I Had Nothing to Do with the Hellish Fury That Followed the Gran Turismo 3 Tournament
Look here Inspector, I can’t say I was pleased with the events of this Friday evening, either. But I can’t say I’m all that upset, either. As far as I can tell, those jerks deserved what happened to ‘em! What started out as a Gran Turismo 3 tournament ended up as a West-Coast Devil’s Night. Personally, I blame that moron who was running the tourney and his grotesque bookie practices that turned the whole thing south – but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning…
See, the tournament was down to the last four finalists, including myself. The dude running the show then pulled out a large whiteboard and announced that he was going to be taking bets on the outcome. The first sign of trouble was when that guy from pre-law, who drives a Viper in both the race and real life, pulled out his wallet and Scooter’s stolen PS2 Memory Card fell out onto the floor. When Scooter saw that, he went ballistic – bounding over his chair to tackle him to the floor. The pre-law guy kept threatening to sue after his sunglasses were cracked. The fight drew a crowd, and maybe that’s when the trouble started – you know, a mob mentality, giddy with the sight of fresh blood. The tourney moderator stepped in to break it up …
* * *
Those two creeps were rolling around on the floor so I delicately put a stop to the proceedings by kicking them both gently to the head, over and over. I told them to save it for the track. I said if they really wanted to demonstrate their skill, like men, they would put their money on the line.
What was that? Well, yeah, of course officer, I took a 5% commission on any betting. Yes, I’m aware that this was against campus policy, but officer, can’t you see I was just putting a stop to the violence? How was I to know that the evening would end with the basement of Arter Hall so filled with shaving cream as to make movement impossible?
Here, here, I wish my whiteboard hadn’t been destroyed in the maelstrom. Because it was all very organized. You see, aside from being in the young college entrepreneurs club, I’m also majoring in economics, so it was a simple matter to calculate all the odds based on the betting. I drew up a column for each of the four finalists as well as columns in the event of a “tie” or “no winner.” Then I started taking bets. The frat guy loudly announced that he would get vengeance on the guy with the Viper, while that crazy destructive guy vowed that he would get vengeance against the Theta Chi frat for causing him to lose a GT2 tournament a few years ago. The money and insults flowed like wine. It seemed like the guy with the Viper had a bottomless wallet – by the time the betting had closed I think he’d bet half the campus that he would win. People stood to win thousands if he went down. I suppose, in hindsight, that the fight had drawn quite a lot of customers – I mean, spectators. Hey, you aren’t recording this, are you?
* * *
And so the race began! See, I’d already built my own custom steering controller for the PS2, using a chain-link steering wheel and tons of other goodies, so between that and my tricked out New Beetle RSi I thought I had the race cinched. To intimidate my opponents, my racing wheel had built-in speakers that were blasting an MP3 of the Herbie the Love Bug theme music. Confidence was high. Mind you, my racing controller was held together in many places by duct-tape, but – like the VW bus I drive – it seemed to be holding together just fine.
In fact, everything was perfect until I got to the first curve. See, the racing setup included giant plasma screen TVs for everybody, and the screen filled my vision. As soon as I turned my car, the horizon swam to the right, mountains and blue skies scrolling past me and filling my peripheral vision. I rocked in my seat, feeling a little woozy, then the feeling passed. Until the next corner. I hardly noticed the other racers pass me up because I was overwhelmed by nausea. The whole world seemed to be swimming. I had vertigo! Motion sickness! Hardcore! It didn’t help that my seat was sitting on top of a 1000-watt speaker system that shook my whole body with each rumble.
I managed to complete the first lap, but I turned the car into the pit and had to bail out of my chair and rush to the wastebasket. It’s a little embarrassing … there I was, hunched over, hurling my guts out. But I felt a kind hand on my shoulder and a familiar voice asked if I was all right. It was Ed, My Hippie Gamer Friend! I looked up at him with weepy eyes and, without really thinking, I said: “Take over for me.”
There was a commotion all around the tournament. By this time I figure 200, maybe 300 students had already gathered. But I knew something they all didn’t: Ed was, secretly, a master of the game, despite his protests that Gran Turismo 3 was a destroyer of peace and a morally reprehensible product. I’d never been able to beat his lap-time. I don’t really know why he took over for me in the tournament. I guess it was out of pity for me. Maybe it was the sweet setup with the plasma screens … well, maybe he just didn’t know what he was getting into. Yah, I’m sure of it. Ed sat down in that seat to drive … not to win, not to cause trouble. Ed just wanted to drive.
