My New Old Hobby

On my way to being the creepy old neck-bearded guy who plays D&D with twelve-year-olds, I dusted off some plastic models that have been keeping a trash bag from being empty for several years. I have a tiny (teensy-weensy) bit more patience than when I was a kid. Back then, I wanted the finished product yesterday, and would end up with just a glob of glue and paint and broken dreams.

Because of the little bit of the Internet that isn’t pictures of kittens or porn or kitten porn, I found this model of a Toyota 86. After the two weeks it took to decide to order it, I waited three weeks for it to arrive from Japan.

There was no way I could have known at the time I clicked “place order” that I’d be unemployed when it showed up. I suppose having the unexpected free time was a silver lining. Yay.

The picture on the box was pretty.

the box containing the model

After having “helped” my son put together a battleship model made by another, lesser company, the first thing I noticed after opening this Tamiya kit was just how nice all the molds were. No rampant scope creep without solid specs, er, excess cruft to trim off to even find the essence of the piece I was looking for. It wasn’t at all like having been put into management positions at least twice, but not having the latitude to actually manage anything. That would just be silly.

But look at this detail!

detail of center console

I was pleasantly surprised with the color produced by this can of spray paint. I don’t know why I shouldn’t have been. Expectations are a funny thing. Try to keep them low and hope for pleasant surprises.

I guess what I was really pleased with was the fact that I didn’t do what I normally do and just hose the thing down like it’s on fire. Then I regret the big tear drops of paint that result from spraying the holy hell out of it. This time, I gave it some time to dry in between coats. Shiny, shiny!

body with metallic orange spray paint

One of the first things every kid does when they open a model kit is put the big pieces together and imagine what it’s going to look like when it’s done. And, before fun was litigated away by parents of stupid kids, the notion of how cool it was going to be to stick an M-80 firecracker in it when the magic was gone.

Also, you have to play with the tires. If they’re rubber, squish ’em. Put them on your fingers and drum them on the table. Own your inner child.

This model has real rubber tires of good quality. Michelins, no less. I took a razor blade to the center frit (well, what would you call it?) and then bumped it with the orbital sander.

I had yet to put away the sander from when I’d worked on a frame for an old mirror. I’m not good at putting tools away. Never have been. It used to drive my dad crazy. Now it drives me crazy, and I need to fix that. No kidding. I’ll replace an O-ring in one of the faucets upstairs, and the wrench will stay right there. And though I will see that wrench every morning and entertain the nagging thought that I really should carry it downstairs and put it away, I will leave it. And the next time I need that wrench, I’ll spend an hour looking in all the logical places for it. At some point, I’ll have to stop and go to the bathroom. That’s when I’ll find it and get mad at myself all over again.

But, anyway. The sander had 150-grit paper on it, so I had to be careful not to take too much tread or leave any bald spots. Sure, I could have put on a finer sheet, but, that would just be silly.

real rubber tires

The metal “stickers” are pretty slick. They certainly look better than silver paint for the mirrors and better than decals for the hood ornaments. There are only Toyota emblems for the hood and trunk, and that should make many FR-S and BRZ enthusiasts happy, as they commonly spend money and time to replace their Scion and Subaru emblems with Toyota satan goats. (That’s what it looks like to me.)

I’ve never owned a Supra, so I’ve never really thought of Toyotas as anything other than practical. The Camry and the Taco(ma) are paragons of Toyota practicality, but I wouldn’t call them fun. Even though either is faster than an 86. I know my mom’s Camry could take my FR-S any day. And that’s with the Camry’s trunk loaded down with groceries. So I’m kind of partial to the Scion logo. Call me crazy.

The other crazy thing is the part number stamped on here. Would have been cool if the part numbers could have been of some ridiculous significance. Say, “24601” or maybe “4815162342.” (Google is awesome.)

metal-plated appliques

After the first day, nothing was broken. Hope still held sway. I had faith it was going to be a car.

Like the faith I had in the promise of the first raise in two years. But that obviously didn’t happen. And neither did trips to Florida or California with the other fellas.

Now I have time to think. Not all of the thinking is good. And, as I am wont to do, I’m sucking up guilt like one of those drinking birds everyone wanted when they were kids. So much of my time there seemed steeped in empty promises, and that’s how my son must feel with many of my empty promises. I’ve been irritable and short. Shit really does roll downhill. I’m not proud. And, to make things worse, I have Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ in my noggin now. But, hey. I did “help” with that battleship. I think we’re good for now.

Just like the model at the end of Day One. See?

progress after day one

But then tragedy, disappointment, office politics, or maybe just a hangnail happens and you have to make adjustments.

The front bumper joins the rest of the body at two tabs, and being both too lazy and too excitable to sit there and hold these pieces with my fingers until the glue set enough, I thought I was working smarter and not harder using painter’s tape to hold the pieces together.

This was a dull idea. As dull as my skills have become after three years of working to apply duct tape to other folks’ work. At one point, we had a small team together, and we were doing good work, and enjoying good morale, and helping people. We had plans to make things better. But that was short-lived when decisions based on “he’s an old friend” moved things around, and I tend to be the most flexible tile in the tile game. I really hate that about myself. Probably part and parcel of being an INFP.

So, anyway, after spending the majority of my time putting out fires, my chops had been eroded to a nub of what they once were. Left in the dust.

But that’s not to say I can’t learn. I can learn. If there’s no other way around the problem, as a last ditch effort, I can learn.

Example? Ok. I’ve learned not to use painter’s tape on plastic models. As the tape’s adhesive seems to be that much stronger than the tenuous bond between paint and plastic. D’oh!

painter's tape tore the paint

So with a handy index card, I made a little cutout to try to touch up the dire consequences of my supposed cleverness. From what I’ve read on the Internet, and the Internet doesn’t lie, Toyota paint jobs aren’t the best. I guess this hiccough just adds to the authenticity.  I’ll go with that.

trying to touch up the mistake

The model came with pre-cut masking tape for the windows. Almost all of them!

