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Men’s Dirty Little Secret Revealed

June 2, 2013
Drag Racing 70s Style

Drag Racing 70s Style

My husband is a motor-head (gear-head, petrol-head … whatever you want to call it, he’s basically a dyed-in-the-wool ‘car guy’).  When he was young(er) he combined his interest (and education) in all things mechanical with his scary-smart, logical brainpower to build and tune high performance engines for ‘go fast’ street cars, Nascar-type racers, drag racers, and motorcycles (both for on the street and racing).  This was well before I met him, but I’ve heard all the stories and seen some of the pictures.  His engines outperformed most others, helped win races, and didn’t break.

Big Block Chevy Engine

Rebuilt Chevy Big Block

Unfortunately, in the 1970s and 80s (in Canada) there was very little money available (and an extremely limited market) for performance engine builders, so he ‘switched gears’ – and careers – and turned to teaching advanced computer programming concepts to post grad and undergrad college students (writing computer programs isn’t as far removed from the complexities of building a race car engine as you might think).  So while his weekdays are filled with the challenges of teaching students how to develop computer algorithms and troubleshoot if…then constructs, ‘fiddling with engines’ (as I call it) remains his ‘off duty’ passion. He has all the tools (including some really fancy equipment for measuring air flow and a bunch of other stuff I still don’t quite understand), and over the past several years he’s built several high performance engines (both for sale and for ‘fun’), and tuned or repaired others for family and friends (although I’m not entirely sure they comprehend exactly what they’ve now got under their hoods!)

Rock Auto LogoThe majority of parts he needs for these ‘projects’ are purchased online – from companies with names like Jegs High Performance, Summit Racing, and RockAuto (he buys from mostly U.S. firms because high performance engine parts are exceptionally hard to source in Canada, and what can be found are priced in the stratosphere).  Only occasionally does he head off to Canadian Tire or Parts Source (our local ‘auto supply’ stores), and then its only to pick up ‘minor’ things that he didn’t know he’d need until he was well into a job.  When that happens, he’s not exactly happy – and not because he didn’t know that he’d need some small thing, but because he generally hates shopping (in any kind of ‘physical’ store).

Guys ShoppingI’m sure I’m not the only wife with a husband who doesn’t like to ‘go shopping’. Most men are loathe to venture into a mall of any kind, you see more women than men in places like Costco (except, perhaps, in the ‘tool’ aisle), more women apparently shop at Home Depot than men, and there aren’t a lot of guys pushing carts up and down the aisles at the local grocery store. It seems they’ve evolved from ‘hunter gatherer’ types to ‘let the wife do the shopping’ types (not that I’m complaining, mind you – it’s actually easier to do the shopping myself than nag and plead with him to come along and then have to listen to him whine and complain about the whole process).  And the trade-off, I suppose, is that I don’t have to worry about taking my car in for oil changes, tune-ups, and semi-annual maintenance – I just leave it in my husband’s more-than-capable hands and it all gets done (for free; he even washes and waxes it several times a year – that’s his idea of FUN!)

Princess AutoThere is one store that my husband has visited fairly regularly (i.e., two or three times a year) for the past several years – a unique retail outlet called Princess Auto. They sell garage and shop equipment, farm and gardening supplies, and a wide range of automotive tools, parts, and accessories (not to mention a whole slew of ‘surplus’ electronics and odd stuff that is just plain fun to browse through).  A trip to Princess Auto used to be a day-long adventure for my husband and one of his friends (the nearest store was over an hour’s drive away), so he was quite thrilled when they opened a store in the city just to the west of us (about 15 minutes away). The Princess Auto flyer arrives every other Saturday (in our weekend paper); when there’s something advertised that my husband needs (or has always wanted, or can’t live without – on sale, at a reasonable price, of course), he will happily go off to buy it.  Occasionally, he even invites me along (that’s his idea of a ‘date’, I think) – with the proviso that I don’t ‘wander off’ once we get there (or that, at the very least, I don’t go beyond the hugely fascinating surplus aisles), so he knows exactly where to find me once he’s picked up whatever it is he’s come to buy.

Guy In Hardware StoreWith his aversion to shopping (in general), and to crowded places (in particular), a trip to Princess Auto isn’t exactly high adventure – he sees it not as ‘shopping’, but as ‘picking stuff up’ (a distinction only men truly understand). Because he’s gets grumpy if he can’t get a parking spot close to the doors, if there are more than six other people in the store, or if there is any kind of line up at the cash register, he (or we) always make the trip first thing on a Thursday or Friday morning (he usually has late classes on at least one of those days). And since he usually knows, with a fair amount of certainty, where the product(s) he wants are located (he doesn’t like to ‘waste time’ wandering around looking for stuff), he generally manages to get in and out in 15 minutes or less (‘less’ generally being those times when he’s alone or when I don’t spend ‘too much time’ in the surplus aisles).  This past Tuesday, however, was another story entirely (and the actual crux of this post).

