Let me tell you a story about a story. It originally appeared some time ago in the Washington Post. I'm going out on a limb here but my educated opinion is most rodders don't read the Washington Post, no slight intended, just an observation.
For starters, this story is about a social experiment on perception, taste, and people's priorities that appeared in print. (Who said print is dead? Later on you will see how this applies to one and all.) The question posed by the Washington Post: "In a commonplace environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?" I found the outcome of this story so fascinating, albeit sad, as I have seen this behavior at rodding events year after year.
Picture the Washington, D.C., metro station on a cold January morning. For those of us on the West Coast or even in the Sun Belt this may be a stretch but think of move-in day at the Detroit Autorama in February. It's snowing, wind off the lake, and, yes, bitterly cold. It will still be two days before the heat is turned on in Cobo Hall. Just to make sure you get the point, I've just gotten off the plane from California with an open-collar, short sleeve shirt sporting a magazine logo, Levi's (Relax Fit 560s), and my ankle top Jack Purcell autographed basketball shoes in black, of course. Yep, froze my butt off!
But I digress, there in the station is a man playing a violin for nearly an hour and during his time six pieces of music are featured. Quality music, the AMBR and Ridler all rolled into one, not ear candy but perfectly balanced nutrition for the brain fed through your ears. The arrangements by a musician/composer from lifetimes ago-Bach. It was estimated that during the nearly hour-long free concert, almost 2,000 people passed by. Since it was during the work week you can imagine most, if not all, were preoccupied about making their train to get to work on time. What happened next is truly amazing.
According to the Post, after three minutes a middle-aged man (not unlike the age group at a rod run) noticed the musician playing, slowed, and stopped for a few seconds and then moved on. Within the next four minutes the violinist received his first dollar; deposited by a woman who placed it in his hat but didn't stop or even slow down to listen.
Within 10 minutes a 3-year-old boy stopped to listen but his mom tugged him along. Interestingly, the little one kept looking back as if he wanted to hear more of something he thoroughly enjoyed. Within the next few minutes this scene was repeated several more times with the same results. The kids found it fascinating but the moms didn't have the inclination, time, or the desire to listen to the truly beautiful effort being put forth.
For the next 45 minutes the violinist played continuously. Final tally: six people stopped and listened for short periods of time. It was reported approximately 20 people gave money, but then continued their walking and moved on. At this point the musician made $32 for 45 minutes of work. Some might say not bad for a cash-and-carry business with minimum overhead and, my guess, unreported income.
After one hour the violinist completed his efforts and silence (as silent as a train station can be) once again filled the air. It should be noted there was no applause, no recognition, anonymity reigned supreme.
What did the Washington Post staff conclude from the experiment? Well, first the "rest of the story." The violinist was Joshua Bell, arguably one of the world's greatest talents at his chosen discipline. It's said that one of the Bach pieces he played is considered to be the most intricate ever written and played on a violin valued at $3.5 million! It should also be noted that two days before Mr. Bell had played at a sold-out Boston theater where the average cost of a ticket was $100.
The Post came to this conclusion: "If we don't have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made ... how many other things are we missing?"
I'm reminded when I attend indoor or outdoor car shows how often the crowds gather at the name displays. And rightfully so as these builders have a reputation earned through years of dedication and proven results. Why wouldn't we stop and look?
However, how many of us while at our favorite car show ever take the time to stop, look, and appreciate the cars along the "fence line?" You know, the furthest reaches of the fairgrounds; the area too far to walk.
A number of years ago I took to walking the fence line and here I believe I have found the best and brightest our hobby has to offer. I don't wish to slight the judging areas but these individuals are receiving their recognition. I'm looking for the rodder comfortable enough within his own abilities that he doesn't need anonymous recognition from people he may never see again. He is comfortable within his own "skin," so to speak. Maybe I'm looking for regular rodders who appreciate what they have and take the time to see, not just look; to appreciate, not just glance; to acknowledge comrades in rodding with little or no expectation for praise to be showered upon one's self.
How many of us recognize talent at an inconvenient time and place? So, now you know where I go to select my Top 100.