Excuse me while I wipe the dust off of my keyboard *cough, cough*. There is an old saying that goes something like "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." I suppose Mr. Nietzsche has had his moments of brilliance and I would never want to step on his toes, but I would like to have his famous quote amended to read more like this "That which you know will kill you, you should not try."
When I got the call asking if the Merc we've been building for the last too-many-years-to-mention-in-public could be presentable for SEMA 2012, I immediately said "I don't see why not." Initially, I wasn't too worried, but when I was informed that it was going to be in Kinetic Audio's booth, that's when I began to worry. If the car was going to sit in a hall and look pretty no one would have their feelings hurt if it didn't make it, but since it was now obligated to fill an exhibitor's booth, things got a little too serious for me.
You see, I learned something about the "real" Max this year; I'm not the 80-hour-a-week, drink-Monsters-all-day-and-tell-the-wife-I'll-see-her-next-weekend workhorse that the custom automotive industry is traditionally accustomed to. I'm more of the 30-hour-a-week, hour-long-lunches, I'll-be-in-my-chair-when-the-wife-gets-home kind of guy. My body and mind were simply not made for that kind of work. I don't enjoy it and probably never will, but I can live with that. Do you know what kills me mentally more than long hours and energy drinks? Compromises! It drives me absolutely crazy to know that I have to rush something or not build something to the level that it deserves because of time constraints. My brain simply does not understand why we're doing it that way and it retaliates by keeping me up all night thinking about how it should have went. On the list after compromises, but before long hours I would probably have to list unfulfilled obligations. When I am two days from SEMA and the chrome finally shows up that is an issue and I am not going to have a friendly response.
The last thing I'm going to complain about, as it falls at the bottom of the list, is a phrase that we've all said, "Do you think you're going to get it done in time?" I would usually retort with "perhaps you don't understand it has to make it." To which they would respond and further frustrate me with "but there is still so much that has to be done!" Why thank you, I was unaware of all the work that still needed to be done and, yes, I do realize that it still isn't painted. Perhaps you would like a job what with your superior project management abilities and all (Woo-saw, Max. Woo-saw).
You know what made it all worth it though? Seeing the look on the customer's face when he saw the car sitting in the Las Vegas Convention Center for the first time. There was a feeling of relief that is hard to explain unless you've built a project like this for someone. For years, I've been promising a beautiful car that we both came up with ideas for and now I had to deliver. On top of that, the project has been going on far longer and has cost way more money than either of us ever expected, but seeing it laid out in the magical lights of SEMA made all the pain disappear. The "Seriously?! You guys built those wheels?!" or "That paint is beautiful!" and "This is one of the best cars here!" were all amazing to hear, but if you combined it all together, the moment Jerry Horton of Papa Roach saw his completed car trumped every bit of the praise. The responses from everyone could have been mediocre and I think he still would have been just as happy. In the end, to be able to bring a vehicle that wowed some of the biggest names in the industry almost made the struggle and heartache worth it. Notice I said "almost."
With the big project behind me, I'll be contributing to my column more frequently now. That was your first and only warning.
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