Monday, 16 May 2016

Real life collides with a game

For some, when they play a driving/racing game, they either develop the urge to buy a vehicle featured in the game, or actually follow through on it. Here, I experienced the opposite.

One of the recent vehicles I unlocked in Forza 6 Apex was the 1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z28. Instantly, I was transported in time to my younger days....

Welcome to the mid-90's and I was working a minimum wage job as a dishwasher at a family owned restaurant. I had saved up a little and was in the market for a new car. Well, new to me, anyways.

Enter the senior (no, not old, but she was the longest employed food servers there) waitress named Jenelle. She just happened to have a car she thought I might be interested in. After work one day, I went up to her place and spotted a black Camaro in her driveway. Considering it was almost twenty years old at the time, it was in surprisingly good shape and the paint was even holding a shine, in the right lighting conditions.

It took a boost to get it started. The 305 cid small block V8 ran, without any major issues, like smoke pouring out back, killing off a local bug population. The body was mostly rust free, with just slight wear around the rear wheel wells. Tires were in decent shape, over 80% tread at the time, if I recall right....

The interior was in serviceable shape, no tears in the seats and the carpet was relatively clean. The best feature was somewhere along the way, somebody had fitted in a Dixie flag as the headliner. I like what I saw and heard and bought it, $500 was the agreed price.

One night, after spending many hours in a coffee shop and just talking about everything and nothing (that was the thing to do, back then), myself, two friends and one of theirs jumped into my old Camaro and we went about cruising. With music blasting from the stereo, a budget minded Learjet tape deck, we drove around with no real destination in mind (That was how most of us were, back then,It didn't matter if you were young or old, male or female, brown, black, white or green, if you hung out with us, you were just one of the guys).

From my rear-view mirror, headlights were flashing behind us and one of my friends from the back seat screamed out "Go, go, go!" I had no idea what was going on, but the tone of voice used and the look of absolute fear on my buddies faces, I put my foot down. That Camaro impressed me.

Some would have called it reckless driving, but I knew exactly what I was doing. First, with the way my passengers were seated in the car, I had nearly perfect weight distribution. Second, I had the car a few months at this point, so I spent time getting a feel for it, experimenting on empty streets and back roads. If there was a time to be ready, that was the moment.

The chase couldn't have lasted more than 30 minutes. That late night chase reached speeds up to 70 mph on, thankfully, mostly empty city streets. Without bragging too hard, it was a scene from an action movie of the era. However, I decided enough was enough and brought it to an end in front of a closed confectionery store.

Just like another scene from a movie, as soon as I stepped out of the car, the cops showed up in force and surrounded us (the force was about three to four cars, six to eight members). My discussion went back and forth with one of the cops about reckless driving, listening to passengers and having an under age female in the car. The last one took me by shock. I couldn't help myself and ask if they drove around with people in their cars when they were my age. I remember his response was, "Not with underage girls." That statement alone conjured up images that could be related to black vans with the words "Free Candy" being spray-painted on the side from more modern times. Being very angry at what they were insinuating, after everything I just went through, I asked, "Did you card them?"

I sold the car a few months after that. I had loaned it to a few roommates while I was at work for one of the local taxi companies and things started to happen to it. The driver's door developed a sudden sag from the hinges, it was becoming slower to respond when I put my foot down, stuff like that. I didn't have the time nor desire to put any serious money into it, so I just let it go for what I paid for it.

The last time I saw the Camaro was about a year later. It was sitting at a townhouse complex, somebody decided to attempt a hood-scoop on it. They weren't doing such a good job at that and the rest of the car was looking partly tired, partly ruined, by other things the new owners were doing wrong.

Then, it just vanished.

Fast-forward to the here and now. I have only owned the one Camaro, to date, but I remember that night with clarity as I just lived through that moment. The very feel of how it handled in the corners, the stiffness and fade from the brakes, the sudden burst of acceleration from the gas. The sounds, the smells, all of it.

So, imagine my memory of that, while playing the 1970 Camaro Z28 in the virtual environment presented by Forza 6 Apex.

Yeah, I knew what I was doing then and now.

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