* * *
Yeah, I saw that hippie dude sit down to play for team VW. Nobody was going to allow it but I yelled, over the noise of my speakers, “Let him race!” See, that bitch in the Viper had to go down at all costs and I wanted as much traffic on that road to stop him as possible. Already he was inching ahead of me. I wouldn’t have stood a chance if I hadn’t recovered my memory card, and hence: The Invincible Theta Chi Fraternity Honda Del Sol. I was sweating, and I smelled victory. Or maybe I was smelling my pits. Hard to tell, I was kinda liquored up.
The guy running the tourney rubbed his chin. “The odds would be astronomical,” he said. Well, that got all kinds of people to wave money around, so the dude lit up like a cash register. He made a bunch of changes on his board and recalculated everything, then started raking in more dough. Nobody thought it was a really big deal, since by this point the VW was so far behind in the race that it couldn’t possibly win. Mind you, I only saw this out of the corner of my eye, because I was concentrating on driving.
See, the Del Sol was on FIRE! My brothers from Theta Chi were going nuts. I was, I dunno, touched by the Gods or something. Dude. At one point I was fender-to-fender with that bitch in the Viper, cuz he had spun out and lost a ton of speed. He drove like a drunk dentist, you know, drillin’ all over and causin’ pain. We skidded toward a tight turn and I knew he didn’t have the handling I did – he had to back off and I plowed in front of him. I came out at just the right angle, jammed on the gas, man, it was sweet! We were nearing the end of the race and I was winning! I would’ve had it all – except …
* * *
When the dude running the tourney announced that the map was going to be the Laguna Seca race course, I was in heaven. It was time to apply the full-on frontal brutality of the Gino School of High-Speed Competitive Demolition. See, no other race course has what I like to call the “destructive potential” of Laguna Seca. It’s all about that little tight corkscrew twist in the road toward the last half of the race. Driven properly, with the right car, you could vault off of the small hill at full speed. Even though you might be way behind in the race, you could cause extreme devastation to the unsuspecting cars in front of you, who usually slowed down to take the corner properly.
And you know what … that’s all I cared about. Devastation. When I saw the Viper take off from that front line, I knew my bitchin’ Camero stood no chance against it. This was my last trimester in this school. My last tournament. And I wanted to be remembered … I wanted to go out in the biggest blaze of wholesale destructive glory man or beast has ever witnessed. Well, I guess I did a better job than I thought, looking back at the results.
My point is, I flew off of that corkscrew curve and slammed into the Honda Del Sol and Dodge Viper so hard that the two of them actually reeled in their seats. Well, they might have been reeling from the sound it made. A crash – the mother of all crashes. Cars whirling in the air like amusement park rides. Their plasma screens flashing in a blue and brown swirl. Cars slamming into the guardrails like hockey pucks into plexiglass! It was beautiful! Look at me! I’m in tears just remembering it. The Viper, it did like eight doughnuts, spinning in a circular arc of smoke and dirt. The Del Sol? Oh, that sickening frat-boy Del Sol? Oh, oh friend, I crunched him into the wall and pinned him into place. Years ago those frat guys had done the same to me.
“The sins of the fathers are repaid by the children!” I bellowed, cackling. His screams were like music to my ears.
* * *
What happened next was beyond description. As the noise of the crash died down and took the roar of the motors with it, there was – ever so briefly – a moment of silence. And from this silence, there was music … the theme from Herbie. Through the dust and smoke and debris, like a mirage from the desert, the Volkswagen New Beetle RSi emerged like a shimmering hallucination.
With great precision the little car touched its brakes, then squealed through the corkscrew, following the perfect line. The right side wheels just briefly clipped the inside of the corner before the machine veered to the outside, accelerating perfectly. The room was dead silent but for the theme music. People couldn’t believe what they saw. It was as if they’d been knocked unconscious and awoke in a surreal dream world.
And in the center of it all was Ed, bobbing his head side to side with the music, bringing warmth and happiness wherever he went. I don’t think Ed even really considered that he was playing against other people. For him it was just the car and the road. He shot past the Camero and the crippled Del Sol, then zipped past the Viper as a silver blur on his screen. That Pre-Law punk couldn’t believe it! He cried out murderously and jammed on his accelerator, spitting dirt from the Viper’s tires. What people didn’t know was that Ed had spent hours and hours just driving on this course in circles, finding the perfect way to drive. Ed was a machine. A driving machine. When those VW commericals said “Driver’s Wanted?” They wanted Ed.
From then on there was a distinct possibility that the Volkswagen might win. Because of how much money he’d laid out betting for himself, the dude in the Viper stood to lose a fortune to the rest of the campus. People began cheering wildly! Ed was suddenly a modern day Robin Hood in a Volkswagen, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. The crowd surged against the barriers. It was unreal.
But Ed ignored it all, racing the perfect race, happily nodding to himself. Ed was in a world of his own.
