October 10, 2008

The Derby

There is an annual event here which the locals simply call 'The Derby'. When I first heard that term, I figured it was some sort of race, most likely with cars. Michael and I went to The Derby last night, and, well...I found out that Southerners will get into anything.

The Derby is not a race, but it does involve cars. It is held in 'the pit' and the cars entered do not run well, the polite name for them is 'junker'. Some are decorated, some look like they have been pulled from a junkyard just a few minutes before The Derby begins. The pit is sprayed down so that it's nice and wet, and the cars are announced and begin to fill the pit. Then the air horn sounds, and 'the heat' begins. What is the heat? It's when all of the drivers in as many cars as will fit start purposely running into the other cars in an attempt to either trap or disable them. They keep running into each other until all the cars but one or two are disabled. Then the first and second place cars are declared by the judges. Several more 'heats' follow. The the second place cars from each of those have their own heat, and the second place and 'reserve Grand Champion' are declared from that bunch. Then the first place cars from the previous heats have their own heat. From that the first place and the Grand Champion are declared.

So, Michael and I spent our evening watching grown men drive cars with the intent of crashing into each other in a mud pit. Apparently, they make it a mud pit so the cars can't get up too much speed. They don't want anyone getting hurt, you understand. They require the drivers to chain the bumpers on to the car or take them off, and to wear helmets and neck braces. They also have firefighters and EMS there in case any cars catch on fire or anyone does get hurt. And the firefighters were needed. 3 cars caught on fire. Two needed the big fire hose to be put out. The other yielded under a fire extinguisher. Thankfully, no one was really hurt.

And the shameful part about all this? Michael wants to do it. Yep, he wants to make a junk car run just long enough that he can smash it into other cars. Even worse? I actually began to enjoy watching it. It's like a car accident, you can't help but look. And you get caught up in the mob mentality. It's really hard to not laugh at people who are purposely trying to run into each other. Laughter leads to cheering, cheering leads to planning to go next year, and planning to go next year leads to planning to get there early so you can get a good seat higher up in the bleachers. What have I become? Frankly, I don't care. It was fun. I still enjoy classical music and fine art, but I enjoy watching grown men smash their cars together and watching for some to catch on fire. When in Rome, right?

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