Hello, my name is Daniel, I'm Swiss and in my mid-thirties. This website revolves around some pretty uncommon interests and passions of mine. To put it as concisely as I can: I like the exhaust fumes of gas engines. No, I don't huff them to get stoned, and I don't collect them in bottles, either. But, under certain circumstances, I love watching how thick plumes of exhaust are being blown into the air, or enjoying the smell of fresh two-stroke fumes.
When, after having been at the kart track, my clothes and hair reek of petrol and exhaust for the rest of the day, that's not an unpleasant downside of the hobby for me, it's one of the reasons why I like going karting so much. That my motorcycle fills the neighbourhood with thick, blue clouds of exhaust is not an irritating side effect, but to a significant extent why I chose to buy that particular model. If it didn't spew such thick fumes out of its tailpipe, I would enjoy riding it far less. And motorsports with electric vehicles are entirely uninteresting to me. Without the smell of gasoline and exhaust, huge billows of smoke, clattering engines, and massive pollutant emissions, I don't really consider it motorsports at all.
That makes little to no sense to you? I get it. So what is this really about? Ultimately, it's also about me wanting to better figure out what it could mean, myself – I was more or less born with these inclinations, and nobody has explained them to me so far. By writing down my story and my feelings on the topic, I'm trying to organise my own thoughts. Maybe that will lead me to a better understanding and new theories on how or why things have developed the way they did. But if someone working in psychology would be interested in my "case", I'd also be very interested in getting a professional perspective on the issue! 😀
On this first page of the new website, I already outlined pretty much my entire story. On the additional pages I plan to write in the future, I will revisit all topics and specific aspects of the story and describe them in more depth and detail. I hope to build a structure that will ultimately resemble a mind map, linking how all the threads are linked to each other. But that takes some time, and I don't have a clear plan yet. Until then, if your interest has been awakened, the following story will hopefully give a good introduction on me, the topics of this website, and a few general hypotheses on how these fondnesses could have emerged.
Note: Although I generally use British English spelling, I use the terms "gasoline", "gas", and "petrol" interchangeably.
Table of Contents
For as long as I can remember, I've been very environmentally conscious. As a young boy, man-made pollution was on my mind a lot. It always made me very sad to see how ruthlessly we contaminate and destroy nature. Environmental protection was an ever-present topic in the late 80s and early 90s. I learned words such as smog and ozone hole, heard about the extenction of species and destruction of the rainforests, listened to grown-ups talk about acid rain and dying forest syndrome. On TV, there were reports about air pollution from traffic, and children's magazines printed photographs of clear cut jungles and desperate animals who had lost their homes. Being raised to have a strong ecological sensibility was inevitable. And I started seeing signs of environmental destruction in my immediate surroundings, too: trash in the creek running through town, cut down trees next to the playground, a shimmery layer of oil on the lake.
But from very early on, one specific kind of pollution, and one term, struck and awed me more than any other: exhaust gas.
Where I grew up, no other form of pollution was more pervasive, or directly affected and bothered me more often, than the exhaust fumes of combustion engines. Because we lived in a rather urban area, there was almost no place or time of day where you weren't constantly surrounded by cars, trucks, and motorcycles, or could at least hear them in the distance. Often, my eyes were drawn directly to those metal pipes on the back through which, I had learned, all the toxic chemicals were simply released into the environment. Of course, my eyes were especially glued there when those emissions even became visible as smoke. I also remember having the most child-like of reactions to those bad news: I wondered why people even attached exhaust pipes to cars, or why they didn't just close them up!
Pretty early on, I must have also associated the smells of these evil and dangerous gases, and discovered that the exhaust of a diesel truck has a different smell than that of a car or a small motorbike. With that came the powerful realisation of how wide spread and pervasive exhaust fumes were. Even if you weren't near a road, and nobody happened to drive past you, it could be that the wind randomly blew the unmistakeable scent of a motor scooter's exhaust fumes into your nose, which someone, somewhere, at some point put out into the air. (Still today, my nose is extremely sensitive and alert to that smell.) It seemed to me that the world was already polluted with exhaust gas all over, and that there couldn't be any speck of nature left unspoiled by it. And humans just kept producing more and more of it! I started feeling helpless. I wasn't sure if there was any hope left for the environment at all. But my will wasn't broken. Among other things, I swore to myself that I would never use a petrol engine in my life (and even convinced some of my friends to take the same oath).
