Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Pinewood Derby Soapbox

I hate Cub Scouts
I hate Cub Scouts
I hate Cub Scouts
I hate Cub Scouts
I want to be clear.
Today’s subject is Pinewood Derby – or “what would a car made by a 6-10 year old really look like?”
The conversation at my house, for three years, has gone something like this (condensed):
“You know, the race is two weeks away, you need to start thinking about a design for your car.”
“I know.”
“Would you like some help?”
“I don’t know.”
“Sam, we have a week until the race, have you picked out a design yet?”
“We’re running out of time.”
“What about this one?”
“I don’t know.”
“Or this one?”
“I don’t know - I guess so.”
Of course the shapes and designs are spawned and made for BOY SCOUTS with (assumedly) some dexterity and ability to use tools that no sane parent would put in the hands of someone under 10 years of age. I negotiate a design, cut it out, and promptly break off one corner while working with it. Glued back together, the next day:
“OK, here’s the shape, how do you want to paint it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Have you thought about it”
“I guess so. Not really.”
“What about red, maybe with a stripe?”
He does pick out a blue stripe and decides to put it down the middle of the car. Painting proceeds, this year he’s actually capable of squeezing the spray paint nozzle, and does a fine job of painting the car. Dad kinda messes up the finish, late in the night before the weigh-in (more on that, later) in the toaster oven trying to hurry it along. One of the wheels in the kit provided is goofed up, so Dad pulls the wheels and axles off last year’s car, sparing the time needed to de-burr and polish them (actually nails, but they are the only sanctioned axles allowed). There are pre-cut grooves in the bottom of the car provided, and three of these break while Sam carefully nails them into place. Hot Glue Gun time. Sam picks his Lego driver, and weights are screwed and glued into place. We make our way to the weigh-in with a couple of hours to spare. The car gets weighed, we modify to reach total weight ( a cup holder for the driver), passes inspection with a small dispute over length, and is quarantined until race time (preventing last-minute, unauthorized modifications by eager kids – right). I’m feelin’ all warm and fuzzy about the whole thing, oh, yeah.

Two weeks of rain delay. I get a call on a Tuesday, where I’m asked (and agree) to meet up and assist with the track set-up at 0730 Saturday morning. Turns out, we go to Disneyland on Friday, bedtime is approximately 0230, Saturday morning. Oh joy, unspeakable and full of glory (for all of you Nazarenes out there). One of my tasks is to take a tube of graphite, and lubricate all of the axles and wheels for the 26 cars in the impound tubs – one axle at a time. I’m working my way through them, when I spot a car with genuine AXLES, not the nails that are sanctioned to hold the wheels in place. I show this to the other fathers there, and move on. In my later absence, the car is allowed to run anyway. What a great message to teach the leaders of tomorrow.
I go back to the house to retrieve Sam at 0850, thinking the races start at 0930. We arrive at 0920 to find them well underway, having begun at 0900. Sam’s car has been run once for him, and he misses his only chance to see it win a race. The races proceed, and a few of the cars actually bear witness that a kid might have worked on one or two of them. Most do not. Sam loses his next two races, actually to two cars that finished in the top 5. He’s not happy about it, but the good news is that he’s not really that unhappy about it. I’m fortunately not one of the Dads whose kid got beaten by the illegal car, and I’m too tired to really make a stink about it (here, this issue’s not dead with me yet). Not unexpectedly, it’s me and the Den leader left to take the track apart and put it in his truck at the end. We head home to lunch and a nap, at least for me.
Oh, and the car that won? It came in second, last year. Ran the same car this year, same paint, same decals. At least that poor sucker has to spend another whole day this month at the Council races, it should make up for the time he didn’t spend putting one together. Ironies abound. Congratulations.
Call me a whiner. Go ahead. Finished?
This is an ill-conceived activity for these young boys. I am fully behind something that Sam can make/do/participate in with my help, but this is a ridiculous example of transposing something from a successful program to an unsuccessful one. The rules and restrictions are obviously there to promote fairness, but are also recognition that this organization committed to character-building has some real characters in it. To then allow what is clearly cheating to occur just boggles my mind. I clearly don’t see the point. It’s been 3 years of frustration for me; this year’s event left me tired, disillusioned, and pretty much unwilling to do it again. Of course, if Sam stays with Scouting, I only have 9 more cars to make.Make that 3, perhaps none. I’m growing fonder of this one, every day.