Anyone who knows me understands my car knowledge is not without extreme fault. Some of you (one person in particular) has helped me change a flat trye, for which I am grateful.
Another once intricately explained the process for when pumping up tyres at the petrol station, which very much came in handy …
And back when I first got my license I remember my cousin showing me that it was good to wipe around the petrol gauge with that spongey thing in water they keep at all good petrol stations if petrol splatters around the fuel cap.
Some of you may have even sat in cars, stationary, at the petrol station and laughed as you saw me drive in, park and then get out to put petrol in only to release that the petrol gauge was on the other side of the car. Impressive!
Sometimes when I remember going into the mechanics, auto-electricians, etc. and explaining my problem I realise that their faces usually all wore a common look: a smirk.
Smirking at me, smiling amused or shaking head in disbelief but trying to be polite as I know they are thinking: “I can’t believe she just called this [insert technical term] a “thingy!” Or, a ‘dooby.’ Poor girl, tough for her being that car illiterate.”
So having somewhat explained the context of my life I can now tell you where I worked recently: at a car show. At the Melbourne International Car Show, to be exact.
How gracious! Even with my bumbling and fumbling car knowledge I was given this opportunity to work at the motor show.
Do you know what I loved (hindsight always makes everything clearer) about this show the most?
It was a completely ‘random’ opportunity for work for me.
Digressing slightly, I’m not sure I agree with using the word ‘random’ in this context because further study identifies that it’s not actually true: it was a unique opportunity which I considered carefully before accepting. (Read my other blog on randomness here by the way)
Anyway, ‘random’, unusual or whatever we shall call it, this was a great opportunity because it was different.
If I’m honest, ‘cars’ is not a big interest of mine, no doubt influenced by my pitiful car knowledge and poor relationship with motor vehicles in general (see the start of the article) and I wouldn’t exactly sign up a username on Yahoo as “cars_lover_most_knowledgable_person_ever_fully_sick_mate_Anna187.”
I just wouldn’t.
And that’s exactly why I enjoyed the car show: because I’m not awesome with cars. No, I’m not.
Of course, it was a struggle to learn about cars and answer questions at times. Luckily I wore an information-filled Ipad around my neck just waiting to be consulted for more technical questions. And there were lovely engineers (God-sends, better the Ipads) who hung around the cars as well, waiting for people like me to come up and ask them stuff.
Strange as this may sound, I loved working at the car show because I don’t love cars and it forced to me to learn about them. To learn something new; to engage people in conversations I would never normally have. To see life from a different perspective: see what matters to people who I probably wouldn’t normally come across.
And of course, there are the conversations. Part of working at a show is conversing: chatting with staff, customers, engineers, cleaners and the die-hard fanatics. That was also one of the best bits.
It’s like a reality TV show: throw a bunch of 20 people on a car stand, give them 12 hour shifts (or 6 for the blessed ones) and then walk away. Come back at the end of the show and you’ll see the friendships which have grown in such a short space of time.
For all its happiness and joy – families having a ‘day out,’ guys dragging their wives and girlfriends along and amateur car photographers in their elements – there were some poignant moments too.
Like seeing the mum who lost her child frantic: beside herself. Tears were fighting down her cheeks and she wailed, urgently looking for the misplaced child as others including my supervisor joined her search.
Then hearing her shout as the child was found. Bemused, he was taken out of the car he was sitting it and his mother rushed to him and swooped him up. Her tears didn’t stop: she was still crying and she spoke to him in another language.
Even though the language was foreign the words were conveyed: “Don’t do that to me again! Don’t ever do that again.”
The little boy, still bemused.
Then I spoke to a man who didn’t drive, never owned a car and consciously never intended to, as he told me. I never got a chance to ask the obvious question, ready on my lips but not important as he told me his views on climate change, Australian bushfires and the environment: “Why are you at a car show?”
So many people, so many characters but really we’re all characters, aren’t we?
Then I met the little boy and a man standing with him who was his dad.
“We’re doing something for daddy today,” told the little boy his eyes shining.
The father smiled and nodded at me in a kind, patient way.
“Daddy likes cars so that’s why we’re at the car show,” said this little boy and I almost felt like crying: his eyes were dripping with love for his father.
“Tomorrow we’re going to the football,” the father said. “This one’s,” he said looking down at the little boy looking up at him adoringly, “first football match.
Halfway during the show I visited a friend working at another stand for an upmarket car brand.
He asked me what I had been doing since last I saw him two years ago at the last car show.
I told him – and mentioned writing, how I had been writing and how I loved writing.
“Should write something about the motor show,” he suggested, speaking to me but constantly surveying the stand.
“Everyone who comes here has a story. Everyone has a story.
When I think of people who I met at the show who has stories I couldn’t help think of a man who came to this show the last time I did it and this year as well. I don’t know his name.
Without mentioning the specific car brand I worked for, I can tell you that he was fanatical about it: obsessed and enraptured by this car brand.
I saw him on the first day the show opened, the last day and most other days I worked.
This guy would come for hours and sit in the cars, observe the cars and watch the constantly circulating promotional material on the big TV screen.
He was friendly but kept to himself. Often, he waited until there was no one at a particular car and then he would sit down in the drivers seat, shut the door and breathe a sigh of relief.
Casually walking around the cars, I watched him from afar. He looked so happy in the car. Relieved. He spoke to himself and the conversation was happy: he was content, for that moment.
Often this man would stand near me, as he waited for his turn to sit in the car, and offer facts and assistance to interested parties. I was amazed at his knowledge.
On the last day, on the last shift when it was time to say goodbye to everyone and slowly walk away from my involvement at the motor show I saw him there.
“See you,” I said.
“See you next time?”
He looked pained, uncertain and shrugged. He beckoned upwards to the ceiling but I knew his gesture was intended to surpass the roof of the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, somewhere greater. He was referring to God, I am sure.
He didn’t say anything but pointed again to the sky, directing me here for my answer.
“I don’t know,” he said.
I am glad I worked at this car show. It wasn’t necessarily the change of atmosphere or chance to improve my understanding of cars that was the great experience: it was just meeting people and seeing them and witnessing the ‘human’ aspect of this event.
In this respect then, it’s not so much about cars as it is people.