Initially, my reaction to all those exhaust fumes from cars, motorcycles, trucks, scooters, and mopeds around me was pure disgust and outrage. I remember the emotional turmoil very well, a mixture of anger at the people causing this pollution, an inability to understand how they could be so indifferent to it, and a deep sorrow about not being able to do anything to fight it. I'm not sure for how long these were my only reactions. But I know for certain that it was still in early childhood, before I even went to kindergarten, when I started noticing that those exhaust fumes also attracted me in some way.
I hated and deplored exhaust fumes, but they were also strangely fascinating to me. When a bulldozer blew one pitch-black, sooty cloud of exhaust after another towards the blue sky, I just couldn't look away. I had to watch and observe the full extent of this horrific air pollution for as long as I could. I wanted to be a witness of it, and let my dismay and disgust grow larger. When teenagers were needlessly leaving the engines of their mopeds idling, blanketing the neighbourhood with the exhaust fumes, I couldn't just avoid it. As long as the stink of gasoline, oil, and exhaust gas was being produced, I had to consciously breathe it in, and smell it. It was as though I had to make sure that it was indeed those harmful petrol exhaust fumes that were being blown out into the air here, and as if I wanted to judge the smell to see how bad it was. It wasn't long before I started deliberatly looking for such scenes of especially severe or, in my mind, unnecessary air pollution. When heavy machinery was being used on a construction site, it drew me there to watch, and when people were needlessly warming up their motorcycle engines, I tried to linger somewhere downwind, where I could best smell the exhaust.
Over time, but still at an early elementary school age, I started discovering that certain aspects would make such experiences captivate and fluster me especially strongly. First among those aspects was, of course, the sheer magnitude of the air pollution that was happening. The more severely the air was poisoned, the more it affected me, even though I could only estimate that severity with a naïve lack of understanding. If the cloud of exhaust gas was particularly big, thick and opaque, or had a "poisonous" colour, then, I assumed, it must also be particularly noxious. If the fumes felt pungent and piercing in my nose, or if it was stifling and made it downright difficult for me to breathe, then I concluded that the harm being done to nature was exceptionally severe. But I soon also started getting some theoretical knowledge from television and children's magazines, and learned about what actually made exhaust fumes harmful. I learned that, as impressive and appalling the black, sooty clouds of diesel exhaust looked, they weren't necessarily the worst polluters, and that a lot of visible smoke doesn't necessarily mean that the exhaust also contains more contaminants.
There was one offender, though, which stood out negatively from both perspectives. One which had intuitively always felt aggressively venomous to me, and about which I was now learning that it was, indeed, also scientifically one of the worst air polluters: the two-stroke engine!
I kept hearing that a small, 2-stroke motor scooter could easily put out as many toxic pollutants as several hundred cars. And I had always felt that their poisonous nature was kind of obvious. The oil that is being mixed into the fuel, and the amount of unburnt fuel being expelled, give two-stroke exhaust fumes that characteristically crisp, pungent smell, and unlike those of cars, they also tend to have a noxious, blue colour. Despite the often small size of the engines, and them having exhaust pipes so tiny it looks as if someone tried to hide the fact that they produce any exhaust gas at all, the size and thickness of the smoke plumes they spew out are often overwhelming. Even the clattering and rattling of their engines running at idle sounds somehow dirty, and the "swarm of wasps" noise at higher revs especially, well, waspish. All told, two-strokes had always been the perfect mark for my fascination, repulsion, and hatred. Now I had been told that they were exactly the kind of insidious, terrible polluters that I had always suspected them to be.
Coincidence or not, this focus on two-strokes also fit perfectly with another key aspect I found to be a personal trigger. When people were polluting the air with their petrol engines, it always provoked me especially much when they were doing it for no good reason, out of pure carelessness or indifference. Obviously, whether the polution is senseless is in the eye of the beholder. In my eye, the boundaries were very clear, and narrow. And nowhere else are 2-strokes as present as in areas where those boundaries are crossed.
