My, My, How Time Does Fly... Saying Hello to #CAS17 and Saying Goodbye to an Inspiration

Jim Mateja Remembered

Jim Mateja- Journalist and Motoring Mentor

Ah media preview day. I can't believe that it was almost a year ago that I last found myself pacing the concourses on McCormick Place, adorned with polished, new vehicles and models toting iPads packed with information. There is always something very special about media preview day and the people you meet. Last year, I had a great interview with several people from GM and Ford, but my interview with Rob Peterson and Stuart Fowle at Buick stuck out in my head.

To be honest, I felt that Buick did a tremendous job with their product lineup, but were tucked away in a far corner of the show and hidden from easy view. In fact, I remember Rob and I joking about needing a GPS system to find their display. Regardless, we had such a great time chatting candidly about the future of the marque and what Buick means to the future of GM, that we not only ran over our time, but that we neglected to realize that our live stream of the interview was riddled with technical glitches. I guess that is what happens when you are engaged with people who truly love automobiles.

Media preview day also gave me the honor of meeting the legendary Jim Mateja in 2015. Since I was a child, meeting Jim was on my bucket list of people to meet as I would read his columns in the Tribune regularly. In fact, it was his review of the Pontiac Bonneville SSEi and his disdain for slow Volvo drivers that immediately brought me into the world of motoring. I remember gathering up the courage to speak with him and finally introduce myself. Despite my stomach sinking into my feet, I remember his remarkable kindness and welcoming attitude towards my decision to become an automotive writer.

Later that same day, he bumped into me at the Mazda news conference and he gave me the best advice possible for an aspiring writer- "...Always meet new people, always introduce yourself and try to forge relationships with the manufacturers... Make sure you remember them and that they remember you." Coming from a personal legend and hero, it left a lasting impression on me and helped shape my attitude towards writing.

It absolutely saddens me to have to say goodbye to such a important influence to myself, other journalists, as well as motoring enthusiasts who hung onto his every word. Although he took a pragmatic approach to his reviews, there was a certain charm and honesty that was apparent in his work. It was clear to his readers that he was a car lover and truly enjoyed (or at times loathed) the automobile industry. Jim was a voice of reason that motorists could appreciate, while automakers used his expertise as constructive criticism to make improvements.

With all of the craziness in the world around me, it was good to know that I once shared an interest and conversation with such a kind and influential person. I am saddened that I won't see his slivery hair and honest smile gracing the floors of McCormick Place, but his publications and stories will live on within the motoring community. I know it has been almost a year since I last blogged, but the hiatus did me well and helped me to gain perspective on my own life and struggles.

As I hold my media credential in my hand, I know that it is something special and truly an honor to possess. I feel that I am ready to blog more often and share the stories from my travels and road test experiences. Knowing that the Chicago Auto Show is only about a week away, excites me to no end, but Jim will be greatly missed. I can only hope that if there is an afterlife, that Enzo Ferrari and Henry Ford II can finally bury the hatchet over the famed Le Mans battles, while Jim can sit in, comment, and report on the negotiations.

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