I had to do a presentation to my son's third grade class. His teacher thought an editor/photographer who specializes in cool cars might grab their attention. Most of these kids know more about computer protocols than they do state geography. I figured they knew even less about cars.
I showed them my cameras and photo mounts, computer imaging programs, helmets, gloves, magazines, and an enlargement of the Nürburgring. Outside sat a GMG-tuned Porsche GT3, all done up in Signal Orange with black stripes. Pretty impressive, I thought.
I told them how automotive magazines work, the editorial process, and final packaging. I left out the nasty stuff like dealing with lost freelancer payments, irate advertisers, and the joy of deadlines. They will face those facts soon enough. Better to keep it fun and exciting, something like a never-ending Christmas morning.
As soon as I saw the first kid start fingering his phone, I figured it was time to wrap up. You've got about 11 minutes with kids of this age. Less if they've eaten lots of sugar.
The teacher opened it up to questions, asking a few standard ones herself. The first hand belonged to little girl.
"What does your house look like?"
Sidestepping the question, I told them about my garage.
The next hand up was a boy who could have passed for a clone of my own kid.
"My dad had a BMW but Mommy made him sell it. Now he lives in another state and..."
I started sweating at this point. Mercifully, Teacher cut him off. A few more minutes of this and I was going to fly out the door, maybe fake an emergency phone call or something.
The recess bell saved me.
As I was packing my stuff, a few kids started looking at the Nürburgring map. They were whispering to each other about a particular section, even knew what it was called.
I asked if they'd been there.
"No, but you can race on Nürburgring on X-Box... in the game Forza III."
It was like opening a door.
We talked through recess, discussing the merits of tires and properly damped suspensions, energy management and aerodynamics. They were asking all the right questions, a few that were so good I couldn't answer. Teacher sat on the sidelines, unable to penetrate the car-guy vernacular. She ended up kicking me out.
As I pulled away I could see their noses pressed against the window. In this class of 27, four were genuine future motorheads. I've got to wonder if it's a genetic thing, or maybe a virus. My own kids couldn't care less about cars and they've been immersed in the car culture since birth. Perhaps it's a case of delayed response. Hopefully it will activate one day and I will have someone to do some head-to-head simulator racing with. In the meantime, I'm going to school these kids in the merits of PDK transmissions and ceramic brakes. At least they'll know what I'm talking about.