Small motorcycles, for instance, often a young person's first motorised vehicle, are frequently two-strokes. Because of their simple construction, the motors are light and cheap, making the scooters and mopeds that they're being built into much more affordable for young people than bigger, more environmentally friendly bikes. Nobody cares less about polluting the air than a teenager on their first motorised ride! Especially if the parents still pay for the gas. Especially given that gratuitous pollution is socially frowned upon, and you can show off how rebellious and independent you are by wilfully violating that taboo! So the rattling, stinking, smoking mopeds are left idling and warming up for several minutes, not being turned off even for an extended chat with friends – and if a grownup or a nice girl happens to pass behind the exhaust pipe, the throttle is given a quick twist to blow an extra cloud of exhaust in their direction. And it's just those young people that we hand the worst polluters there are! I have never seen such huge, reeking, blue blankets of exhaust smoke with such regularity, as the ones that spread out every day over the motorcycle parking lots of my middle school.
Thanks to their light build and high efficiency, two-stroke engines are also very popular in another area: motorsports, especially amateur motorsports. I don't remember at what point I discovered that there even is such a thing as motorsports, but I can imagine that it was an unbelievable shock to me, and it must have shaken my faith in humanity to the core. Sports with gas engines! My childish and naïve, environmentalist soul must have been in utter disbelief. Up until that point, all the air pollution and environmental destruction I had witnessed was to some purpose, even if I rarely thought that purpose was worth the pollution caused. Maybe the trees were being cut down to make room for a new building, and even if a motorcycle's engine was being left idling for an unnecessarily long time, in the end it was still a mode of transportation.
Motorsports, on the other hand, don't even try to pretend like the damage they cause to the environment has any purpose beyond entertainment and competition. Now I saw people who weren't driving their cars to get somewhere, but were just driving them around in circles, for hours, burning gallons of fuel. I didn't understand what these athletes were thinking. Didn't they know how harmful the gases were that their machines were producing? Were they not aware that the fuel which they were burning for fun was a limited resource, and causing unspeakable damage? And wasn't the sight of all those clouds of exhaust a hint that maybe this sport wasn't such a good idea? Were those race drivers not concerned about their own health, as often and as long as they were forced to inhale the exhaust fumes produced by their rivals? I could imagine that motorsports were probably invented before people knew how harmful exhaust fumes were. But how could anyone still practise them today, when surely everyone must know how important it is to protect the environment? And why was everybody pretending that these were completely ordinary, acceptable forms of sport, anyway? As if the fact that in these sports, the pieces of sports equipment you used were burning up fossil fuels and emitting toxic exhaust fumes, was just a minor, completely unimportant difference to, say, skiing or cycling?
Pretty quickly, I started focussing my outrage against unnecessary air pollution on motorsports, because nowhere else it was as obvious and easy to argue that the exhaust fumes were being produced for absolutely no good reason. I discovered that in many disciplines, apart from Formula One and the likes, there were clubs and initiatives to make the sports more accessible to a larger part of the population. I discovered that even children, some of them considerably younger than myself, were introduced to motorsports by their parents. I caught a report on kids' motocross on TV, and was horrified to learn that manufacturers were even producing motorcycles in children's sizes. These weren't toys, but real, small motorcycles, with real gasoline engines, which were burning real fuel, and blowing real, toxic exhaust fumes out of their pipes. Before that, I somehow believed that all children my age were seeing things more or less the same way I was, that my generation was going to treat the environment properly and fix what today's grown-ups destroyed. Suddenly, this hope was shattered to pieces. Now I was watching seven-year-olds racing each other on television, leaving the landscape behind them in a mess of poisonous exhaust fumes, obviously without the slightest qualm. My feelings of despair had reached a new level.
I kept learning about more and more types of motorsports, other ideas humanity had on where and how they could also burn fossil fuels for fun and leisure. One town over from where we lived, there was a kart racing track in the basement floor of an old industrial building, whose rental karts also used petrol engines. The thought that just by spending some of my pocket money, I could be burning fuel there myself, almost made me sick to my stomach. But occasionally, I gave in to my shameful curiosity and positioned myself in front of a ventilation grate through which all the exhaust fumes were pumped out of the hall. I felt the urge to confirm my fear that all the fumes produced by those karts were simply released out into nature. And I felt like I had to take in some deep breaths of it to grasp how bad the pollution they caused really was. I thought about how the same amount of pollution was being caused here all day, every day, even when I was not there to smell it, and I felt sick. I thought about how many thousand other places there were just like this, and felt even more sick. On vacation, I was listening to the brash engine noises of the jetskis circling out in the ocean bay, and noticed how every now and then, a whiff with a stinging smell of exhaust crossed the beach. That pushed another one of my buttons that I discovered as a particular trigger for my outrage: when, in addition to ruthlessness towards the environment, there is complete indifference towards how many other people are being harassed with the toxic fumes which someone produced for their own, personal enjoyment.
