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Finger pointing is not helping the classic car hobby

Today Hagerty, yes the insurance and media company that claims to promote the classic car hobby, shared an image via Instagram that is complete anathema to everything they say they stand for. It was a picture of a Jeep’s spare wheel cover, printed with a six-speed manual transmission’s shift pattern and the tired joke: “Millenial anti-theft device.” Here’s the problem with that. It feeds the green-eyed monster of intergenerational division that threatens the fiber of the classic car hobby.

I don’t doubt that whoever in Hagerty’s social media department shared that image was just trying to make an innocent joke, and who can blame them, we all need a laugh these days. But, the commentary that followed was not really funny. A slew of comments like “peak boomer humor,” and “Millenials can’t even afford cars, blame gen x” betrayed the vitriol seething out there.

I must say directly to older readers: before you sneer at a young person, don’t forget that you used to listen to songs with lyrics like “I hope I die before I get old.” You too were angry with your elders and you were not born knowing how to drive a stick shift car.

And, for those who think that life has been fucked by previous generations. Parroting boomer jokes is neither clever nor funny. I’m 43, tail-end gen-x. I actually see a lot of younger people, my millennial brother for one, who are much more successful than I because they are more in simpatico with technology and have made great careers in it. However, I don’t curse the fact that I was born in 1979 instead of 1985. I am not jealous of my brother’s success either, I’m proud of him.

No generation is perfect, not one ever in the whole panoply of human existence has collectively made all the right decisions. However, I think even the most casual student of history would agree that it’s unwise to make broad generalizations about any group of people. There are scads of good people out there, be they boomer, millennial, xenial, gen x, et al. Carping on any generation’s flaws, real or imagined, will not change the past or build bridges to a brighter future. Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not trying to suggest that horrible past events such as the Holocaust or the legacy of slavery shouldn’t be discussed or criticized.

I’m referring here to the little things, like not knowing how to drive stick or the idea that a person born during the baby boom is somehow part of a cabal that plotted to ruin life for the rest of us. Humans make mistakes. It’s flat wrong to point them out while simultaneously failing to acknowledge our capacity to learn from our own errors and make changes in our actions. Conversely, don’t criticize someone for not having a skill they may have never had the opportunity to learn.

You younger folks, show grandpa how your phone can do everything a giant Sun engine diagnostic machine used to do and more, wirelessly- he’ll be impressed. Or, If you’ve taken a large number of trips around the sun, invite a xenial known to you out and show them how to drive what used to be called a “standard” transmission. You’ll both learn something.

I personally am deeply, humbly grateful to those whom I’ve learned from, irrespective of their age. I must say though, I’ve learned more from older folks if only because they themselves have had more time to acquire skills and knowledge. I also love driving cars, Model T’s or Teslas, MGs, or GMs, they all have something to tell the driver.

I much prefer to have friends, whatever their age, to drive with and learn from than a quick endorphin rush from posting something snarky and poorly thought out on social media. I would hope that those companies who cater to the classic car enthusiast would feel the same. If they pour gasoline on our divisions they may one day realize they’ve alienated their own customer base.

I must mention that Hagerty insures my Lincoln, and no, I am not canceling my policy. Losing my business would have no measurable effect on their profit margins. What’s more, they’ve given me good customer service and I am in agreement with much of what they do to promote the classic car hobby. I’ve voiced my opinion publicly, and, I would hope that should someone at Hagerty read this piece, they might pass it along to the social media department who might then think twice before posting divisive content in the future.

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