I'm a car spotter, but on a way more passive level. More of a mild car appreciationist – and I encourage you to do the same on your next adventure.
See, one of my favourite things to do when visiting a new city is to look at the traffic. I refer to the composition, sheer makeup of the moving metal, and how it contrasts to what we have in Mzansi – it never tires me. Every country has its own distinct flavour – tall and tiny whips in Japan, dented city cars in European cities and rustier, older iterations of the self-same cars in their respective countrysides.
Even last year's trip to Lesotho revealed an alternative universe to South Africa with cars similar to ours but with models you've never seen before dotted between the ranks. Likewise in Namibia but with less Toyota Yaris and Nissan Micra hatchbacks and more 4x4s. India? Between the scooters you'll find a wealth of Pacific rim sourced machinery, whips from their own burgeoning industry, riddled with rust (the older they are) and pockmarked from traffic battles. Every land has a unique patina to their rides if you care to look.
The vehicular tapestry of New York didn't disappoint me last week either, with each of its five boroughs offering up different sorts of vehicles including yellow cabs and black SUVs and so many trucks! I mean pickups, bakkies of every description and in every colour and state of tune. The amount of Teslas and Dodge Chargers in Manhattan surprised me too, they're just everywhere.
But if you were looking for 80s retrobilia like my Toyota Celica 'fuhgeddaboutit'. I spotted the occasional 90s gem, several latest generation Dodge Challengers and perhaps one new Camaro during my weeklong trip. Exotics, a bolt-red Hot Rod broke the otherwise grey streets once, but in my time, I can list one Lamborghini and a pair of McLarens, all around the Plaza Hotel. Of course, New York is a city that runs on its subway system and if I told you I took 40 train rides in my short time there, I wouldn't be lying, with each resurfacing into new parts of the city revealing a slightly modified selection of cars.
In the suburban neighbourhoods of Little Italy in the Bronx I found an El Camino and a rusty Rolls-Royce. In Harlem and Queens, it was SUV and MPVs with imposing V8 powered Dodge Rams and Ford F250s in tall supply. And we thought we're a bakkie loving country!
Another interesting cross-section would be Uber cars. In South Africa you'll find yourself in a small sedan a la Polo Vivo, in NYC we didn't find ourselves in anything smaller (or less posh) than an Acura MDX SUV. Think of it as a luxury Honda CRV and you're on the money. Fascinating.
And if you're waiting for me to get to the point, the socio-economic payoff, the comparisons in lifestyles and ideals well there is none, and you've missed the point. I just like looking at cars.