Motocross, enduro, hare scrambles, quads, supercross, pocket bikes, moto trials, go-karts, jetskis, snowmobiles, gas-powered RC cars… it seemed to me like the entire world was falling for gas-powered pastimes. And almost everywhere, the cheap, light two-stroke engines were taking pride of place. Often, the amount of exhaust fumes produced by so many athletes in such a confined space was literally overwhelming. Often, special racing fuels and engines tuned exclusively for performance made the fumes smell even more pungent and toxic. And often, those fumes weren't just billowing about over some paved street in the city, but in offroad sports such as motocross, they were being blown right into the beautiful, natural landscape, where the noxious, blue fumes slowly wafted away over green meadows and through lush forests. I couldn't have imagined a more devastating combination for my anger, my sadness, and my feelings of powerlessness against pollution than this incomprehensible desecration of nature for pure amusement. But at the same time, it gave me an unbelievable rush of adrenaline. It was the culmination of everything that had increasingly occupied, fascinated, and appalled me so much.
My choice of words might already be hinting at it, but somewhere around this time, something tipped. My stance on gasoline engines, exhaust gas, pollution, and motorsports had always been totally hostile, resentful, and bitter. But because these topics were so constantly on my mind, emotionally affected me so much, and because I kept feeling tempted to actively seek out the sights of frivolous air pollution that were so dreadful and excruciating for me to watch, there was also room for other thoughts to emerge.
I was disappointed in my peers, who didn't share my eco views and jumped at the first opportunity to use petrol engines themselves. But I was very aware that it also meant that I would be old enough to use those engines myself now. I wondered what a motocross rider might be thinking while they're warming up their engine for five minutes, as they keep turning around to look at the blue exhaust fumes pouring out behind them, poisoning the once pristine air. I wondered if the sight doesn't hurt them at all, if they don't feel ashamed. But with those thoughts, I also automatically wondered how it might feel to do something so unjustifiable and evil, something that causes harm and destruction that can never be undone.
Today, I can't tell when and how it happened, if it was sudden or a slow process. But out of disgust, anger, sadness, indignation and helplessness developed first a general fascination and obsession, then a mysterious allure, and finally a forbidden curiosity and desire. I had to admit to myself that all the things that depressed and offended me were also starting to thrill and excite me. Maybe it was the "allure of evil" that took over, and the excitement of what, in my world view, was forbidden. Maybe, because of my constant obsession with the topic, my brain and body made a few wonky connections and drew the wrong conclusions. Or maybe it was a more primal, instinctive process, triggered by chemicals in the exhaust fumes which might have been the reason for my seemingly absurd fascination all along. Whatever it was, I figure that I was about ten years old when, one day, I gave in to the mounting pressure of curiosity and turned my first drops of fuel into exhaust gas.
My dad owned a yellow string trimmer from McCulloch, obviously with a two-stroke engine. Needless to say, I noticed the thick, blue clouds of exhaust gas that the tool used to shroud our garden in. The amount of air pollution this thing caused was totally out of proportion with its size, or the primitive work it was doing. With a loud, droning noise, the trimmer was burning toxic two-stroke premix, poisoning the air that just moments ago was still clean and unspoiled, just to make a piece of thread rotate. Mowing the grass with this noisy, stinking beast was, in my judgement, not considerably less strainful than it would have been with a regular scythe. Obviously, this motorised weed eater was a thorn in my side, and just as obviously, I couldn't look away whenever it was being used. I had to watch those heinous exhaust fumes in horror, until the last trace of them dissipated out of view.
One fine Saturday was going to be the day. My parents had just left the house to go shopping, they wouldn't be back for several hours. My heart was racing and the adrenaline was shooting through my veins, because my plan was clear: I was going to start the engine of the trimmer myself. First to see whether I would manage to do it, and then to experience how it feels. Burning gas, producing exhaust fumes, without sense or purpose, just because I can.
It took me quite a while, as I didn't really know anything except that at some point, I'd have to swiftly pull the starter rope. Stop switch, choke, and primer bulb didn't mean anything to me yet, and my right arm was already tired and tensed up, when it finally happened. The engine jumped to life, it made a muffled, rattling noise, and out of the small opening came puffs of blue smoke, starting to fill the air in the workshop. Finally, the smell of unburnt fuel from my many failed starting attempts was joined by the smell of genuine, fresh exhaust gas. I did it!
