A colleague of mine has almost reached the end of a journey. Actually, maybe it's not a journey, maybe it's more of a mission, perhaps it's a quest. I don't exactly know how to describe it, but whatever it is, it's almost over.
Geoff is a car nut. I think everyone knows one of these people. I used to joke with a car-loving friend of mine about being a 'motoring enthusiast', even though he was just your typical bogan revhead. As an outsider, car people look crazy. Maybe it's because cars are something I don't understand that well, but it seems to me that they often have such an unbelievable grasp on the technical and historical aspects of their favourite cars. I'm often amazed by that. In Australia, pretty much everyone has some level of car knowledge, but these people are different.
If there's one thing I try to look for when I meet a person, it's passion and enthusiasm. I always try to find out what their thing is. I love to listen to people talking about their interests, even if I know very little about the subject. I relate to the enthusiasm, obsession and joy that people feel when talking about things they love. Often the less I know about their interests, the better. Listening to passionate people talk can be a fabulous learning experience.
Geoff has been looking to buy a '69 Dodge Charger, the car made famous as the 'General Lee' from the Dukes of Hazzard TV show. For years he has poured over magazines and websites, looking for one of these things in as close to original condition as possible. A few times he has had different ones lined up, but for whatever reason it never quite came to pass for him. Recently he found one for sale that has been sitting in a garage in Utah for twenty years. It didn't start, but it wouldn't take much to get it firing again. The gentleman who was selling was the original owner of the car, bought it from new. It was in great shape, virtually unchanged from when it rolled out of the factory in Detroit.
When you're spending that sort of money on a classic car, you don't just cross your fingers and hope for the best. You gotta go kick the tyres. So he did. He flew over to Utah via LAX. I've done that flight before; it's horrible. In economy, it's fourteen and a half hours of misery. Sleeping is hard, getting up to go to the toilet is hard, the meals are rubbish. If you didn't know you were going to have a great time when you got there, you'd wonder why any person would do it at all. Geoff really didn't have a holiday, he was there for only a couple of days. He inspected the car, had a chat to the owner, and made sure it got onto the boat. Then he flew straight back. Madness.
From what I could tell, the process of getting the car to Port Melbourne was extremely expensive, slow and difficult. It has to be taken on a ship, which means it takes *ages*. It costs a fortune to ship it, and when it gets here, it has to be cleared by customs. The government whacks you with the GST upon arrival, too. When he was visiting, the Australian dollar dropped against the greenback, and he lost a few thousand on the conversion. This is all stuff you have to think about way in advance, and boy, had he done his research. He showed me his folder recently: full of photos, printed pages, documentation, everything. Everything had been thought through, probably over the course of years.
He got back from the US just over a month ago. I'm sure it's a long month, I might have spontaneously combusted if I was him. I'm terrible with waiting for stuff like that. I'll refresh tracking websites four or five times a day to see where something I've ordered online is. Multiply that by a thousand, that'd be how I would be feeling with a purchase of that outlay and personal significance. I've been impressed with how level he's been about all of this. When I asked him about this last week he answered in a pretty zen way. He essentially had let go. There was absolutely nothing he could do until he got a call from the importer, so he just let it all go. He still wanted to talk about the car every day at work, but he wasn't convulsing with anticipation like I would've been.
I heard this afternoon that the Charger is at the importer's warehouse and that Customs will be inspecting it really soon. He might be able to take it away tomorrow afternoon. I don't know whether he'll be in tomorrow; I know I'd be taking the day off. I've been following this story since I first overheard him talk about it in the kitchen on one of my first days here. It's certainly not a miracle, and not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to spend a whole bunch of money on an frivolous purchase like an original condition '69 Dodge Charger. But I find that there is something captivating about a person doing all of this to make one of their long-held dreams come true. I think everyone has something that they would love to have, and if they got the chance, they'd be on the plane to Utah in an instant. One day, I'll write something about the thing that would make me buy a ticket to Utah, figuratively speaking.
Update: The wait is over. On Tuesday, Geoff went and picked the car up from the importer's warehouse. From there, it went from the back of the tow truck into his garage. There's a lot of work to do before the car starts again, he tells me, but I'm sure that that sort of stuff isn't really work to him. There will be expensive parts that he will have to order and tricky tasks he'll have to do. He thinks it'll be about one month before he gets it firing. When I asked him about it this afternoon, he instantly put down what he was doing and came over to talk to me about it. He was smiling away like a mad man. I haven't told him about this piece, but I might have to at some point. I think it's a great story.