Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Grand Schlep Auto

George Carlin used to say that there were things people just didn’t admit. People will readily admit to being bad at math, or clumsy, but nobody admitted they had a lousy sense of humour, or were a bad driver. In the spirit of the late Mr. Carlin, may I say:

I’m a bad driver.

I remember mentally preparing myself for that first G2 test I took years ago. After reading and re-reading the point sheet, I realized that the initial score was so high, and the demerits you received were so low, you’d have to literally break every rule in the book to get low enough to fail. The only other way was an automatic fail, which you got if you broke the law.E asy, I thought. I mean, it’s not like I was going to drive through any reds, right?

Humility, thy name is stale flashing yellow arrow.

Forget the old meanings. It is as if they never were.

This was the start of an illustrious career of not driving. As a person who is interested in projecting the fragile illusion of confidence in lieu of the real thing, I make a point of habit to avoid doing things I kind of fail at. To my mind, this means I spend more time doing things I am awesome at, which means there is more awesome in this world, less fail, and you all can sleep soundly at night with the knowledge that nobody is going to come careering through a stale flashing yellow arrow and ruin your Thursday afternoon.

Unfortunately for me, the things I am good at do not always coincide with the things I am negative good at. This leads to exchanges like this:

“Okay, so I’ve had a few. Can you take my car and drive it a block?”

“Um. Maybe. Or I could bake up some nice cannoli. I’m awesome at baking cannoli”

“Yeah, um. The car needs to be moved so people can get out.”

“I know. I’m working on it. Some nice cannoli will sober you right up.”

You laugh, but it will.

If I am bad at driving, let it be said that I am triple-bad at driving in videogames. This is because my own driving is fuelled by adrenaline – the sincere, earnest physiological terror of ruining anyone’s Thursday afternoon. Driving in videogames takes my already subpar motor skills and removes the white-knuckle terror of not wanting to die for realsies. And as we all know, when you remove the white-knuckle terror, you remove the fun.

So I pitched an article to The Escapist on Grand Theft Auto 4, which was accepted. Now, I had watched my fair share of Grand Theft Auto 4. I had read my fair share about Grand Theft Auto 4, and I had even played my fair share of Grand Theft Auto 4. What I hadn’t done was play my fair share of Grand Theft Auto 4 Without Exploding In Like Ten Seconds.

The last Grand Theft Auto game I exhibited a mastery over was Grand Theft Auto 2, known colloquially as “The Last Grand Theft Auto They Made Before They Started Making The Good Ones.” It’s this little rinky-dink top down games, where the cars look like Hot Wheels and the people look like little ants. It’s basically Pac-Man, which is good for me, because I am awesome at Pac-Man. This is a helpful yardstick. For years, I had been gauging my effectiveness at things based solely on how much they were, or were not like Pac-Man.

Oh, hello photorealistic replica of New York City. You’re nothing like Pac-Man.

Borrowing King’s trusty Xbox360, I sat down over the last few days to play through the game proper. It was a mixed bag. While the game is supposed to be rife with moral and ethical tensions concerning the possibility of free will in a corrupt world, my playthrough was rife with the moral and ethical tensions of whether the place I needed to go was in walking distance.

Shooting missions were no sweat. Whack a guy? I can whack a guy. Whack like ten guys? I can swing that. But if one of those guys makes it out the back, and hops a car, then all bets are off. It usually plays out like this:

I run to another car and hop in.

I notice ten better cars I could have stolen, but it’s TOO LATE NOW ISN’T IT.

I follow in hot pursuit.

By hot, I clearly mean “Hit enough things until I am on fire.”

Bail out. Roll. Get hit a little bit by another car.

Steal that car. Serves it right. Crash that car into a bike.

Oh yeah! Bikes!

Get out. Steal the bike.

Drive for two seconds before colliding with the slightest thing and flying like a million feet.

Oh yeah. Bikes.

Steal another car. Third time is clearly a charm.

All right, now my third car is on fire. WHAT is the DEAL with this FIRE?

But wait, isn’t that the guy I’m chasing?

Go up on a rail. Bail out. Burning car flips in a terrible arc, landing on the guy I’m chasing. It explodes. His car explodes. He explodes. EVERYTHING EXPLODES.


Am I alive? Is anyone alive? Can you even call this “living?”

Every cop ever arrives, drawn to the all-consuming plume of fire of my serial failure.

Cheese it.

The upside of all this is that I constantly feel like James Bond. Like an inept, kind-of-bad-at-his-job James Bond. So, nothing like James Bond at all, I guess. More like Maxwell Smart. All this has given me insight into all those action movie guys, walking away calmly while an enormous explosion erupts behind them. Sure, they look cool. Sure, they seem composed.

Really, they’re thinking “The apartment’s only seven blocks away, and my car’s on fire. I guess I’ll walk.”

- Rook


  1. Hey, just read all your stuff from the Escapist, you're a brilliant writer! I've just submitted a few pitches there myself, but you're pieces make me look like a forum posting weaboo in comparison, haha!

    Do you write anywhere else besides here and the Escapist?

  2. Hey, thanks! Glad you enjoy my stuff. Other than The Escapist, and the stillier stuff I do over here, it's mostly piecemeal: I write plays, short film scrips, essays, but it all ends up here.

    Of course, a year ago I had a gig writing spam for wrinkle-cream adverts. So if you ever get an email that asks "Do you have a problem selecting a wrinkle cream producs for men? I have tried the other wrinkle cream producuts for men, and let me tell you..." why, that's just me saying hello.

    Good luck with your pitches. And keep pitching! I spent a year sending out near misses until I got a hit.

    It's like pitching in baseball: Even if you've allowd a batter to walk, you can still keep throwing baseballs at him until he is too injured to even move.

    Or.. wait. Is that baseball, or Base Wars? I confuse the two.

  3. Thanks, really funny. Great in fact. I have had a similar feeling in GTA. Do you tweet? I'm going to forget to come back and find more

  4. nice blog


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