After the first successful start, my heart dropped immediately. Panicking, I fumbled for the stop switch and turned the motor off. I felt my heart pounding like mad, and I first had to calm down, collect my thoughts, and think about what had just happened. But my decision was made. I would stick to my plan, start up the engine again, and this time let it run for longer. I flipped the engine stop switch back into the run position and went back to pulling the starter rope, until the engine once more came to sickening life. I kneeled in front of the trimmer and watched as it lightly jolted about on the floor, making unwavering, puffy noises, as if there was nothing wrong about it. Of course, I was taken in by the tiny, round, black exhaust opening, which was now incessantly, relentlessly expelling its pungent exhaust fumes. And now as always, I was in disbelief at the amount of air this small machine, using so little fuel, was capable of poisoning.
I particularly remember one specific feeling and train of thought. The engine was running because I started it, nobody else. Without me, the environmental pollution that is happening right here and right now, would not have happened. The air, which now comes out of the exhaust as toxic fumes, is irrecoverably poisoned, and I'm the one who destroyed it. But most of all: the motor kept running, and it would be in my power to stop this senseless pollution in an instant. With a small movement of my fingers I could flip back the off switch, kill the engine, and that way protect a little part of the environment from being defiled. Yet I was consciously deciding not to do it. For the first time ever, I wasn't helplessly watching as other people were polluting the air, unable to do anything about it. This time, there was a straightforward, easy way to immediately make the pollution stop. I enjoyed the feeling of not making that choice, and tried to understand why it felt so good. I looked at the trimmer, watched the blue smoke, listened to the engine idling, smelled the exhaust fumes, and savoured the moment. I indulged in the adrenaline rush, my thoughts all over the place with conflicting feelings, just sitting there and enjoying myself.
I guess that day was a point of no return. On one hand, I always kept my basic, eco-minded attitude. Also, I made sure not to come into any contact with motors in my everyday life, never rode mopeds when all my friends were doing it, didn't go karting, and feigned indifference at the two-stroke concert and suffocating smoke show after class. I was too afraid of somebody finding out that I enjoyed it! But I had experienced the thrill of violating my own principles. I had crossed the line and did this vile thing, which troubled me so much when I was watching others do it, for my own pleasure. From this day onwards there was no way back, and I knew that I was going to keep doing it.
They're two sides of my personality which co-exist until today. On one side, my still slightly naïve side of the environmentalist, which I had always been as a kid. It's the side which technically still informs my views and political stance to a large degree. On the other side, someone who takes particular pleasure in doing all the things that I found especially painful to watch as a young boy. This side of me didn't come into being that Saturday when I started up the trimmer. It had been there a long time, maybe just as long as the tree hugger within me, pushing itself more and more to the surface over time.
That half used to be purely passive. I gave in to it when I watched others pollute the air without any scruples or inhibitions. That day, I overcame my own scruples and inhibitions, my dark side lost its passivity, and I started actively satisfying that desire myself. The more senseless and unnecessary the use of the petrol engine, the better it feels. The bigger and thicker the clouds of exhaust, the more stunning and beautiful to look at. The more bluish and poisonous-looking the colour of the fumes, the more appealing. The more pungent and oily the stench, the more thrilling. And, much to the sorrow of the tree hugger within me, even apart from purely superficial perceptions: when I know rationally that these exhaust fumes are particularly damaging to the environment, or that they can cause particularly bad pollution in the place they're released in, then the exciting feeling is even more intense. And it's always a real kicker when onlookers take notice of the excessive amounts of exhaust, maybe considering that the pollution I cause serves no real purpose, and maybe even noticing that I seem to actually specifically enjoy making and watching those noxious fumes. Part of me then imagines that maybe, some of them react to it as emotionally as my own environmentalist side.
I want to stress that I continue to try and be very responsible and considerate in my everyday life. I support efforts to curb climate change and prevent the destruction of our natural environment. I separate my waste, do recycling, prevent packaging wherever possible, and get around mostly on foot, by bicycle, and by public transportation. This "dark side" of my personality didn't replace my environmentally conscious self, quite the opposite! Because without my strong sense of environmental awareness, this fascination wouldn't even work. That tingling feeling, the flurry of nerves and the adrenaline, the allure and the pleasure, all of it only works thanks to that tension between my opposite predilections, the sadness and anger at exhaust fumes on the rational side, the attraction to and excitement from exhaust fumes on the instinctive and emotional side.
