Slot car

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Slot car scenery

Slot-car races are scheduled among some of the world's most beautiful terrain, and the spectators often sit transfixed with rapture-like gazes on their faces.

A slot car, simply put, is a car that has a slot. The slot keeps the car in its lane, which is a lot more than you can say for any Latino in the Bay Area. In the UK, children play with slot cars during rehabilitation from the debilitating condition known as Scalectrix.

Slot-car races used to be America's most fanatical sport, and a sink for most of its allowances. Sadly, its fandom grew up and began sinking its money into slotless cars.

Slot cars have no drivers; and any life form you can fit in the cockpit of a slot car is guaranteed not to enjoy the ride.

edit Slot-car arcades

There is historical evidence that the United States once had something called a penny arcade. During the heyday of the slot car, however, the ante had gone up to a quarter. The quarter bought you an unspecified number of minutes with electricity in your lane. The poorer kids could also rent the throttle and the car itself--and the n00bier among them advertised that fact loudly by sliding their first quarter into the slot before obtaining these other necessities--then panicking and cutting in line to get them.

Arcades were the precursor of multi-level marketing, in which proprietors were promised a well-oiled machine that would suck in quarters from happy children with minimal maintenance. They were not told about angry parents, city business licenses, nor weekends spent cleaning litter from park benches to prove that you were a good corporate citizen. They also seemed not to know that kids burst into tears and fight in the store.

The owners got back, thereby testing the now-famous process by which pints of Kraft salad dressing now contain a full 14 ounces. Because no slot-car racer ever knew exactly how many minutes he was getting....only that time flies when you're having fun.

Most arcade owners now own coin laundromats. This takes the same skill set, and attracts the same clientele, now forty years older but just as poorly dressed and wondering why it takes 12 quarters to really dry a load.

edit Strategy

Slot car throttle

That's right, Junior, just squeeze the trigger.

Driving a slot-car is done by operating a single lever on the control.

  • Fail to press it, and nothing happens.
  • Press it a little, and the car hums, and nothing happens.
  • Press it a little more, and the car starts moving forward.
  • Squeeze it all the way, and the car (being a slot car and not a nail car) jumps the track, sails off the table, crashes on the floor, and breaks in two. No partial refunds on the quarter, Junior.

Before there were throttles, slot cars were controlled by an on-off switch, and the driver controlled the speed by pulsing the button. A good driver went through dozens of cars but was very popular in bed.

Nowdays, there are no throttles, and Junior programs a computer to operate the car, slow down on curves, and cut other cars off by pre-programmed strategy. Next year, he will enlist in the Army and press buttons to send drones out against terrorists.

edit Rent or buy?

Once he realized he was a slot-car addict, Junior tackled the first philosophical problem of any businessman: whether it made sense to "save" money (meaning "waste" money more slowly) by buying his own gear.

He would get his own throttle for Christmas, then his own slot car the next Christmas. Obsessed with power, he'd get a paper route and quit when he had enough money to buy a second slot car. He would then return to the level of n00b-dom, putting quarters in two slots at the arcade before realizing that there was only one of him.

Some kids would collect enough gear to occupy all the lanes of a table at the arcade. They might decide to let you race at their table. They have now grown up to become pimps.

Children displayed their destinies in other ways as well; notably, those who spent much more time making their cars pretty than actually racing them, and those who grew attached to the odor of styrene glue.

The lawyer's son would get his own racetrack. He would invite the kids over (only the white ones who were useful to him) to race for free. And they would wreck it, and wreck his throttles, and wreck his cars, and wreck his bedroom. He'd get new friends, but had now learned, after owning everything, that it was much safer to be a renter. However, the arcade owner would scowl at him from then on. Just as the owner always scowled at his father the lawyer.

edit The future of slot cars

Hong Kong trolley

A trolley is a life-size slot car. If you refuse to grow up, you can go to Hong Kong and ride all day.

Progress marches onward, and modern kids are able to pay money to strangers for the privilege of pushing buttons, without having to travel to a slot-car arcade or talk to other kids, who smell funny. Just type Daddy's credit card number into your cell phone and you're on your way. Slot cars never let you steer, but now you can, because you can play while you drive.

Social engineers, not just in the Bay Area but those on the other coast who have daily run-ins with Massholes, have concluded that forcing people to observe lane markings would be a neat next thing to force people to do--perhaps not through slots and braided-wire brushes but with electronics.

Most, however, think outside the box and have proposed new systems of trolleys. These are life-size slot cars, with slots and brushes, and unionized conductors (with attitudes so lousy that their fathers must have owned slot-car arcades) and lots of excuses for why they can't run during a rainstorm.

edit What to do next

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