The Noble Art of Goofing Off

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 06, 2015

Dear Car Talk:

About two years ago, I was restoring a '65 Corvette coupe. One day, my neighbor and his son, about 4 years old, stopped in the garage to say hello and have a look. His son pointed at the engine, which was sitting on the garage floor, and said, "That goes there" -- pointing to the front of the car. Pretty smart young man. I was impressed. As they were leaving, the father said, "Thank you for preserving our automotive heritage."

That kind of took me by surprise. Most of my time in the garage is spent muttering disparaging remarks about GM engineers -- the car was designed like pure crap. So here's my question: In restoring classic cars, am I actually pursuing a noble cause, or just goofing off in the garage? Thanks.

-- James

You're goofing off in the garage, James.

Actually, goofing off and acting nobly are not mutually exclusive. I happen to think tinkering is noble. We're a throw-away society now: Something breaks, we toss it, pile it up in a landfill and buy another one that was made in China.

So when you take the time to tinker, to figure out how things work, to repair, restore and renew ... I think you are doing something worthwhile, regardless of what you're tinkering with.

You're wasting-not and wanting-not. You're keeping stuff out of landfills. You're conserving resources by not buying more new stuff. You're finding value in things already made.

And you're staying out of your wife's hair and out of the barrooms all afternoon. That's definitely noble.

But more importantly, you're continuing a great human tradition of working with your hands and solving problems.

That little neighbor kid may wander back into your garage in a few years and take an interest in what you're doing. He may ask if he can help, and then borrow some of your tools and learn to tinker himself. Seriously, you may end up inspiring him to pursue an interest in fixing things. Or a career in engineering, or inventing.

Then when the North Koreans hack our electrical grid and put us back in the Stone Age, maybe you two will save us -- by setting fire to that '65 Corvette and keeping us warm.

So keep up the noble work, James. And enjoy goofing off, too.

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