I already mentioned some details and aspects which were particularly strong triggers for my environmental shock and anger as a boy, and later turned into things I'm now fond of. Those remain my favourite subjects to this day: two-stroke engines and their exhaust fumes, motorsports (in particular motocross and karting), exhaust fumes which are produced purely for fun and leisure, indifference to the negative effects on the environment, and ruthlessness towards the fellow human beings who end up having to breathe in the noxious fumes again. I even preserved my special affectation for two-stroke string trimmers! But this website will also go into a few other topics that I have a penchant for, which are sometimes more, sometimes less directly related to exhaust fumes.
Pretty simple to figure out is my weakness for racing gear, which came about as I started discovering the world of motorsports. Several factors helped to draw my interest. First, the mere fact that clothing and protective gear specifically made for motorsports exist in the first place. To my great horror, I started to realise how many people were hooked on motorsports, and understand the size of the industries behind it, including for the personal equipment of pilots. The range of racing suits, helmets, body armour and other accessories is stunning, and it shows how mainstream and socially acceptable motorised recreational activities are in today's world. Second, the unmistakeable message sent by anyone wearing, or even just owning, such clothing. It serves only one purpose, and that isn't just burning gas, but clearly and exclusively the burning of gas for fun or sports. You're not going to wear a racesuit if you're going to use that petrol engine for a delivery job, or travelling somewhere. The fossil fuels you'll be burning while wearing a racesuit will benefit noone else but you, and will serve no lasting purpose.
Third, racing gear is worn with pride. Geared-up racers show no shame in showing that they're destroying the basis of mankind's existence. Without a doubt, motorsports gear is also specifically designed to look sexy and attractive. In an amusing contradiction to what would biologically make sense when choosing a partner, the people supposed to be especially desirable now are the ones who show no respect for the environment in which future generations will have to live. If you recall the reputation of the first pupils at school to get a moped, you may realise that it's not that far-fetched. In addition, motorsports athletes are in excellent physical shape. Despite the stereotype that the engine does all the work, motorsports are physically very challenging. To tame and control a powerful engine indicates strength, and strength is attractive, even when it's at the expense of nature. Just like other athletes, race drivers benefit from the attractiveness bonus of being active and athletic, despite their apparent total dissociation from anything natural.
That leads me to point four: how estranged from nature a person dressed in motorsports gear looks. Most of the time, not even a little bit of skin is still visible to suggest that there's a human being underneath, save maybe for the helmet's visor or googles. Racers are completely wrapped up and only still recognisable as humans from their body shape. To me, that feels very symbolic for the attitude that mankind stands above nature, that humans don't consider themselves part of nature but want to dissociate themselves from it, control it, exploit it, be both able to and entitled to ravage it. If you encountered some enduro riders, clad in their synthetic, offroad clothing with heavy boots, helmets, and chest protectors, riding through the woods with a deafening noise and noxious smell, your first thought probably wouldn't be that these are natural beings appreciating their habitat, considering themselves part of the environment and treating it respectfully. They look much more – and this is my fifth point – as if they tried to protect themselves from that natural environment. The irony I like most about this is that right then, they are the ones turning nature into a dangerous environment with their toxic emissions in the first place. Rental kart drivers on the go-kart track put on coveralls so their clothes don't end up smelling of exhaust fumes, even though they are helping cause that exhaust stink in the first place, and are blowing exhaust fumes at other drivers. The protective gear in motorsports could almost be interpreted as an admission of how unnatural and harmful the sport is. None of the athletes draw from that the conclusion that it would be better to stop, though. They just put on as much protection as necessary to be able to continue polluting in any circumstances and at any price.
Maybe, this external dissociation also helps some motorsports athletes cope with a cognitive dissonance. Suited up in gear from head to toe, you don't really look like a human being anymore, so it feels less paradoxical to be destroying the natural resources and environments humans need to live. And a person who hides their face under a full-face helmet might be lowering the risk of being confronted with their own feelings of guilt, be it because they don't have to look into their own eyes in the mirror anymore, or because they can stay unrecognised while they pollute the breathing air of their friends, families, neighbours, and other fellow humans. At least for me personally, this effect really seems to work. As soon as I put on my racesuit and helmet on the karting track, the guilty conscience of the tree hugger within me becomes much easier to suppress. Fully suited up in racing gear, my environmentalist side understands that it has no say at the moment, that the decision of what I'm about to do has already been made.
