Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Busy Weekend, Part I / Part Sad

I've mentioned before that Muschie and I are den leaders for a scout troop. A modern rite that boy scouts participate in is the Pinewood Derby. Three days ago our troop and other troops in the immediate area participated. Our assignment was to give the best design awards. This was a perfect fit for us, as we aren't good with our hands (well, except for my micro and her knitting) and don't know anything about the derby, and consider ourselves more aestheticists than we would mechanics.

The day starts off on a stressful note, because I neglect to hurriedly purchase some cookies for the boys' consumption (I said there would be 1,000 cookies already and thus we didn't need to spend the money, but the real reason is that I had a rare opportunity to get this done and so I made us barely on time). I am dreading the occasion, and Muschie is enthused, though perhaps bludgeoned by my sucky attitude.

We arrive exactly on time to a church gym containing a table with drinks and 1,000 cookies, some parents, a lot of boys, a few little sisters, and a guy on a microphone, obviously not a parent, threatening bloody murder on any boy scout, parent, or boy scout's little sister who dares to mess with his track that is over 18-feet long and has an electronic sensor that detects who finishes 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. He also will “charge five dollars” for each time someone touches it.

We curve around the back of the gym so Muschie takes a look at the cars to get a look at all of them before they start racing. A lady in charge tells me to go into the kitchen to get the important documents (the awards). I discover bags of mini-sized 100 Grands, and one them is open. I take four of them. Muschie gets angry when she sees me munching.

This thing was 2 hours. It was terribly and oddly competitive. It's been that way for so long in some circles that Pinewood Derby competitiveness is now even clichéd. Children and their parents (mainly dads) rise in triumph, slump in defeat, and wring their hands in agony.

Speaking of dads—I've learned there are two types of dads, essentially. One is the kind that is aggravated, and will break the rules and put the car on the track when his son should. He is urgent in his step, and it is desirable to avoid him because you don’t know what he could do if he gets set off.

The other kind of dad will completely support his son's design-concept, help as much as possible while letting his soon do as much as possible, and not nay-say if he knows the design isn't the most feasible in the engineered sense. We noticed some dads were simply happy that their sons did so much work on the cars in the first place. I salute those dads.

At the end, we distributed design awards; I got to use the microphone and call out "Best carving—David Noobolski!" and other such nonsense. A few were pleased, but most knew that it was inferior to what really mattered—winning. Except that we don't want to go next year. There are always plenty of third and fourth-places.

One car we saw was yellowy, with little brown specks on it, and I thought it looked like an banana with little remaining shelf-life. We gave it “Most Unique Design”. On its first race, it only went halfway down the track. The disappointment on the face of the boy who made it could make an army sergeant cry. He had to race four or five more times, the way everyone else did. As with all the cars, the results were the same.

That’s the hardest thing—watching these kids be reinforced by notions of victory and loss when it’s a place that they should be happy to get “Most Original Design.” Some are happy with such awards, but for our banana-loving friend, he knew what was most important—winning.

He wasn’t the only one who was crestfallen.

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Blogger ambrosia ananas said...

Am liking the new blog.

And I hear you. The level of competiveness in kids' activities these days is just sad.

3:34 PM  
Blogger Etelmik said...

Why, thank you, miss.

Look forward to seeing y'all in about a week.

4:14 PM  

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