I Will Win … the Beetle Cup
The rain had finally let up, leaving behind slick wet roads and drooping trees. I guided my VW bus up the hillside, my headlights cutting a yellow swath through the drizzle. I saw it looming at the top of the hill – the Theta Chi house. A fire alarm was blazing for some reason and guys were pouring out of the place, many of them with their pants around their ankles – pretty typical frat stuff. One guy was screaming about his missing memory card. Of course they spotted me instantly, my bus being bright green and spraypainted with yellow stripes after all. Those guys had been harassing me ever since they found out I was entering this weekend’s campus-wide Gran Turismo 3 tournament.
“This race is ours!” they cried, slamming meaty hands onto the sides of my bus, filling it with a hollow metal sound as I ambled around the bend in front of their house. “You’re goin’ down, Beetle-boy!” In my rear view mirror, I saw a guy we all call “Scooter” chasing after me, accusing me of stealing his saved games cartridge. He stood in a mud puddle, cupped his hands into a megaphone, and cried out at my taillights: “You won’t get away with it! PHEAR THE HONDA DEL SOL!”
I flashed them the peace sign and cherished the way they all screamed and booed. Nice guys and all, Theta Chi, but they’re all style with no substance. Lotsa fun for casual play, but they’re nothing when it comes to hardcore racing. Not like me. I’m a man on a mission. I slammed my bus into fourth with a loud gnashing of gears and roared downhill, rain spattering from my wheels.
A Man and His Machine
What Theta Chi lacked was a love of the machine. Ask any Volksie, talk to us gearheads, and you’ll see the heart and soul of GT3. My bus rolled up to the house I rent, gravel crackling below, and I shut down the engine with a quivering roar. It turned over once, then twice, even after the key was removed. Then my machine fell silent but for the rain blatting against the roof with a quiet whisper. I walked around back, opened ‘er up, and checked the oil (wiping the dipstick with a rag that was more oil than not). It was hot to the touch – almost too hot to hold. That’s how I liked it. The smell of grease, the hiss of rainwater cooling on the exposed tailpipe…
Satisfied with my machine, I reached into my passenger seat and removed my day’s project. It was dangling duct-taped wires and to the untrained eyes looked like a piss-poor steering-wheel controller. But I knew better. Six hours of soldering, greasing, and debugging ensured me that this was the finest instrument of precision driving ever built (aside from my bus, of course.)
That’s what separates me from the others. I got the raw talent. I got the dirty hands. I got the will.
Meet My Hippie Friend Ed
My bathroom window was open and a trail of mud led into my living room. That could only mean one thing: A visit from Ed. I first met My Hippie Friend Ed at last year’s Democratic rally when he was attracted to my bus like a moth to a light bulb. Nobody knows if Ed was a student here or if he just hung out – he lived in a dome-shaped house behind the hill with all the doors removed. “What up Ed?” I asked him, strolling in as though I were a visitor in my own house. “You haven’t thrown out all my meat again have you?”
Ed was sitting swami-style on my floor, his long hair draped around him like a blanket, playing Gran Turismo 3 on my black and white TV. “Your meat’s gonna escape on its own,” he said tipping his head casually over toward the fridge in the family room that I hadn’t opened for three weeks. He didn’t take his eyes off the screen, where he was circling a racetrack over and over.
“I thought you hated this game?” I asked.
Ed sniffed. “Dude, I thought Gran Turismo 3 was everything that was wrong with our world. There were races. And races always have one winner, forcing everyone else to be a loser. It’s a bad vibe factory, a destroyer of souls. The winner is forced to look down on his fellow humans, and those behind must rip one another down in order to regain their self-worth.” Then he pointed to the screen: “But look at this! I discovered a time-trial mode, where it’s just you and nature. Just you and your fate. And here, there’s also a ghost car. It’s a shadow of my past that I can race with, but he never crashes into me, he’s soft and invisible. It’s like my past and my present striving together in peace and joy for a better future! Earlier, I cried tears. Tears of joy for the children.”
I stared at Ed for a while. I thought about it. Then I concluded that Ed was a freak. “Step aside, slotcar. This ain’t the Disneyland Autotopia, and I’m a man on a mission! Pull up my coffee table.”
Reinventing the Wheel
I slammed my creation into place. “See here, braburner. I took a stock Logitech GT steering wheel, recabled it with fiber optics, and replaced with wheel with this stylish chain-link job and VW hood ornament. With this device I will CRUSH AND DESTROY anyone who stands in my way! Look, I’ve got a horn on this thing. Variable sensitivity settings. It’s even got cruise control. That’s what separates me from the competition, an understanding of the beauty of the machine.
Ed looked crestfallen as I exited his lonely single-player mode and set up a competitive race with the computer. He stared at my wheel as though it had crawled out of my chest and was dribbling ooze.
I continued: “Now, you will excuse me as I take on … The Beetle Cup. Last time I tried this particular race, I had a stock New Beetle 2000, and everyone else had Beetle cup cars. The light turned green and it felt like I was standing still – those other Beetles shot off the line like bats out of a rounded and brightly colored hell. But that was before I lightened my vehicle, put in a new clutch, and upgraded the engine to over 400 HP. Also, I now have the wheel. The Beetle Cup will soon be mine! And afterwards, I’ll bring my suped up New Beetle to bear on those fools from Theta Chi at this weekend’s tournament!”
I tossed my head back and laughed. “Watch out, slowlane! Those fools’ll feel a full on FAHRVERGNUGENIN’!” I blasted my air horn and the force of the sound rattled the windows and shook a box of Captain Crunch off of the kitchen table. Ed covered his ears.
As my New Beetle raced off of the line and into history, he shouted over the din: “Your singleminded will to win at all costs will doom you, friend, mark my words! And you’re gonna take this whole campus down with you, just like that fool with the hot dogs!” Then he raced off into the rain, splashing through the mud as he scurried up the hill.
It wasn’t until after I’d won the race and looked at the track records that I realized Ed’s best time was better than my own by a full five seconds…
[Gran Turismo 3 Week continues at the Daily Victim! One week of hardcore racing, backstabbing, and smack talk culminating in the big tournament this weekend. Which victim will win? Stop by all week to vote.]
I spent hours trying to beat Ed’s score. It was like his past and present were taunting me…
Score: 7.94; Total Votes: 918 as of 2009-12-09.
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