Finally, I enjoy the thought that motorsports and racing gear in itself is ultimately an environmental sin. We clad ourselves in synthetic fibres and plastics, none of which bio-degradable, which will still litter the earth and ooze toxic chemicals thousands of years after we've had our fun. As we ride our vehicles made out of unnatural and toxic materials, burning a toxic fuel, and releasing the toxic exhaust gases out into the air, we protect ourselves by wearing clothing and protective gear which is also toxic and unnatural. The circle is complete. Our jetski may spoil the ocean by drooling gas and oil into it, but our neoprene wetsuit and our lifevest also fill the ocean with microplastics. Even if we take a break an turn off the engines of our motorcycles, the rain washes toxic plastic softeners out of our rainsuits and into the forest floor.
Because of those last aspects, my penchant for synthetic clothing and protective gear also extended some ways beyond the world of motorsports, such as into wintersports clothing, rain gear, or chemical protection suits. What I find personally interesting about it is that as a boy, I couldn't stand synthetic clothing. The more artificial and stiff the fabric felt, the louder the swishing and crackling noises it made when moved, and the more overpoweringly it smelled of plastics and chemicals, the more repugnant the piece of clothing was to me. All factors which, through their artificiality and implied dissociation from nature, developed a particular allure for me later. So here, too, there was transformation from disgust into fondness.
There's one final topic which will be dealt with on this website, but at first glance might not really fit the concept. I also have a weakness for tree fellings and forest clearings.
As an environmentally conscious boy, I naturally also noticed when trees were being cut down somewhere, or the television reported on the deforestation of the rainforests. There, too, I remember overwhelming feelings of sadness and powerlessness. It's possible, then, that the development was similar to what happened with exhaust gas, and that my fixation on the topic of tree fellings also just evolved additional facets at some point. But because my fascination for tree fellings is generally limited to when trees are being cut down with petrol chainsaws, I suspect a more direct connection.
Just as with exhaust fumes, there are specific factors that make a tree felling especially captivating and painful for me to watch. When sick trees are being cut down, I was always less appalled than when magnificent, apparently healthy trees were downed. The bigger the tree being cut down, the more it hurt, also when it was an entire group of trees or piece of a forest that was razed to the ground. I could never fully fathom the thought that a big tree, which might have been growing there for a hundred years or more, was now being cut down by some young human being within a few minutes. Trees that are being cut piece by piece from the top, or transported off with a helicopter, are less interesting; the adrenaline rises when there are a few minutes of a howling chainsaw engine, the tree then starts to tilt ever so slightly, slowly gains speed, and finally crashes to the ground with a big noise. And I always got particularly tense and excited when trees were being cut down for reasons that seemed frivolous to me, such as to open up the view from an apartment building.
The distinctive sound of chainsaws in the forest still works like a Pavlovian bell for me today. Even as a little boy, hearing it made me feel the same urge as seeing or smelling exhaust fumes did. I just had to watch it and be a witness to this act of environmental destruction. If I couldn't see the forestry workers directly, I tried locating the source of the chainsaw engine noises, and often spent minutes watching the treetops from a distance. I tried to spot which treetop was swaying more heavily than the others, so that I wouldn't miss it when the tree started falling. But at the same time, I also always hoped that it wouldn't happen to any of them. Indeed, sometimes nothing happened, as the workers were probably doing something other than cutting down trees. Sometimes, my worst sense of foreboding turned out to be true, and it was one of the tallest, most beautiful trees that started to topple and fall, in which case I was simultaneously heartbroken about the death of this gorgeous living being, but also incredibly excited to be watching the process of it being cut down and dropping dead. And sometimes, I would give up my sweeping search, only to realise later that an entire grove was gone forever, and I had missed the moment of its desecration and destruction. Apart from the chainsaw sounds being a trigger, though, I also have one key memory which might explain how tree fellings were coupled pretty directly with my feelings on exhaust fumes.
