Friday, October 13, 2017

Misspent Youth #3: Race to the Bottom

Though my favorite toys as a child were action figures I did have my share of cars. Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels primarily. They were relatively cheap, so I’m sure they were Mom’s default when I wanted something. But there were a lot of them. I had the Hot Wheels track with the loop and the jump ramp that I would stretch from the kitchen table out into the living room. I don’t have any of these left and have no idea what happened to them.

There was one toy car that stands out more because I do remember what happened to it. It wasn’t one of the small cars, but a larger one called an SSP Racer. SSP stood for Super Sonic Power. Each car had a large wheel in the center of its body. You would insert the ‟t-stick” and then pull, making the wheel spin and create sound, then let it go.

Mine was called the Laker Special. It was bright orange and I thought it was the coolest model they made. The others all looked like cars. The Laker Special looked like a Sci Fi rocket car. When it raced along the floor it looked like it was floating slightly above the ground. I have often thought that Luke’s landspeeder in Star Wars was influenced by this.

Living in the country I didn’t have lot of places where I could really take advantage of the full Super Sonic Power. The space in my house wasn’t really big enough for it to play out it’s full potential. There were no sidewalks, and even with very little traffic back then playing in the road was a no-no. But, I took it outside and made the best of it.

One day after a hard rain I was in a nearby wooded lot. Crews from the telephone company had been working in the area, digging holes to bury the phone lines that up to that point had been stretched between poles. It was an overall upgrade to the system at the time. There was a large hole in the ground, filled with muddy water. That’s when inspiration hit. I yanked the t-stick and put the car in the water. Just as I thought, the spinning wheel revved and sprayed filthy water everywhere, soaking me in an instant.

Pretty cool.

The Laker Special immediately sank out of sight into the brown mud. The hole was a lot deeper than I thought it would be. I sank my arm into it, but couldn’t reach the bottom. I got a shovel from our garage and poked around with it, but no matter what I did I couldn’t find my racer. I didn’t tell my Mom because I think I was afraid of getting in trouble for losing this slightly more expensive toy. Within a day or two the work crews were back and filled in the hole. Unlike the happy ending of my previous story about Geronimo, the Laker Special was lost forever.

To this day I can go to that spot. Somewhere, six feet or so under the ground, like an ancient artifact of the past, my SSP sleeps.

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