HAVING JUST SPENT another hectic 48 hours with the crew that run this fine, family magazine, I’m once again astounded by the cultural gulf that exists between me and them, despite being separated by just a single generation. I’m not saying the little tackers don’t love their cars; they’re all good drivers, involved in organised motorsport and they all own interesting vehicles. None of which explains Dylan’s cannon-ball stack-hat, but anyway… And the MOTOR crew are the best of the bunch; plenty of your new-age online publishing specialists have never owned a car despite being paid to tell you why your own choice is so flawed.
Anyway, where me and the young ’uns start steering down starkly different behavioural paths is when mobile phones come into it. Sit at the dinner table with these blokes and you’ll have to start up a conversation with the garlic bread, because anybody with a functioning thumb will be hammering away with it on the virtual keypad of the latest iShite.
Once that’s out of the way, human conversation can start, but even then, it’ll kick off on the topic of who has the newest phone and why it’s sooo much better than last week’s model. The other night, it was young Louis who was king of the kids with a brand-newie.
“Why’d ya buy that one?” the others wanted to know.
“See here,” Louis explained, “the screen is full length so it’s w-a-y better for watching vids.”
At this point, I decided to inject a bit of common sense into the debate. “Yeah, but who in their right mind would choose to watch a video on a mobile phone?”.
Dylan almost fell off his chair, laughing fit to soil his baggy-ass duds. Between guffaws, Dylan explained the new reality: “I watch whole, feature-length films on my phone.” He’s nearly crying now.
The garlic bread said nothing.
Now, I don’t know what Dean Semmler or Cecil B thinks about somebody watching their visual epics on a screen that fits in the pocket of yer poop-catchers, but I’m pretty sure I know what I think about it. From where I sit, it’s the equivalent of buying a McLaren P1, but only ever driving it on an indoor go-kart track.
Which leads me to the second observation I have of all this. Once the inevitable phone comparison has wrapped up, the thumbs get busy again as everybody finds their favourite car-crash vid and shares it around the table. Which made me realise that much of Gen Y’s exposure to car culture is of the virtual variety.
Part of the reason they love cars is because they can get a dose of them any place, any time (Telstra willing). Their phones can take them to virtual places in virtual cars and all they have to do is top up their accounts and ignore the garlic bread.
And therein lies the proof of that cultural divide I mentioned. For me, it’s entirely the other way around. The magic of the motor car is that it can take me to see the real thing. It can go where mobile phones can’t. In a world where new tech is all angled at enabling us to stay at home and cop a digitised version of reality, the car – my car – is the odd man out, offering me the chance to see things in full-colour, wide-screen, Dolby-Plus 3D reality. And I’ll take that any day.
Not that any of this bothers the youngsters at my table right now. In fact, I’m just a dinosaur for even suggesting that we ditch the appliances and drive a thousand kays to see a real motor race at some stinky old mountain somewhere near some dump called Bathurst.
A few years back, I innocently asked a group of kids calling themselves motoring journalists what a meme was. “Oh man,” sneered the least likeable of them, “Where have you been for the last 20 years?”
The response was obvious: “Road-testing cars. How ’bout you?”.
Pass the garlic bread.