* * *
I couldn’t catch up to that damn Beetle! I admit I was a little frustrated, I mean, first that jerk in the Camero wrecks my concentration, than this stupid tree-hugging freak blows past me in a car that’s shaped like a nutsack. I was out for blood. That’s just the thing – every corner I tried to take aggressively, and I always wiped out in the dirt. Every time I thought I would catch him, that stupid Beetle slowed down to take a corner perfectly, and I slammed into the rail. I hope you’re recording this; I plan to sue.
* * *
They opened up into the last straitaway, and the Viper totally disappeared into Ed’s rearview mirror, spinning out into the dirt. Nothing stood in his way now! He had it for sure! The race was his! Team VW had won! The crowd was going wild. They started chanting, “ED! ED! ED! ED!” Then people started cheering him on: “Ed! The Barbarian!” “Ed! The Conquerer!” “Ed! The devourer of souls and destroyer of men!” The finish line grew bigger and bigger on his screen.
And that’s when he sorta snapped out of it. He heard what everyone was saying, and Ed, he just freaked. He slammed on the brakes. The New Beetle screeched and squealed, leaving twin tire streaks and white smoke in its wake, finally coming to a sloppy stop right at the finish line. The bumper bobbed down and bounced up, hovering over the checkered line painted on the road.
Ed stood up, turned around. “I don’t WANT to be a destroyer of souls!” he cried at the crowd of students – 5 or 600 by that time, I s’pose. “I want to build. I want to love. Your competitive games do nothing but hurt feelings and destroy people!” He picked up the cable connecting the steering wheel to the PS2.
As he spoke, the roar of the Viper engine increased in pitch. He was coming! I couldn’t take any more of it, I dove at the ground and tried to press down on the accelerator with my hand, but Ed cried out “WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG!?” and pulled the controller cable, snapping it in two. The connection was severed and the accelerator pedal did nothing. I knew I shouldn’t have duct-taped those wires together. The race was lost. Ed stormed out.
* * *
I dunno if it was the fact that he was wearing sunglasses or what. I don’t know if he thought that because the Beetle was out of the race that it was, I dunno, gone or something. Regardless, he didn’t realize until too late that that little car was sitting right in the middle of the road. He cried out, slammed on the brakes, whipped his PS2 wheel over to one side. But those Vipers … they handle like bricks with rockets attached, they don’t steer for nothing. He even slammed on the emergency brake – it did him no good.
The Viper slammed into the Beetle so hard I swear the room shook. Like the opening punt of a college football game, the little car flipped up into the air, whirling around, glinting in the sun. It cleared the finish line by a mile, hell, it landed somewhere near the first turn, where it bounded off the wall and rolled to a quiet stop. The Viper, meanwhile, had come to a dead standstill inches from the finish line.
The New Beetle had won. The race was over. The Gran Turismo 3 championship of Summer 2001 had been won … BY AN ABANDONED VEHICLE.
Well, of course you know what that meant. Nobody had actually bet on “no winner” so of course all the money went to the house. Them’s the rules, just like Vegas, am I right? I don’t make the rules, I just keep the playing field level. Of course, everyone wanted their money back, but I’d long since sent a Freshman to town to deposit every penny of it into my personal bank account in case of just such an eventuality. Look officer, would you have done anything different? I really can’t take much responsibility for what happened next, nor can I give you many details. I spent the rest of the evening, as far as I can remember, hanging upside down in the men’s room. Rescue teams didn’t find me until an hour or so after the National Guard cut power to the building.
* * *
Oh, the riots that followed! Sweet, glorious devastation. I’d never seen anything like it, officer. In all my years of racing on that campus, I never thought to consider the “destructive potential” of the campus itself. Honestly, I don’t know what happened to that pre-law guy’s real-life Viper, although I understand he’s threatening to sue. I can tell you where the right front tire ended up, though: I found it wrapped around the head of the statue in front of Bob’s Big Boy. You should find the statue bolted to the top of the admin building, by the way.
Ed? Ed the Hippie guy? No, I don’t know what happened to him, I imagine you’d want to talk to him for questioning. Wait, no, I take that back – I did see him once again after the race, but not since. Yeah, it was up on top of the hill to the north of town. I was parading around in a toga waving the flaming front bumper of some dude’s VW bus, and I saw Ed sitting cross-legged on a stump. He was looking down at the fires and chaos below. Reflected in the firelight I saw a single tear strolling down his cheek.
[Gran Turismo 3 Week ends! Stay tuned Monday for a return to what counts as “normality” around here. Thanks for reading!]
Hell, I don’t care that I personally didn’t win. But, all I’m saying? All I’m saying … it was a VOLKSWAGEN that won that race! YEAaaahhh Bay-bee!
Score: 9.12; Total Votes: 2328 as of 2009-12-09.