A Weekly Column
Joseph Walker


According to those who know, classic car collecting attracts all kinds of people.

Take Bob and Carrie, for example.  They are the best kind of people: kind, compassionate, friendly and fun.  And they’ve been involved in rebuilding and showing classic cars since . . . well, since Carrie decided Bob was through with drag racing.

“It was her decision, not mine,” Bob says, chuckling.

And Carrie doesn’t deny it.

“It’s loud and scary and expensive,” she explains.  “And I didn’t think the drag strip was the best environment to take our children.”

“Oh man,” Bob says, wincing, “they have a riot ONE TIME and she’s all . . .”

“They unleashed the police dogs on the crowd,” Carrie adds.

“Well, OK,” Bob allows.  “That was a little scary.”

“And then there was the time I saw that one guy get stabbed,” Carrie continues.

Bob holds up his hands in surrender.  “OK, that track was kind of rough,” he said.

“So I decided he was through with drag racing,” Carries says, simply.  “End of story.”

Well, not quite.  While Bob was willing to bring his drag racing career to an end, he was not willing to completely abandon his automotive hobby.  Instead of building and racing cars, Bob started rebuilding and showing classic cars, including my personal favorite: a powder blue and white 1956 Chevy Bel Air (although I’m troubled to know that a car that is one year younger than I am is considered a “classic.”  What does that make me – an antique?).

Bob and Carrie have shared the new safer, less expensive and quieter hobby, and they’ve had a great time touring and showing and meeting new people.  Most of the people they’ve met have been wonderful, but there is this one guy – we’ll call him Bill – who made them uncomfortable from the first time they met.  Bill was rough and gruff, with long, stringy hair, a thickly matted beard and enough tattoos and piercings to qualify as a decorative pin cushion.

“I tried to avoid him,” Bob said.  “I didn’t know him, but I just didn’t trust him.”

But then one of their friends on the car show tour had a serious medical problem, and Bob went to see what could be done to help.

“There’s nothing left to do,” Bob’s friend told him.  “Bill has taken care of everything.”

“Bill?” Bob asked, stunned.

“Yes,” his friend replied.  “He’s a great guy, Bob.  You should get to know him.”

For the next little while Bob kept an eye on Bill, and watched how he looked out for folks, how kind he was to everyone and how quick he was to respond to anyone in need.  Pretty soon it became clear that Bob had misjudged this man.  This was especially troubling to Bob because he’s been misjudged a time or two himself, and it bothered him that he was now guilty of doing the same thing to someone else.  So he looked for an opportunity to make things right.

The opportunity came during the next weekend’s show, when Bill was alone, working on his car.  Bob walked over and extended his hand.  Bill looked up, puzzled, and took Bob’s hand.

“I need to apologize to you,” Bob said.

“What for?” Bill asked.

“Because I’ve misjudged you,” Bob said.  “You’re a good man.”

Bill wrapped an arm around Bob and smiled.

“Well, don’t let that get out, OK?” he said.  “I kind of like surprising people.”

And we ARE surprised, aren’t we, when someone on whom we’ve passed judgment turns out to be different than we were SURE they were?  Of course, it would be better if we didn’t judge other people at all.  But if we must judge, let us at least be willing to acknowledge when we are wrong, and try to make things right.

Evidently, that’s what the best kind of people do.

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— © Joseph Walker

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