To each his stupid own

The combination of a traffic detour plus a classic import auto show two blocks away meant I spent a recent Saturday morning watching souped up cars cruise up and down our street and fearing for the lives of our cats.

Normally my instinct would be to sit on the porch complaining about the speed and the noise, and by “normally” I mean that’s exactly what I did.

Spoiler alert! Photo:

Spoiler alert!

“What’s the point?” I grumbled. “Sure, the cars are shiny but, by the looks of it, they’re nothing special, just Hondas on steroids. And what’s with the hubcap fetish?”

The car show itself seemed to involve revving engines as loudly as possible while burning as much fossil fuel as possible while wearing ball caps as backwards as possible.

But hang on, I thought, what if I could actually recognize that hubcap as a Pimp-Rad Oscillating Fin-Spin Gloss (with shafafa on the side)? What if I could loiter in front of a popped-open hood for indefinite periods and actually identify engine parts by name instead of “the battery,” “the oil place” and the “fan-belt turning thing.” What if “V8” meant more to me than just juice?

If I learned about cars, got a regrettable tattoo and developed a tolerance for exhaust fumes, would car shows and disturbing the neighbours be things I could possibly get into?

Knowing the details is what sets apart the observer from the connoisseur. It’s not enough to know what something does. You need to know what it’s called and why and how it works, the more detail the better. Seventy percent of the confidence we have in doctors lies in their ability to use words we don’t understand, as opposed to saying, “We’re going to go in and remove that green bile-pumpy doohickey thing.”

When I was a young teen, I collected stamps because that’s how cool I was. One of the reasons I didn’t (ha!) stick with it is because I couldn’t be bothered with the details. I was never sure whether my 5-krone Denmark cockatiel commemorative was a first-day cover or ribbed for her pleasure, and I didn’t really care.

I knew it was time to quit the hobby when, instead of applying the stamps to the pages with the adhesive hinges, I simply licked the glue and plastered them in. But it was really my lack of attention to detail that was my philatel flaw.

What word is the bird?

What word is the bird?

By contrast, for the last several weeks, we’ve had birds nesting in our backyard birdhouse. This is the first time in many years anything has been brave or stupid enough to risk the cats and make a home of it there.

At first I was simply amused by the flitting back and forth of the two energetic brown birds – smaller than sparrows, plump and stumpy with slender bills; tails often cocked over back. But then I had to know. I had to know what kind of birds these were, with their stuttering, gurgling song, rising in a musical burst, then falling at the end.

My mother was visiting at the time, and, as we pored over my Peterson’s Field Guide, she said, “I’m pretty sure it’s a brown creeper.”

“Of course it’s not a brown creeper,” I said, which is no way to talk to your mother.

After stalking the birdhouse with my camera and analyzing the photographs CSI-style, we settled conclusively on their being house wrens, distinguished from other wrens by their grayer-brown colour and the lack of any evident facial stripings! (I love it when Peterson’s gets excited…)

So now, knowing that they are house wrens, I feel a sense of ownership for the house wrens, protective even, as they feed their little house wren babies, and I do an occasional head count of the house wrens to make sure the cats haven’t eaten the house wrens. I can also bore everyone I meet by saying, “Did I tell you about our house wrens?”

Not that I’m going to become a birdwatcher, but I can see how a person could get excited, or at very least mildly enthused. It’s in the details that a hobby thrives, and that can only be achieved through patience, which is why I’m trying to be patient with the tricked-out cars that peel up and down my street.

Then again, a stamp collector never nearly ran over my cat.

*Bird descriptions lifted from A Field Guide to the Birds by Roger Tory Peterson (1947 edition)

About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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39 Responses to To each his stupid own

  1. El Guapo says:

    I have a model railroad, so I’m in no position to mock the hobbies of others.
    It’s not going to stop me though, bird-boy. 😉

  2. Those cars really are stupid, and a brown creeper? Come on Ross’s mom, that’s asinine! Sorry, that’s no way for me to talk to your mom. I don’t have any hobbies, but I guess it couldn’t hurt to have one. I have some baseball cards from my youth. Do people still collect those?

  3. Funny! And oh so true. Though I would love to drive a car at 200 mph, I will never understand the appeal of spending precious hours of my life watching left left left left left turning cars on a track. I assume these people are also highly entertained by balls of string.

  4. I am sitting in a room full of wool, a spinning wheel to my left and a half-finished pair of socks on my lap. I am in no position to judge those whacko car dudes and their fetish for explosive liquid dinosaurs. Birds, though? That’s a cool hobby. Go with it.

  5. Too funny! But so right. It’s all in the details. I’ve had and dropped many a hobby over the years because of the details that I didn’t want to get into. I’ve also kept hobbies such as running and photography, because once the details are known, you just move forward, no more research and shit required. Although, you constantly do need to keep up to date, so I guess you never really rid yourself of the details/research, you can just cut back on it once you understand your hobby well enough.

  6. Elyse says:

    The trouble with hobbies is that people have them and then they always talk about them. Speaking of which, there used to be a display in the American Museum here in Washington that was a model of the Taj Mahal made out of tin foil. I consider that the epitome of stupid hobbies (“Marge, yeah, I know. Alfred is in the garage again with the tin foil …)

  7. The spoiler joke was lame. So lame I laughed out loud. For waaaay too long. 🙂

  8. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Someone up above me in the comments list wrote about wool – well, I’ve got a huge bag full of it waiting for me to finish up my felted birds collection. And then on to felted animals. I bought books. I have the necessary tools. Now I just need some time. Beware my friends and relatives: you will be enjoying the fruits of my labors.

  9. You know those little wire fences one buys to go around a flower bed? Take several and make a “tank trap” on the ground under the bird house. About 6-8′ in dia. This prevents your cats from hanging out under the house and catching the wrens when they fly up to feed the babies. We have blue bird boxes where we use this trick. Drives the cats crazy because they can’t get close enough to the birds to catch them.

  10. NFred says:

    I’ve always thought that the dudes that drive super fast in their souped up cars with their music pounding are simply overcompensating for the fact that they have very small wieners. Seriously. I believe this to be fact.
    I think the dudes with the hats “as backwards as possible” are also in the same boat..errr…car.
    Awesome post!

  11. I thought you would have been supportive of cars running over your cats?

  12. My parents are life time members of Audubon. That means they have dozens of copies of bird books littering all rooms of their house, own numerous spotting scopes, drag themselves outdoors in blizzards to tally up neighborhood chickadee and hawk levels for national bird counts, have as many photographs of rare species as they do family members (arguably indistinguishable descriptives), worship David Allen Sibley and Roger Tory Peterson like interchangeable Jesuses, and planned every damned family vacation around stalking and identifying some little brown tweeting thing that only passes through there once a year “during the migration.” Don’t get me started.

    No, really. DON’T get me started.

Go ahead, don't be shy.

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