Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Effortlessly weaving around my slothful competitors, I roared into the lead on the back stretch after turn five, and never looked back, cruising to an easy first place finish as onlookers admired my incredible racing skill.


Sadly, when my friends and I visited Maine Indoor Karting in Scarborough during a recent bachelor party, my truly timid and foolish inner nature revealed itself.

First, you have to understand that this is not your typical Route 1 tourist trap go kart track. At this place, the karts can reach speeds of 40 mph. You have to wear a racing suit, which includes a helmet, neck brace, and head sock that you really, really hope has been washed with 100% “Summit Fresh” bleach.

(I can't believe anyone would bother to sell 100% bleach that isn't “Summit Fresh,” really. What kind of dweeb sees a jug of “Summit Fresh” bleach at the grocery store, and says, “nah, I'd better get the regular bleach instead, just so I can be a total loser”?)

Then you have to go through a 15-minute course on how to drive the karts safely.

“Do not try to pass anyone on turns 9 and 10,” says the teenage instructor. “This is where people become paraplegics.”

Okay, it's not quite that bad. MIK's website says they've never had “a major incident” in the three years they've been open, though they do have a strict policy of calling 911 at any sign of injury, which could include eating more than three slices of their grease-soaked pizza.

This information swirled in my brain as I climbed into my kart and buckled the seat belt. Soon we were off, and I felt a refreshing blast of air in my helmet as I tooled along the first straight-away.

At turn one, I stopped – but only for five or six seconds, just enough time to calculate the angle and plot an efficient course that would not compromise the frictional coefficient of my tires.

The rest of the field blew by me, of course. The same thing happened in the next two turns, and I eventually realized the other drivers had some intuitive ability to turn at maximum possible speed without wrecking, whereas my methodical, cautious tendencies, borne from my service as a driving instructor years ago, were not helping me at all.

By the end of the second race, I had worked up a little more courage, and managed to get through all the turns without stopping. I even opened my eyes on some of them.

During the third race, I had stopped using the brake almost entirely, realizing that simply turning the kart slows you down enough to get through the lap without reaching critical speed. This led to a lot of fish-tailing, which created even more opportunities for my competitors to point and laugh as they drove by me.

I had been told that certain turns should be taken wide and others should be taken tight, but by the time I realized that “wide” versus “tight” refers to your path on the track and not to the condition of your body's various sphincters, the third and final race was almost over.

I finished in last place for all three races, making me the object of scorn and ridicule for the rest of the bachelor party. But when I challenged everyone to a parallel parking contest later, there were no takers, thus proving that, in some respects, I am still The Man.

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