I found myself out and about on the streets of Fort Collins Friday night. As I waited at a stoplight, singing along with the folksy Roy Clark and thanking God and Greyhound some unnamed woman was gone, a sporty compact car pulled up to the light.
The driver began revving his engine, a modern-day invitation to a duel. Of course, much like physical confrontations in grade school, my challenger was much better equipped for battle and was all but guaranteed victory; preying on the weak is nothing new, though. I knew my Ford Taurus was no match for the WRX, but I looked over at the driver anyhow. I wanted to race, to feel the surge of speed and get that Cro-Magnon feeling of success by beating another man at his own game.
The driver was young, and immediately brought me back to my days in high school – when gas was $1.19 a gallon, after 9/11 and before the invasion of Iraq. Back when I could afford to drive as much as I wanted and street-race whichever hapless driver dare challenge me and the Green Hornet. Back when global warming was not part of the citizens’ dialogue. Back when we made fun of Bush because we universally agreed he was a moron, when his approval ratings were halfway decent and he spent more time on vacation than as president. The good days.
The Taurus is my first car, purchased with my own hard-earned dollars. It has never been much of a racer, but it has enough seat belts to carry myself and five friends. Or, failing that, myself and five empty seats. And I can haul a bicycle with the trunk lid closed.
Complaints abound for a young man stuck in a full-size sedan, but I heard women love them. It shows stability and sensibility. Most importantly, the car is unassuming. The engine’s 145 horsepower feels more like 146 and will take the car up to 110 MPH, but no one ever suspects so.
As the light turned green, the WRX pulled away hard and fast. Concerned with my gas mileage, I accelerated normally, chuckling at the driver’s youthful nature. I hope his self-worth was vindicated by challenging someone in a mechanically inferior vehicle.
To my surprise, just two stoplights later, two high schoolers in an old Honda Civic pulled beside me and revved the engine. I quickly sized them up; they thought they could take the Green Hornet, and I knew they were wrong. I revved the Taurus and accepted their challenge.
The light turned green, and we were off, like two greyhounds chasing some false prize. Relying on my trusty automatic transmission, all I had to do was keep my foot firmly on the gas. The Civic was equipped with a manual, which proved a liability when the driver went to shift into second but missed the gear and ended up in neutral. High schoolers.
I made it home shortly after midnight, and was really quite surprised I had been challenged to street race during my short trip. I do not regularly go out so late, so perhaps this is common for a Friday night on College Avenue. But I felt good about it. In a world where a man who watches foreign films and reads non-fiction is laughed at by society at large, where a man who backs down from a challenge is just a big sissy… It’s nice to know there are still some realms in which I can be competitive. And that knowledge and ability is only going to get more important as I grow older.
Ryan Speaker is a senior history major. His column appears every Wednesday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.