Some say he’s only 6 years old…and that he sleeps in SpongeBob pajamas….All we know is that if he isn’t The Stig, I don’t know who is.
Heard of The Stig? You should have. He’s part of the great TV show Top Gear. Yeah, I’ve written about Top Gear on my blog before (it’s one of the best shows on television, I said—so go watch it!) and—look out now—I’m gonna do it again.
Along with the three co-presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May, there is The Stig, their “tame racing driver” who wears all white, including a white helmet, and nobody knows who’s under the visor. True fans of Top Gear prefer to think of The Stig as a superhuman entity that test drives supercars in every episode, does not speak, has no knowledge of the London public transit system, and won’t give an award back once he’s received it (waiting on the video to be posted for that one—it’s a good ‘un). And sure, a little while ago The Stig was revealed on the show to be race-car driver Michael Schumacher, but I call shenanigans. I know better.
How do I know so much about The Stig? I’ve had to learn, as my son goes ga-ga for The Stig. Most kids do. (Okay, most adults do as well.) And why not? He’s mysterious, he’s a kickass driver, he doesn’t look fat in white, and he can intimidate anyone just by crossing his arms and turning his tinted visor their way.
When Santa brought my kidlet an official Top Gear t-shirt that reads “I Am The Stig” on the front and has a picture of said Stig on the back, his 6-year-old head nearly exploded. He wanted to put it on immediately. I explained about how new clothes needed to be washed. He waited exactly one day for me to take care of that sort of mommy-nonsense. He’s tried to wear it every day since and gets depressed when I tell him it’s in the laundry bin (that’s the only respite the poor little t-shirt gets). Good thing little kids don’t perspire, but the navy color sure does show up dirt, especially when he uses his shoulder to wipe a milk mustache off his face.
Still, I shouldn’t be so surprised that he’s obsessed with The Stig and all things Top Gear. (One of his other favorite Christmas presents was a TG poster.) This is a kid who was able to identify car logos at 100 paces when he was only 2. His first non-baby toy was a Matchbox car (a black Mini Cooper with a white roof); now he has thousands of toy cars. No, I’m not speaking hyperbolically. He really has thousands. My mother, type A that she is, keeps threatening to count them all someday. That should keep her busy for about a week.
Ask him what his favorite car is. Expecting “Ford?” “Chevy?” Or perhaps something more exotic, maybe “Ferrari?” Try “Gumpert.” I swear. Most adults haven’t even heard of a Gumpert. But my first-grader has.
Whence the fascination with all things wheeled? Well sure, lots of kids love cars and trucks and trains. But they also like stuffed animals. He never did. He was never satisfied pushing a big, clunky cartoonish truck around going “vroom vroom.” He did that when he was nearly 2 and never did it again. Ever since, he’s only been interested in toys that are exact replicas of real cars. Give him a car or truck with eyeballs, for instance, and he’ll practically chuck it over his shoulder. (Unless it’s a diecast vehicle from the Disney movie Cars. For them, he’ll make an exception.)
Honestly, more than anything, he prefers to stage police pursuits in the middle of the living room with a few dozen of his thousands of Matchbox cars, and then call in the SWAT team (he calls it the “squat” team)…that is, when he’s not behind the wheel in one of his dozen or so XBox driving games.
As kids get older, they start to branch out into a variety of interests, like Legos and superheroes and such, right? Not my son. Kidlet had a passing dalliance with the Batman animated series when he was 4, then dropped it abruptly. He does like Legos…but only the vehicles. He’s recently gotten interested in drawing pictures…mostly highway scenes. Detect a pattern here?
This is the kind of child who will argue the size of a car engine with you (and is usually right). This is the kind of child who knows what torque is (I don’t—I’ll have to take his word for it). This is the kind of child who will whup an adult’s butt in a drifting challenge on the XBox.
This is the kind of child who makes the notion of hiding your car keys a sensible decision, not an hysterical parental overreaction. After all, he’s already informed me that he knows how to drive a real car from playing his many driving games…and probably from watching a million Top Gear episodes too.
Which brings me back to the whole Stig thing. Who is The Stig? I know the answer: my kid. The t-shirt speaks the truth. Maybe he can’t reach a car’s pedals yet, but I think that’s a bigger fakeout than the Michael Schumacher thing. The height difference and such is all done with mirrors, I’m convinced.
Not that I mind. I mean, there are worse alter-egos to have, right? I say go with the flow. Every once in a while grandma, who is very fond of banging her head against proverbial brick walls, tries to get him interested in something that doesn’t have wheels—she’ll buy him a bat and ball or something like that. But he’s never swayed. She gets frustrated, but I tell her she should embrace his single-mindedness. I’ve decided to.
Anybody know where I can get a t-shirt that says “My Son Is The Stig?”