The Admission

I environmentally profiled someone today.  I’ve never done anything like that before.


The Back Story

I had just finished some major repairs on a Volkswagen Tiguan engine and I began hearing things.  No, not voices, but subtle noises coming from the engine.  I’ve certainly heard the engine in that car before and always keep an ear out for unusual sounds, but I never had occasion to listen really closely to all of the faint noises that it made.  I had no idea what a ‘normal’ engine for this vehicle sounded like. 

What does an engine from a brand new Volkswagen, that has never been repaired, sound like?  What subtle noises does it make?  And does this engine make the same sounds as a new one?

I needed to listen to another Volkswagen.


The Gift

For some reason, the Car Gods were smiling upon me that day.

I had just pulled into the parking lot of the gym I work out at and spotted a newer model Volkswagen Tiguan.  How great is that?  Really great, except for one thing.  I don’t know who this car belongs to.

Should I wait in the parking lot until the owner comes out?  That could be hours.  Instead, I decided to go inside and ask the front desk person if they knew who owned the car.  So I did.  And they didn’t.  Crap!


The Conundrum

How could I figure out who owns that car?

One item I had observed was the license plate on the vehicle.  It was a California Coastal Commission, “Whale Tail” special interest license plate.  The additional fees collected for this license plate go towards the protection and restoration of California’s coast and oceans.

I had questions…

  • Is it possible a license plate could help me identify the owner of the vehicle?
  • Is there a connection between what a person looks and a license plate with that theme?
  • What does a person like that look like?


As it turns out, I’ve known several people in the past that have had that very license plate.  And I remember what they look like.  So I decided to look for someone like that.  I wandered around the club for several minutes inconspicuously looking at everyone in the building.  Out of about 50 people, there were two that had caught my attention, with one of them really, really standing out.


The Person of Interest

She was working out on a stationary bike, had ear phones on and was really concentrating on her workout.  I decided not to disturb her.  Instead I started my workout and kept an eye out for her.  In between every set, I would also walk out to the front door and check to see if the car was still there.

Eventually my diligence paid off.  I had just finished another set and spotted her heading for the front door.  I followed, waited at the door, and watched her walk across the parking lot.  She was heading straight for the vehicle I was staking out.

I jumped into action and sprinted across the parking lot towards her.  I didn’t want to scare her, so instead of running her down from behind, I took a wide arc towards the car and slowed to a walk, so she could see me approaching.  And she did.  The extra time it had taken me to approach the car slowly allowed her to enter the vehicle and sit down.  I smiled, waved to her and introduced myself.  I explained that I had just finished fixing the Tiguan that was parked directly behind her and wanted to listen to a similar engine to make sure that all of the sounds I was hearing were normal.


The Comparison

She was very kind, started the car and let me listen to it.  I was relieved to hear all of the same subtle clicks, clacks, and whirring, albeit at a slightly lower level.  Her car was at least 5 years newer, so that easily explained the subdued levels noise.  I thanked her, removed some leaves that had fallen into the engine bay, and closed the hood.

I had the ‘auditory baseline’ that I wanted.  It made me feel much more confident in the repairs I had completed, that the engine was running properly, and sounded exactly as it should.


But what about the Environmental Profiling?

I had profiled a person.  More than that, I had correctly profiled a person.  Why did I feel a nagging sense of guilt?  All I had wanted to do was listen to another engine.  And all I did was use whatever identification skills that I have to locate the owner of the car.

I pondered this subject for the duration of my remaining workout.  I kept thinking how it has often been observed people tend to resemble their pets (or vice versa) in some fashion, dogs especially.  Not all the time of course, but I have seen some amazingly humorous examples of it.

But that’s pets and this is about cars.  I have occasionally seen some examples of a person that was a perfect match for their car, but it’s not something I could accurately and regularly identify.


The Conclusion

In the end, I concluded that even though there is seldom a resemblance between people and their cars, there does seem to be a connection between people and specialty license plates.  I’m worried I won’t be able to resist testing my theory if I see another specialty license plate when I’m at the gym.


The Last Question

And the final question I’m left with; “Is this a slippery slope towards other profiling?”

Maybe I should just ignore my urge to profile.

Categories: Thoughts