When I planned to see a demolition derby with my friend Cindy, I told another friend that “it should be fun!” It wasn’t. Or at least much of it wasn’t. This is the first “something new” I think I’ve done that I will not want to do again. It was surreal, raw, and much more violent and dangerous than I thought. It felt like Mad Max come to life, with real people’s lives at risk.
A demolition derby, fyi, is where beat-up old junk cars are put in an arena, and the drivers hit each other to disable (read “crush”) the other cars, until only one car can still run. Glass is removed from the windows. Doors are welded shut, and the drivers wear helmets. The one rule in the arena is that drivers cannot hit the driver side at the door. I have seen demolition derbies on TV, and they had looked interesting, fun, and relatively safe – aka, giant bumper cars. This was not bumper cars.
There were five heats: 1) 6 cylinder cars; 2) 4 cylinder; 3) 8 cylinder; 4) 4 cylinder; and 5) modified.
In the first two heats, the hits were strong – but not unexpected, … and then the first car was turned on its side. Then another car was fully overturned. Others caught on fire. A fuel tank ruptured and gasoline was spilled. One driver deliberate rammed a car at the driver’s door, but was only given a warning. I spent most of the first heat with my hands over my mouth, worried about each hit, whether someone was hurt. After all, the one real time I have been hit (rear-ended) in a car, I wound up with whiplash and, according to my work colleagues, was “significantly spacy” for 24 hours. But in this event, nobody was hurt, or at least the burly, macho drivers wouldn’t say so. However, I think the organizers also thought it was becoming too violent, because after Heat 2 or 3, they narrowed the size of the arena by moving the junker cars lining it inwards, probably to keep the speed down.
And then, I began to get used to the violence. As the attendants didn’t seem worried about smoke billowing, and sparks flying, I began to worry less. It was still surreal, but I began to root for certain drivers. (Especially the one who had “Happy Birthday Libby” written on the side of his car.)
Finally, the last heat consisted of modified cars – really heavy duty cars where the drivers had welded steel plates to the frame, and had powered-up the engines incredibly. Yes, almost Mad Max style. These cars were more protected from rolling over. Then the competition became more a matter of car design, and driver skill and determination, instead of just crush or be crushed. So I actually kindof enjoyed the last bout.
Pictures below, including other pictures from the Montgomery County Fair:
Though interesting – and quite the experience, I wouldn’t go see this again. The only plus side for the evening was hanging out with my friend Cindy and some other folks (all also in shock) and that my abs got a workout from all the jumping up to see what happened, then sitting back down again.
I hate to say it, but perhaps it would have made a difference if the guys were wirier and more in shape? (And had longer hair – don’t guys know that women like longer hair on guys, or a well-cut beard?). Or maybe if there had been some women drivers? After all, I have seen rodeos, and those are extremely dangerous – yet the participants, men and women, are so physically in shape and extremely skilled that you feel very proud of them. Here, one didn’t need to be skilled physically – men had invested muscle in their cars. I was just happy that everyone survived. ;-).
Interesting on how I could like really like demolition derbies, but really like roller derbies. Anyway – It was bizarre!