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Social Bimmers

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Our neighborhood has turned into a wealth of automotive inspiration. As I've mentioned (and probably will continue to), there are several doors that I've been tempted to knock on because of the mean machines parked in the driveways. One particular BMW E30 that lives on the street in front of one of the first few houses at the entrance to our subdivision has prompted many a jealous late-night Craigslist haunt in search of my own classic project car.

However, I'm always apprehensive about imposing on the owners, and despite the serious Norman-Rockwell-ness of our community, it is easy to feel increasingly disconnected from my neighbors.

As we get older, it becomes increasingly difficult to make and maintain friendships. We're no longer in school, surrounded by peers who are so close in age, or united by academic and extracurricular interests in such a formal setting. Adults have coworkers, neighbors, acquaintances at the gym, or at church or through our children. Social media and the internet have alleviated some of this isolation through various dating apps and meeting sites for different hobby and entertainment communities, but so often our attachment to technology has only isolated us further. Many of us no longer seek entertainment and connections primarily through community activities and actual face-to-face gatherings; we use our devices and connectivity to bridge those gaps instead.

I am just as guilty of this as anyone else, and I'm not writing this as just another of the countless social critiques or dire warnings about the future of human interaction that crawls across your news or social feeds on a daily basis. Instead, I offer a bright spot of hope to the readers and car enthusiasts and members of the CocoMats family at-large who follow this blog for a bit of humor, trivia, or sage wisdom.

During my young adult life, through a series of cross-country moves and a variety of health-related issues, I became reliant on long-distance communication and media to satiate my need for togetherness with anyone other than my wife. Now that I'm the father of a preschooler, I am working at retooling my interpersonal habits, branching out, making friends, and getting involved in my community. For someone who is often very anxious in social settings, this can be a harrowing exercising. Despite my reservations, it is incredibly important that I encourage my son to make friends and cultivate the types of relationships and networks that helped me thrive when I was younger.

So when he asks me if we can go to the store, or down the street, or to church, or the park, I have been making the habit to say, “Yes,” whenever possible. It just so happened that last Saturday, it paid dividends.

Our neighborhood has a large playground area with numerous slides, swings, and play forts. Owen and I were desperate to get outside, and he had just been very helpful and patient while we cleaned the house, so I decided that we should take an afternoon jaunt to the park. It was insanely hot and humid, and after a half hour or so, we were both sweating hard and in desperate need of a cool drink. I was attempting to corral him so that we could start making our way home, when another family came walking through the gate.

My son, the social butterfly, went charging over towards their daughter and immediately introduced himself and put out his hand. She extended her hand with a precious greeting and introduced herself as well. As it turned out, they were both the same age – three-and-a-half – and her name, like my wife's, was Melanie.

After the requisite laughter and small talk, Melanie's father grabbed my hand, introduced himself, and immediately began inspecting the tattoos on my right arm. As I've mentioned at least a few times, I'm a diehard comic book fan and a serious Star Wars enthusiast, and nearly all of my ink reflects those interests. As it turns out, he we perhaps even more of a fanboy than I was.

We quizzed one another on trivia, assessing the other's geek street cred with aplomb. At some point during our nerd-off, I happened to glance over towards the parking lot and noticed a white, two-door '90 BMW E30 325i.

1990 BMW E30 325i

Back when I wrote the post about everyone's favorite 2002, I had been eyeing this same E30 parked on the street at the front of our neighborhood. For weeks, I had been meaning to stop by that house, introduce myself, talk about the blog, and pick the owner's brain about classic Bimmers. But, as it turns out, he came to me.

He told me that he worked for a Mercedes dealership a few miles south, and I mentioned that I used to work in the auto industry and that I wrote a blog for my father-in-law's car mat business.

“What!?” he replied.

“Honey, what are you freaking out about?” asked his wife from across the playground.

“He writes the blog for CocoMats!”

“So?”

“Honey, they're only the best car floor mats that money can buy!”

Of course, she was slightly less than impressed, but at least she feigned enthusiasm. She was, however, much more excited about the fact that, like her, I was an 11 th grade English teacher and friends with the head of the English department at her high school.

So we ended up talking for another hour while my son and their daughter ran out their kid energy. We exchanged numbers and made plans to hang out in the near future, and when we got home, both Owen and I could not stop talking about the new friends that we made.

It really is amazing that even without wifi or a screen, we are all still truly connected in so many ways.

-Trey Fennell


1990 BMW E30 325ix Coco #51 Black & Red




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