocket where it mingles with a few euros, a little bit of a stolen fantasy.
Twenty-one years ago I walked through the doors of Argus Publishers, just another college graduate hungry for a shot at a "real job." I realize this as I'm walking among racks of freshly minted DBS chassis. Twenty-one years of Bugattis and BMWs, GTIs and Jensens, Audis and Astons. I've been doing this car magazine thing for more than two decades. In truth, that makes me an anomaly in the business. All my colleagues have jumped from one company to the next, a few remaining in print, most migrating to the Web. I never felt the need to jump ship. I love the work and I like the subject.
After 21 years, I think I figured that out.