The Garage Editorial - July 2008
"You're not from around here, are you?" is a phrase I've heard many times in my life. Inevitably it comes from a local who has spent their entire life in one city and knows everyone in town. I travel a lot, some for pleasure, but mostly for work.
I like to think that I'm sensitive to the peculiarities of the people and places I visit so I try to avoid stereotyping people. I don't think that a New Yorker with a sassy attitude is trying to hustle me. I don't think that a Southerner with a heavy drawl is less intelligent than the next guy. I don't think that a Midwesterner in overalls only knows about farming. I don't think that someone from Florida has to be smuggling drugs in order to afford their nice things.
Personally, I don't think that I fit into any stereotypes either. When I travel, I'm "the guy from California." That can bring a lot of stereotypes with it. Put yourself in Anderson, South Carolina, and explain that you work on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood (that was a few years back) and you're going to get looked at up and down a few extra times. When people know that you are a magazine editor, they think that perhaps you expect special treatment because you have the magical power to make people and their vehicles famous.
I don't buy into that. I'm drawn to really nice trucks because that's what this magazine covers. People I trust introduce me to owners of magazine-worthy vehicles so I rarely have to pass on a photo shoot. I don't tell people that I will shoot their truck when they "take the ridiculous graphics off the side" as some editors might do. I'm not saying I'm the greatest guy in the world, but I am saying that I don't let the title of editor go to my head and think that I'm running a fiefdom.
I was in Iowa visiting the crew at Kelderman Manufacturing (story coming next issue) and one of the guys gave me a nice compliment (in my opinion at least) when he said, "You don't seem like you're from California." I probably seem like I'm from the Midwest to most because that's where my family is from and I try to embody the same down-to-earth values.
Traveling a lot allows you to interact with all kinds of people. For the most part, I meet some incredible people and oftentimes their families. A photo shoot can be a lot of fun when the truck was the result of a family project and they all show up. Seeing them be so excited that their truck is going to be in a national magazine can really pick you up.
I've only had a few incidents over the 26 years that I've been doing this that I thought were a bit of a downer. The first (many years ago) was a guy who seriously thought that the magazine should be paying him for the privilege of shooting photos of his truck because we were going to sell so many more copies because his truck was going to be in it. I almost called the shoot off, but he agreed to it sans pay so I continued. Sales didn't change significantly on that issue.
The other more recent disappointment was a photo shoot done at the end of the day at a truck show. The owner of this fantastic truck was so disappointed he didn't get a trophy that he moped around and talked under his breath the entire time. It was really sad. Here was a guy with a really nice truck that was in the process of getting a feature shoot for a national magazine where many thousands of people would see his handiwork, and all he could do was fret that a "people's choice" balloting system favored a different truck that particular day and he wasn't going to get to take home a plastic trophy.
I've never understood the allure of trophies. After you get a few they don't really have the same appeal. Did you build your truck for trophies? You can get some made for yourself at the local trophy-making shop. I say build your truck for your own enjoyment, and if others like it, so much the better. But I shouldn't be stereotyping people who go to shows to win trophies though, should I?