We live in a pretty polarized era. The internet has turned the world into a gigantic family Thanksgiving table, and everyone’s fighting about pretty much everything, always, forever. I know this. And yet I still have to admit I’m surprised by the level of anger and vitriol I’ve seen regarding something that you’d think would be as emotionless as possible: the question of whether or not to warm up your car in the cold.
I’ve voiced some unpopular opinions, bad ideas, and controversial thoughts before, and I’ve gotten plenty of blowback. Much of it justified, some of it wrathful, some unhinged. I expected that; it’s part of the job.
But the level of anger I’ve seen from people who don’t think warming up your car for two to five minutes or so is a good idea really threw me for a loop. For example, here’s an email I got yesterday, after my story promoting the idea of a short warm-up period for cars ran:
SUBJECT: Warm up car
From: Ter firstname.lastname@example.org
YOU’RE A FUCKING IDIOT.
Samsung Note 10.1
Someone felt strongly enough to actually sit down and email me about this. There’s some effort here! I get emails from readers all the time, but the simple rage in this one stands out.
Now, I’m not hurt by this email or anything—not only am I more keenly aware than almost anyone about the potential of my fucking idiocy, but I know my job is sort of like a monkey’s paw kind of deal: I have my dream job, but there’s a catch that everything I do gets scrutinized and criticized immediately and publicly.
I’m okay with that—it keeps me on my toes, and, generally, I really like the commenters and enjoy our exchanges. Sure, sometimes I catch some shit, but that’s part of the job.
What I don’t get is why the subject of warming up your car is worth this sort of anger. It doesn’t make any sense—if I had badmouthed a car with a strong following, sure, I get that, people identify with cars, or perhaps if I was calling out some driving culture or practice—but warming up a car?
Do people invest their identity in how they cold-start their cars?
I mean, I have an opinion about the subject, strong enough to write about it at length, but I sure as hell am not offended if someone wants to start up their car in the bleakest, coldest nights of winter and tear ass down the road. It’s their car!
Here, look at this comment from yesterday’s article:
“This rally performance driving school warms up their cars before use, yeah I don’t abuse my cars while they’re still getting up to operating temp either.
If you drive POS 50 year old VW & Renault, sure warm your junk up on the rare occasion it works. If you drive a modern car, stop wasting time, fuel & making theft easy, you’re a drain on the human species & planet at large.”
Wow! A “drain on the human species & the planet at large!” This dude’s not fucking around! Remember, this is all because I wrote an article suggesting that it seems like a good idea to let a very cold car build up some heat for a couple of minutes before driving.
I mean, yes, I know there are environmental impacts from idling (though I think there’s evidence to suggest that driving right off has its own emissions-related issues as well) but this doesn’t seem like it’s motivated by too much compassion for Mother Gaia.
Along similar lines we see:
This post is pure irresponsible garbage. Stop encouraging people to be so lazy and uncaring. Remote starters are responsible for a huge amount of unnecessary air pollution from cold idling.
Shit, maybe I am a monster.
And, of course, there’s even more anger on Facebook and the other places that lack Jalopnik’s high standard of reader.
The point is, holy shit, people really, really are invested in how they decide to start their cars on cold mornings. They’re angry about other people wasting time, polluting, and starting their cars differently than they do.
I’m not sure there’s another mundane technical practice quite so loaded with emotion, and, as I’ve said, I’m really not sure why this is. Is there something more to be read into personality types that are either like to warm up a car or not? Are those types mortal enemies?
If anyone has any insight about why this cold issue is such a hot-button thing to so many people, I’d love to hear your theories.
Even if you just want to remind me that I’m a fucking idiot, because that’s valid, too.