Who wants to be my Porsche-mate? Twitter answers the call

Sometimes I get to drive outrageously beautiful cars, and it seems a shame to not share them with others who love them. When I recently had the new 2014 Porsche 911 Targa S, I decided to bypass the usual suspects – friends and family – and cast a wider net.

As a reader, you’re no doubt aware of everything you read asking you to follow and like and engage through social media. The platforms need your clicks, and while some outlets will bait you with salacious headlines, I think there is something far better that can emerge from the noise.

Five things to know to survive the summer road trip

Driving.ca asks you to comment using Facebook. If you’ve populated sites that leave access wide open, you’ll know how fast comment sections can deteriorate. Some good commentary happens in these pages, and people are often more thoughtful when they put their name to their opinion. I’ve always interacted with readers because a conversation is frequently more engaging than a speech.

You can follow us on Twitter, whether it be the website’s account or individual writers. I like Twitter as a tool, for the very reason some others find it silly: it’s short and to the point, and forces people to grab my attention. It’s also handy having links presented to me that might have flown by in the tide; by following I’ve already decided they’re in my area of interest.

The 2014 Porsche 911 Targa S is one beautiful ride.

The 2014 Porsche 911 Targa S is one beautiful ride.
Supplied, Ken Lin

But it is the very nature of social media – to be social – that matters. Information that is solely a one-way street isn’t very engaging. So, with that in mind, I carried out my own social media experiment. I simply posted on Twitter one Tuesday evening, “Saturday. Spectacular car. Convertible. 8 hour return road trip. Looking for a passenger. Anyone? Email me.”

I have about 2,000 followers on Twitter. It’s a manageable number, and time permitting, I like the nattering back and forth during elections, and being able to pass on bits and bobs of things I find humorous or remarkable or both. In a few minutes, a young woman in Hamilton emailed me. We had several people in common, as Twitter often ends up being the Kevin Bacon game: you’re only a few degrees away from anyone. Turns out she couldn’t make it, so I went to Door Number Two.

Jay Kana was smart enough to reply including the name of someone I directly know. He writes about cars and works for a Mississauga magazine; he was free on Saturday, and didn’t even ask what kind of car I had. He happily signed up knowing only five things:

• The top would be down unless it was a monsoon

• I eat a lot of apples on a road trip

• We would be stopping all over the place; this was not about making good time

• At some point, I had to check on my cottage for a few minutes

• We would be talking to strangers

I sent him a picture of the car and I swear I heard him faint.

In the hours that followed that initial Tweet, I heard from dozens of others who wanted in on the fun. I realized I could do a five-day road trip and not get to everybody who wanted to see the car, so I compressed the list with promises to do it again, in different regions.

I ended up driving that ridiculously beautiful car for 10 hours that day. It’s fun being a tourist in your own neighbourhood, and we stopped at places I’d previously only seen fly by on the highway. We parked near roller coasters at Canada’s Wonderland and posed on Barrie’s gorgeous waterfront. We surprised Twitter followers in Bala, Ont., by showing up in their driveway. We said hi to a social media friend in Parry Sound, and accidentally drew some attention from a waterfront wedding in Rosseau.

And all the way, people on Twitter followed us as we brought them along for the ride. Jay was a terrific Porsche-mate, and by not speaking until we actually met, the conversation was never dull. The fact we’d engaged on the Twitter platform meant we already had things in common. Oh sure, I was a bunch of years older than him and had kids, but that car was an excellent starting point for two people who appreciate fine cars and love that distinctive Porsche growl.

Could it have been a disaster? Sure. My sister raised an eyebrow until I assured her my potential kidnapper had been vetted, and with the wind roaring around an open car, you could always dodge conversation if you wanted. Instead, I met a guy who was up for anything, from pawn shops to Santa’s Village, and I was reminded that collecting numbers on social media is not nearly as meaningful as collecting real people.

I don’t know when the next car will be – but I’ll post it on Twitter when I do.

[email protected]

About Lorraine Sommerfeld