Well, I could screw this up, too.

I guess my mind was in cruise control mode or perhaps just burned out and decompressing (decomposing?). Still trying to regain my sense of identity after having it tied so tightly to the idea of “if I’m awake, I’m working.” Funny (peculiar, not ha-ha funny) how our jobs become our identities. I’ve been several different versions of me, just by virtue of which employer gives me money to be what they happen to think they want me to be. (Dance, Monkey!)

I used to be more positive.

Don’t laugh! It’s true!

I used to have what one friend called “swagger.” And the depressing thing about that? They didn’t tell me I’d had it till they asked me where it went. So, not only do you not know what you’ve got till it’s gone, sometimes you don’t know what you’ve had till someone asks you what you did with it. But over the last three years, I’ve just been drained.

It was probably tangential thinking like this that caused me to not think of the passenger side windows. So… they were accidentally painted black. Mick Jagger would approve.

masking windows to paint

The parts of the windows that should have paint looked flippin’ awesome.

The parts that shouldn’t have paint — but did — were a manifestation of my willful laziness. It was a test. I was very close to just thinking that maybe this car could be registered in the land of Make Believe (meow, meow, kitty, meow!), where tint this dark is totally legal. It’s not like anyone’s ever going to look at the fool thing when it’s finished, right? But it just didn’t feel right. And it seemed more than a little dangerous. Cars this small never fare well in duels with trains, and that Trolley to Make Believe probably has some dark secrets.

mistakenly painted the side windows

So my inner Batman (the campy 60’s one) said, “To the Internet!” From the Did You Know department, did you know brake fluid will remove enamel paint from plastic without making the plastic all cloudy?


The driver can now see out, and everyone’s happy. Even if the passenger didn’t really care, anyway, because they’d just be looking at their iPad or GameBoy or smartPhone™ or whatever, instead of ever looking around to see just how nice looking around can be. I digress.

used brake fluid to remove paint from windows

While I’m digressing, I thought it would probably be worth mentioning that it’s not like I was fired. “Fired” sounds like someone stuck their willy in, or set fire to, something or someone they shouldn’t have while on the clock.

My job kind of just went away. Or like I was just put on an ice floe and pushed out to sea. Or, maybe instead of an ice floe, a big orange thing. I like orange.


When I was younger, I probably could have done a better job painting the weatherstripping. But, as I mentioned, I wouldn’t have had the patience to even try when I was younger. I may have been smarter as a younger person, though, because as soon as I started to paint the weatherstripping, I regretted having done so a bit. Now that it’s done, and I’m not looking right at it from less than arm’s length away, it’s fine.

I understand I’ll never be a Hollywood model builder. There are lots of things I’ll never be. I’m not even sure I’ll ever be a good computer programmer. At least I’ll never exude the pomp of the kind of coder they’re spitting out now. All with their social coding and GitHub accounts by the time they have hair down there and what have you. Harrumph!

But now I need to figure out what I want to do with my life. Or at least what I want to do next.

I wouldn’t mind being underemployed and overpaid for a while. The important thing is the people. The next job is going to have people I want to work with. A place heavy on the warm fuzzies and light on the politics. I mean, I can hope, right?

blotchy weatherstripping

I’m not sure when it started, and I really don’t feel like googling it now, but computer programmers are now anything from “coders” to “architects” to, get this, “engineers.” Maybe I am ready for my walker and The Home, but, to me, if you are an engineer, I should be able to trust you to design a suspension bridge. Or, say, an engine.

Maybe an engine like this fun, sporty little boxer engine put together by Subaru and Toyota, and nicely replicated and miniaturized by Tamiya in this model kit. You can see the detail of the pieces. There aren’t so many that it became a spiderweb tangle of glue and styrene and small chunks of skin and dog hair. And it wasn’t difficult to paint.

One tip for anyone actually thinking of buying and building this model, when I put the firewall on, it seemed like it should have angled back to fit right. Well, it doesn’t. It’s supposed to fit into that piece perpendicularly.

After being second-guessed for so long and not liking it, I should not have second-guessed the good folks at Tamiya about their firewall construction. These people have been making models for a lot longer than I’ve been working with making computers do things. The cost of second-guessing in this case was the stabilizer braces don’t attach like they should to the firewall. I’m not worried about it, though, as I don’t expect this to undergo the physical forces of being slammed through any chicanes or the psychological stress of being second-guessed at every turn.

engine detail

The finished product was pretty decent.

While not nearly as big as my car, I’m pretty sure I won’t end up having to sell this plastic model if I can’t find a job soon. That might be a wee small bit of consolation.

If it comes to it, I can maybe throw the model car at a real rabbit and stun it long enough to grab it up and put it on a Ritz. Or whatever it is one does with a wild-stunned rabbit. Had Elmer Fudd ever met with success, I might be more prepared for that somewhat dystopian future scenario.

my full-size fr-s

Once the model was all done, the only thing left to do was to display it in its natural habitat with the others of its ilk. It can hang above me like some plastic sword of Damacles that won’t break down into its component parts for a good long time, while I get in gear to put my résumé together.

I wish there were a snap-together kit for résumés. It’s not an easy task, but it’s even more daunting when you don’t feel you have a best foot to put forward.

But this model is pretty nifty. I would recommend it to anyone thinking of buying it. You should see it. When I turn my office lights off and go upstairs, it looks fantastic.

displaying finished model


  1. Emmelle

    Well done. Keep writing. After you get that resume out there, of course.

  2. Kristina

    Andy, I have missed this. I love your voice.

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