As many children do, I used to have a favourite tree. It was a big, broad-leafed tree with a trunk split near the ground, possibly an oak tree. It stood on a meadow near our house, and I could see it from my childhood bedroom. As such, it was a constant companion throughout my early years, always there whenever I looked out of the window. The other children of the neighbourhood and I also used to climb it or play in its shade often. One day, I think I was about seven or eight years old, I noticed that the trunk of the tree had markings with red paint on it. I knew that it couldn't be good news. Sure enough, a few days later, I saw two workers in bright-orange workwear (see topics above…) get to work. I quickly disappeared into my room so that I wouldn't be disturbed while I was watching the dreadful thing that I expected to happen next. Of course, my fears were confirmed. One of the workers started up a chainsaw and began to first saw through one, then the other trunk of my favourite tree. Twice I had to watch as each half of the majestic tree toppled and crashed to the ground. The felling probably took only a few minutes, but to me, it felt like the aggressive wailing of the chainsaw's engine went on forever. The brutal sound, lowering in pitch a bit whenever the chain cut deeper into the tree trunk and was slowed down by the resistance of the wood, it sounded almost as if my tree tried to fight back, and the noise chilled me to the bone.
At this point, I had already discovered the side of me which took a liking to exhaust fumes. I couldn't have smelled the exhaust gas of the chainsaw, the tree was too far away for that. But as fate would have it, the saw occasionally produced a small, but clearly visible, blue plume of exhaust. Those feelings which were in such an exciting conflict with each other were triggered, and I enjoyed this sorrowful thrill as my tree was being cut down. By then at the latest, that second side of me which is attracted to "evil" was also awakened for tree fellings. That the chainsaw which was used to kill it also blew toxic exhaust fumes at it as it was happening, felt like an additional humiliation and defilement of my favourite tree. Even today, the thought still has the same effect on me when I see rattling, stinking petrol chainsaws being used to cut down trees. As if chopping down the trees wasn't enough environmental destruction already, adding insult to injury, humans make the process more efficient by using tools that also fouls and contaminates the forest air with exhaust fumes on top. For good measure, doing their best to also poison the vegetation that was gracefully left standing by the chainsaw itself. (And if you want more irony about humans versus nature: lumberjacks have a considerably higher risk of respiratory health issues. Despite working in the supposedly healthy forest air all day, their polluting two-stroke chainsaws and lack of wind in the forest often cause them to spend hours working and breathing in a lingering plume of smog caused by their own tools).
Not much has really changed about my positions, feelings and views on all this since I've been about twelve years old. What changes is my understanding of it, and my theories on why things could have developed this way. Far into my teens, I was convinced that I must be the only person in the world with these particular thoughts, desires, and impulses. Through the Internet, I was lucky enough to figure out that there are thousands of people all around the world who share some or many of my foibles. And considering how difficult it was for most people to start talking about it, or even admit it to themselves, I'm almost sure that the real number is way, way bigger.
What also changes is how I deal with these topics in my life. As a teenager, there were times in which I desperately wanted to get rid of these affections. Of course, suppressing my feelings didn't work, it just caused me to feel even more ashamed and blame myself. At some point, I figured out that I have to accept my personality the way it is, instead of trying to fight it (considering that it's not hurting anybody). And finally, the understanding that I only live once, and that something that makes you happy, regardless of how nonsensical and bizarre it may seem, should be lived out and enjoyed as much and as intensively as possible.
This website is one of the ways in which I live it out and enjoy it. I write these pages to keep my own memory alive, and potentially find out more about why things might have happened the way they did. To better understand my own fondnesses, their evolution, and how they relate to each other, I will try to describe all the different facets and put them in a bigger picture. These pages will form the main content of the website, and extend or replace many parts of this story.
My main goal with this website is, and always has been, to reach more people around the world who might feel similar to how I did, might still be struggling with it, and maybe feel alone. Most of all the site tries to say: there are many of us, and this is my particular example. Because I enjoy writing, I tell my story here, using many words. But of course, even among us like-minded people, every story is different. This introduction and any future pages on specific aspects (including illustrative materials!) are representative of mine. Although the page will hopefully also offer some content that are interesting to people who are already part of the community (illustrative materials!), its main target audience are potentially worried, unsure, maybe inhibited exhaust gas enthusiasts, which will hopefully find out here that they're far from alone. My favourite result of having these pages up is still the fact that I regularly get e-mails from people who are relieved to have found the site, want to tell me their own, sometimes eerily similar story, and exchange some thoughts. But, of course, the pages are public, so they're also meant for any random passersby who are interested in getting a glimpse into quite an unusual subculture.
See you later, and rev it up!