Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Fun is a 'Drag'

When I was a kid, I never got tired of playing with my Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. When my mom dragged me to the store, I always had at least two toy vehicles tucked in my pocket for a race down the cashier’s two-lane countertop.

My 5-year-old son is the same way with his Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. And he loves when I play cars with him.

Sure, I still enjoy playing with toy cars, except I need a pit stop after my 300th ride through the toy car wash.

“Don’t you wanna drive anymore?” my son asked me on one occasion after fake driving for several hours, a pain far worse than the pain caused from Chinese water torture -- I’d know, of course.

“How about we play with the Lincoln Logs?” I suggested.

That wasn’t the response my boy anticipated. And his response to my response wasn’t what I was anticipating.

“Do you wanna switch cars?” he asked as he swapped cars with me, and then continued playing cars.

We both knew who was boss. I responded accordingly with, “OK, we can play this game for another two days straight.”

As I entered my 1,922nd fake car wash, my proverbial wheels were spinning, trying to figure a way to add some kind of spark to the game. And then it hit me. I suggested that we gather all the Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, pair them up equally, and race them using my boy’s toy drag race launcher. Race by race, round by round, we’d narrow down the competition until we found a winner.

My son lit up like a set of Goodyears at a green light when he heard the idea. I was actually excited, too.

We set up the drag race launcher near the entryway of our home, and launched the cars down the Pergo floors toward the front door. Our queue of cars in line to race went down the hallway and spilled into the back bedroom. My wife nearly tripped over the cars as she rushed down the hall to answer the phone, sending my boy and I into a panic. She almost ruined 30 minutes of work we put into pairing up the vehicles.

When the dust cleared, I announced each race with my “Monster Truck Voice,” the voice you hear in those commercials for off-road spectaculars. You know, “SUNDAY, SUNDAY SUNDAY! WITNESS 3- 3- 300,000 CUBIC INCHES OF HY- HY- HYDROLIC TORQUE! LIVE AT THE L.A. COLISEUM! WATCH TRUCK- TRUCK- TRUCK-A-SAURUS REX EAT 9 MILLION POUNDS OF SOLID MACHINERY!”

My wife, who was on the phone, was completely annoyed that my volume went into the red. I apologized for being loud. And then I suggested she go into the other room.

My son and I had fun predicting the winners of each race. Any car could win. We’d set the cars on the launching platform, hit the button, and off the cars went. I suppose the heavier cars and the cars with the slickest rolling wheels were most likely to win. But sometimes even the best-equipped vehicles would spin out and crash into the wall.

For a while, my son kept picking the losing contender.

“Dad, you keep winning,” he whined. “Can you let me win?”

I told him the outcome of each race was out of my control.

The boy considered my response. Then he begged me to let him win the next race.

After three rounds of racing and over 300 individual heats, my son actually got tired of playing cars. I succeeded in burning him out. The game was driving him crazy, and he wanted desperately to play something else.

So I took out the boy’s Lincoln Logs, cleared an open play area in the living room, and let the log building begin. I saw that my son was happy again.

And then I jumped right back into two more intense rounds of drag racing until I found a winner. I was bummed my ’55 Chevy wasn’t the grand champion. I attribute the loss to carpet fuzz in the wheels.

-September 2008

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