I’ve lived in the South my entire life. While there are many Southern clichés that do not apply to me, I still exhibit a few. I have a light southern drawl, I enjoy iced tea, and can be found fixin’ to do things. One stereotypical Southern pastime I’ve managed to avoid is becoming a NASCAR fan (and I’ll never forgive one of my brothers-in-law for giving in and becoming one himself). It’s just not my thing. I suppose there is some skill involved, but for me, watching a race on TV is just watching a bunch of people turn left indefinitely, going round and round with no discernible purpose. I realize this puts me in the minority in Tennessee and might make some angry with me, but I can’t help it. Besides, I have plenty of other things I can be fixin’ to do that are more interesting to me.
The same cannot be said of my aunt and uncle. They love NASCAR. They breathe NASCAR. They can actually explain what is happening during any particular race. In detail. Whether you ask them to or not. Racing is so important to them that they used to make a 75 mile (one-way) journey to my parents’ house each and every weekend a race was on to watch it on TV even though neither of my parents are fans.
This always seemed strange behavior to me, so once when I was over at my parents’ house while they were visiting, I asked why they did this. The conversation that followed often mirrored the action of a race, looping around endlessly on itself.
“Just why do you guys drive that far just for NASCAR?”
“So we can watch the race.”
A simple and straightforward answer, but not the one I was looking for so I tried again, “No, I mean why don’t you just buy a TV?”
“We have a TV.”
“Why not watch it?”
“This one’s nicer.”
“Why not just buy a nicer TV then?”
“We don’t have cable.”
“But you get good reception where you are with an antenna right?”
“We don’t have an antenna.”
“OK, why not just buy an antenna?”
“This is still a nicer TV.”
“All right. Then buy a new antenna with a new TV. Maybe they have a special.”
“A lot of the races are on cable.”
“You could just order cable after you’ve picked out the new TV.”
“Cable’s too expensive.”
“How about satellite then? That’s what Dad has. You’re watching it now, and it costs less than cable. I can even afford it.”
“Then we’d have to buy a new TV.”
I’d lost track of how many laps we’d been going round and round, but I knew a Caution Flag when I saw one. I should have let it go. Instead, I shifted gears and asked, “Aren’t you spending more money buying gas each weekend than you would if you just bought the TV and satellite? It’s like throwing money out the window.”
Silence. A Look. My dad shook his head at me and said, “You realize you can rub people the wrong way?” Somehow I managed not to say, “rubbing is racing.” Mostly because I don’t think I would ever be able to look at myself in the mirror again. Still, because I could see the Checkered Flag, and knew family would have to forgive me, I pressed on.
I went to get a calculator (because I’m helpful like that). I punched in the numbers, taking into account the cost of gas at the time, mileage and wear on the car, time spent driving, and any other factor I could come up with. I ran all the numbers and then displayed the grand total for them. It was more than enough to buy a new television and pay for cable (or satellite) for several months. The response? They thanked me for pointing out how much money was being thrown out the window and that they would definitely take care of it (I assumed what others would take for sarcasm in their voice was gratitude).
It wasn’t very long after that they ensured they wouldn’t have to make the 150 mile drive just to watch a race on my parents’ TV again.
They moved closer.