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Cheaper Than Therapy - Tech Scene

Robert Choo
Apr 27, 2006

I was sitting in a courtroom with 40 other motorists who had received a ticket for a moving violation (apparently racing against a Porsche Turbo falls in this category) and we were on lockdown for the next eight hours in traffic school. Our instructor, who thankfully was a fairly charismatic fellow for a day-long lecture, asked the entire class why we were all here today. This apparently besides the obvious fact that the only reason we were all there was so we would not receive a mark (point) on our DMV records for the moving violation.

When a fellow sitting in the front row blurted out "personal growth" nearly the entire class laughed or chuckled lightly at his answer. The instructor replied that he has been teaching traffic school for a while and this was the first time he ever heard of someone coming to traffic school for personal development. Although I am positive the person was only kidding it dawned upon me that this was somewhat true for myself. I am not talking about attending traffic school, of course. I am referring to how cars in general, are a type of therapeutic outlet.

Some like to hit the gym, while others throw back a few cold ones at the local pub. For myself, give me a well-equipped toolbox, a car with a blown head gasket and I am in heaven. All my friends have long realized this and come to me whenever their vehicles need some work. I find diagnosing car problems fun. Finding the culprit and fixing it is satisfying. The rhythm of building an engine is soothing. Being alone in my garage with my tools, my cars and alone with my thoughts is a relaxing escape. I focus on the mechanics of wrenching and forget about everyday worries and concerns.

Working on cars is a lot easier than solving other worldly problems. It may take a pain-staking four hours to install a turbo kit but it is still complete by the end of the day. I may be covered head-to-toe in grease and have cuts and burns up and down my arms, but usually whatever problem there at the start has been resolved. I wish reaching peace in the Middle East was that easy.

Fixing cars is mostly a linear process. You want to get from Point A to Point B and there are a series of rational steps to get you there. My brain fits easily into this style of processing. I don't have to do a lot of hard abstract thinking, I seem to just sense with my hands and eyes what needs to be done (kinesthetic learner with high perceptual organization skills, I'm told, for you psychology majors). I like not having to concentrate so hard and thus wrenching is a release for me. Right now as I type I have to think way too much about "Did I put commas in the right places?, What's a good synonym for this or that?, etc." while with cars everything just comes to me.

When deadlines approach and it is crunch time at work I always put it in perspective that I am thankful every day for this job. How many people can boast they are paid to do what they love? My passion is working on cars and I am fortunate enough to make a living doing just that. Everyday I work on cars, often unintentionally. I come home with grease stains on my cloths and have to answer to their origins (Wife: "I thought you were in the office today?" Me: "Well, so-and-so brought his car by and ..." or "Oh, after lunch I went to ...") Somehow wrenching works itself into the day's activities. While I am embarrassed to say that I can install a nitrous kit in the time it takes me to write this column (meaning it takes me an abnormally long time to put my thoughts on paper), I am glad that I get the opportunity to test products, build motors and oversee project cars. I hope to be 70 years old and still tinkering about in my garage. I'll tell the young 'uns how it was, "When I was your age we didn't have hydrogen fuel cells. I had to make 500 hp on crappy 91-octane gas."

The moral of this story is that poverty and famine will just have to wait, I have a K20 engine build that beckons.

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By Robert Choo
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