Princess Auto FlyerA sale at Princess Auto starts on a Tuesday and lasts for two weeks.  ‘Big ticket’ items generally rotate through the sales cycle (i.e., they’ll be priced anywhere from 30 – 50% off at least 3 or 4 times a year), so if you wait long enough, you can really save big. This week’s flyer had an item my husband had been waiting for marked down 40%; he also needed to pick up some sandpaper and a couple of other items – so we (yes, I was invited along) got up bright and early Tuesday morning and headed off with the goal of arriving shortly after the store opened (to avoid the ‘crowds’ he was sure would amass at the store later in the day).  You can just imagine our (his) surprise when there appeared to be a line up just to get into the parking lot – and again when he discovered that the lot was three-quarters full!  I think he gave a moment’s consideration to turning around and driving right back home, but he (graciously) reconsidered (this was a ‘date’, after all), found a spot not too far from the front doors, and escorted me inside.

Inside Princess Auto

OMG – I’ve never seen so many ‘old guys’ in one place in my life (the only women in the store were a half a dozen female sales staff, myself, and one other woman following her husband around; I don’t think any of the fellows shopping that day were under 40 … or maybe 50).  The store was jam-packed with men pushing carts up and down the aisles, comparing products and prices, and discussing things like pistons and pumps, flux and flow, bushings and bearings, drive trains and hydraulics.  It was exactly the same kind of atmosphere – except oozing testosterone instead of estrogen – that I’ve experienced when there’s a mega-sale at a place like Home Outfitters or Bed, Bath and Beyond and women are drawn in en masse to purchase new bed sheets, bath towels, and kitchen gadgets to spruce up or outfit their homes.

Old Guys At Princess Auto store openingI felt a little giddy as I maneuvered my way past groups of nattering men and eavesdropped on their conversations (I even understood some of what they were talking about) and realized that I’d discovered one of their dirty little secrets.  Men DO like to go shopping – but only for things that make other things go (or go fast), that make noise (or eliminate it), or that let them get their hands dirty (in other words, ‘manly stuff’).

It’s just one more surprising thing I’ve learned (about men) here on … the other side of 55.

Boys Will Be Boys Quote

  1. Margie permalink
    June 18, 2013 3:57 pm

    I have tagged along with my husband to Princess Auto on many occasions, and have to admit I find it more interesting than most women’s stores! My husband will also wander through IKEA with me. We go there now and again to people watch – it is fascinating to listen to people dream and scheme about what they can do with IKEA merchandise.

    • June 18, 2013 5:27 pm

      The next ‘big adventure’ I’m going on with my husband is a trip to the ‘junk yard’ to pick parts for his latest project (he’s rebuilding an 87 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe – and he’s going to be rebuilding a short block for it, too!) I’m not entirely sure what to wear (LOL) but I’ll be taking my camera and a notebook – it’s bound to be worthy of a blog post!

      • Margie permalink
        June 18, 2013 5:38 pm

        I would normally not know what a short block is, but my PT Cruiser just got a short block transplant (which I blogged about too, of course!)

      • June 18, 2013 5:39 pm

        That’s why I mentioned it – he actually told me he was rebuilding the short block the same day you blogged about it (how’s that for serendipity?)

      • Margie permalink
        June 18, 2013 5:48 pm

        Great minds… or something!

  2. June 13, 2013 10:40 pm

    Well I guess. My partner is technically oriented but he doesn’t spend tons of time in home renovation, equipment shops, etc……except for bike stores. Which I’m happy to be there too. I go there myself. I spend enough money at such places. 😀 Other than bike shops, my partner enjoys going to farmers’ markets where we live and when we go travelling. He was a weekend farmer 2 decades ago and does believe in supporting the local farmers. Besides you learn lots about local stuff and it’s free… We do shop at the markets ..after biking there. Actually in general, he doesn’t mind grocery shopping as long as there aren’t snake like long lineups.

    • June 14, 2013 10:06 am

      It’s more fun when you share passions and ‘go shopping’ together, isn’t it?


  3. June 12, 2013 2:21 pm

    Seems like a perfectly harmless passion. And while indulges it, you can go shop at “women” stores. Great post, Margo!

    • June 12, 2013 6:12 pm

      I like to let him indulge himself once in a while (he doesn’t ‘go shopping’ often). I suppose men just don’t have that particular gene.

  4. June 2, 2013 4:22 pm

    And the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys. 🙂
    Great post.

    • June 2, 2013 4:38 pm

      I try to ignore (or at least, not gasp too loudly) at the charges on the MasterCard!

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