One thing I have missed during the regular wearing of a face mask outside of my home is the ability to smile at people. So much can be said in a split-second of nonverbal communication. I’ve been told that my facial expressions give me away almost instantaneously, which is something I’ve become more aware of with my increased use of video calls. At least with my lack of a good poker face, others will usually know that what they see is what they get. I’m a lot of things, but I will never be confused for a good actor. Even during activities like grocery shopping, when I accidentally come face-to-face with another shopper, I’m used to being able to make eye contact, smile, and nod in acknowledgement of that other person’s existence and also that I come in peace, all in a matter of one mere blip of a moment.
I have not, nor may I ever, master the Tyra Banks method of “smiling with my eyes” (or “smizing”), though a year’s worth of wearing a face mask in public has given me plenty of practice time. I often hope that other people at whom I’m smiling can see the wrinkle lines at the corners of my eyes and interpret that cue as something positive that I’m directing at them. I am scheduled to get my second COVID vaccine this afternoon, the Pfizer, so I will be glad to be pfinished with that process, with the prospect of mask-free days hopefully on the horizon for later this year.
When I saw our featured car in my neighborhood almost five years ago, my immediate thought (and the voice in my head may have said these actual words) was that people are nice. This friendly couple at the stoplight across the intersection from me gladly confirmed the model year of their Triumph TR6 as a ’75, and they seemed to be having a ball enjoying a little fresh-air motoring along North Sheridan Road in the cool breezes of nearby Lake Michigan. I want to like people. I want people to like me. I want to resume being able to exchange a smile with a complete stranger, casually, if for only a second, as acknowledgement that we all belong here. We all belong.
Over the past five years or so since I snapped these pictures, it feels like many newsworthy events have transpired that, at times, have frankly made me feel uncomfortable with looking others in the eye. To be clear, I do not question my own worth, but when bad things happen that don’t make sense to me, it’s a much scarier prospect to realize that I can’t always rely on the ability of rational thought and/or intelligence, emotional or otherwise, of other people. The passenger of this car not only smiled at me, but she also waved. Maybe she appreciated that I appreciated their car and that she and her companion appeared to be enjoying themselves. To me, communication of positive intent is a triumph in and of itself, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Smile at people. It makes it that much harder to arbitrarily disrespect them.
I have often read opinions that the TR6, produced from between 1969 and July of 1976, is considered by many Triumph purists to be the last, “true” TR. The TR7 that arrived for model year ’75 did differ from its direct predecessor in significant ways. While the U.S.-market TR6 roadster was powered by a 104-hp six-cylinder engine displacing 2.5 liters, the closed-roof TR7 featured a 2.0L four-cylinder with only 86 horses, though the 2,200 pound starting weight of an early TR7 was about 200 lbs. less than its stablemate. The TR6 also had an all-independent suspension and body-on-frame construction, both of which the TR7 lacked. And then, there was the styling, which is purely subjective. I’ll defend the TR7’s looks by saying it looks just fine to me, and even better in convertible form, which arrived for ’79. Over 94,600 TR6s found buyers over its abbreviated eight years of total production. By contrast, the TR7 sold 113,400 units over seven years. The numbers, by themselves, would betray the TR7’s perceived lack of popularity.
As far as family lineage and nomenclature goes, would the TR7 have been a more popular car with enthusiasts in its own right if British Leyland had called it something other than a TR? I honestly don’t know. I think fresh thinking and the shaking of the proverbial Etch-A-Sketch is important, across many scenarios and applications. As a metaphor for my own life, I’m a Dennis and my father’s son for sure, but even standing next to each other, few strangers who didn’t know us might have assumed we were even related, with our completely different heights, builds, complexions, and with many different features. The TR6 was styled in Italy; its successor was styled by Harris Mann in England. I may not have my father’s educational pedigree, natural ease with people, or prowess on the soccer field, but I have many of his admirable qualities and feel no less worthy of the Dennis name. I’m great at many things my Dad couldn’t do, which coincidentally, I always felt he appreciated. The TR7 gets a free pass from me.
I have always felt invested in projecting and protecting positive energy in the random sort of interactions with others as happened at this intersection during that summer afternoon in 2016. It’s a small victory, but an important one, I feel, when you can convey a simple greeting to someone in an elevator or in the check-out line at the local drug store. News of many injustices and really sad, unbelievable events has caused a certain level of fatigue, on both individual and collective levels, over the past few years. At the same time, I want to continue to celebrate the kind of unannounced good that continues to occur every day, as easily and breezily as a few kind words exchanged with someone who may not know anything about me except for the way I look to them. To me, that’s a very significant kind of triumph.
Edgewater, Chicago, Illinois.
Sunday, July 24, 2016.