Friday, April 6, 2012

Modified Magnified

I reflected upon the irony as I closed the door to my office, logged onto my computer, and sat down in my chair. I shared the same hallways, the same copy machines, the same water coolers, fax machines, and restrooms. I shared the same parking lot as every employee of that office for the previous six years.

The difference was that on this particular day I had decided to drive the G to work. I happened to pull in right behind an unmarked State Police cruiser driven by a detective with whom I am not too familiar. I parked a few spots to the left of him and sat there studying my phone, feigning reading something with the humble hopes that the detective, a man I had seen on a regular basis every day for the past six years but never said more than “hello” to in passing, would get out of his car and walk into the building before me. While not maintaining any steadfast desire to be rude or antisocial, I had simply wished to avoid that inevitable, constrained greeting and exchange of insincere pleasantries during the side-by-side walk from the parking lot, up two flights of stairs and hallways to our respective offices. When I peered over and saw that he was talking on his phone in his car, I decided to get out and start into the building. Then, caught off-guard, I heard, “New car?” as he stepped from his vehicle.

I explained that the car was not new, but that I rarely drive it to work for various reasons. He then began questioning me.

Is it a stick?

Is it quick?

How does it handle?

He remarked upon the condition of it; how clean it was, how the paint looked great (What?!?) and how it shined. My wheels and the brakes were the focus of his initial commentary. The discussion that followed focused on how fun it must be to drive. He asked about all the modifications I had done and then remarked that he had no idea I was interested in cars. He informed me of how he used to “mess around” with his cars in his younger years. We stood in the parking lot for a few minutes discussing my car and then began to walk into the building. Our conversation lasted the entire length of three long hallways and two flights of stairs. We then parted ways when we reached our separate offices. This was, indisputably, the longest exchange I had, in six years, ever maintained with this gentleman. It was a discourse sparked from and centered upon my modified Infiniti G37S.

The irony that I found myself considering as I settled down at my desk stemmed from a meeting I had had three days prior with another police officer. Only this was a police officer with whom I was not a direct co-worker. I did not share an office building or parking lot with this particular enforcer of traffic laws.

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon of a holiday weekend. My Tommy Kaira Hebi Bebi shift knob had arrived from Japan via FedEx the day before. I spent the better side of an hour and a half that morning wrestling with the Loctite-covered stock shift knob before I got the TK installed. Once I did, I was anxious to see how it performed. I pulled out of the end of my street and ripped through gears one, two, and three with ease. The knob was a pleasure - the shifts felt slightly smoother than stock because of the heavy weight and it sat slightly lower than the stock knob. However, just as I hit fourth gear, I noticed a cruiser headed towards me, shielded by the car in front of it. I knew I was caught, so I pulled off to the side of the road to wait, before the officer even made the turn-around and activated his overhead lights. I had driven less than half a mile and found myself sitting on the side of the road waiting willfully, a guilty puppy sitting next to his master’s chewed slipper, to be scolded.

Before handing me a citation for speeding, the officer informed me that he knew I lived right around the corner and that I need to “take it easy” in my own town. I do not make a habit of speeding around town, but I did not try to explain myself or make excuses. I knew I was in the wrong. I had let my excitement get the best of me for those few seconds. The officer then gave me a bit of advice. He made note of the fact that I was driving a nice car and made it clear that it attracts attention. Referencing the modest size of the town, he informed me that my car is “known” by the police. As closely as I can remember, he said something along the lines of, “Whether you are speeding or not, you need to be extra careful around here. By the nature of this car alone, we will keep our eyes on you for a second longer. That’s just how it is.”

Lesson learned.

Any vehicle that strays from the status quo in the form of aftermarket modification, or any divergence from its representation at the factory, is bound to attract some attention. That attention could be in the form of a ‘thumbs-up’ from the guy next to you at a stoplight or a compliment from a neighbor. Conversely, it could be in the form of a long scratch down the entire body of the car initiated by a key at the hand of a resentful zealot, or a goading teenager on the highway revving his engine as he executes a “fly-by.” Or, in a pleasantly surprising and rare instance, it could be in the form of a conversation with someone you have seen regularly for close to six years but to whom you have never had occasion to speak. That attention could also very well be in the unpleasant form of hawk-like, discerning scrutiny from your local law enforcement officers.

Enjoy modifying. Enjoy your project. Enjoy the rush. Enjoy the attention. Enjoy it safely.

JDMphasis... Innovation over Imitation     

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