Pinewood Derby Daze

Maybe next year my luck will change. But for now, my record stands: I’m still a miserable loser when it comes to racing Pinewood Derby cars.

My daughter’s car. My latest failure.

I have a long history of Pinewood futility. My latest failure came just last weekend when my daughter participated in a Girl Scout sponsored race. She had hopes that her little car would WHOOSH down the track as if shot out of a cannon. I would have been satisfied with a decent showing.

We didn’t get, either.

You don’t need data crunchers like Nate Silver of the New York Times’ 538 blog to figure out why. A simple glance at my Pinewood history makes it obvious to all but the most obtuse.

When I was a Cub Scout almost 40 years ago, my car didn’t even make it down the track on its first run.

The wheels popped off.

It was humiliating. But I was so successful at blocking what happened from my consciousness that, for years – decades even – it was as if it never happened.

But now that I have kids, I’m being forced to deal with it.

The first time my Pinewood past caught up with me in the present, my son was in his first year of Cub Scouting. I had banished the Derby from my mind so completely that I was shocked when his pack leaders handed out those blocks of wood with those little black plastic wheels that give me nightmares.

When we finally raced his car, not only was my stomach upset, but my mouth suddenly turned dry and I started getting the flop sweats. I must have looked like the quivering Albert Brooks in “Broadcast News” when he finally got to sit in the anchor chair only to have his nerves betray him.

The last thing I wanted was for my son to have a similar experience. But that’s exactly what I got. The only difference being that his car actually made it down the track a few times. It even won a heat or two – before the wheels popped off.

My son remained a Cub Scout for a few years. And, in each succeeding race, we got better – even to the point where we could get through the day without anything catastrophic happening.

But we’ve never known what it’s like to have a really good car – one that flies down the track as if on fire, leaving every other car in its smoky wake.

And, we still don’t.

But this time, it’s not my fault.

I didn’t put the wheels on my daughter’s car. The girls did that during one of their troop meetings. That’s probably why the wheels didn’t pop off on Girl Scout race day.

Even so, her car had trouble keeping up with the others. But that’s a victory for the status quo, right? After all, it survived the day intact.

Assuming my daughter sticks with Girl Scouts, I’ll get another shot at Pinewood glory next year.

It could be my last chance at redemption.

Because if anything goes wrong (like the wheels popping off), I doubt my kids will let me anywhere near the Pinewood cars they’ll likely have to put together for their kids one day.

Pinewood Derby
The wheels popped off.


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