There's something that fundamentally changes - physically changes - in growing hoons. It happens before they even get behind the wheel. Their eyesight actually changes, and I'll explain how.
Whether on a bike, or on a three-wheeler, a young enthusiast begins to see potential hoonage in every landscape. A tightening turn on a path through a park, a tall hill with a long runout, a little ridge that would make a perfect jump. Before ever touching a steering wheel, a young hoon already has every corner in the neighborhood mapped out.
While we were gawking at some drunk, peabrained grandparents endangering their grandkid, Turbolence88 brought up a story of his own, where it didn't take drunk grandparents to cause some mayhem on tiny wheels.
When I was about six I was lucky enough to have a Power Wheels Jeep. My second most vivid memory of that hunk of plastic shit was continually going to Toys R' Us with my dad to buy replacement 6volt batteries and lots of spare fuses (which the thing seemed to eat for breakfast). Sometimes the fuse wouldn't even last more than a few moments, sending my father into a whirl of expletives that gave me a head start on offensive slang for years to come.
But the real fun happened right as we were about to get rid of it. I was nine and barely able to fit in the thing anymore. I sat on the rear decklid, like adults do when they throw Briggs and Stratton drivetrains into these things, and putted around one last time with my friend from a few doors down. It was a long, gradual downhill to his place so we figured it would pick up speed as it went. But the resistance from the motor kept the thing at a walking pace no matter what we did. So, we did what any Capri-Sun fueled set of featherbrained kids looking for a cheap thrill without parental supervision would do: Took out the battery and ripped most of the engine out of the thing with a hammer my dad left in the garage.
Armed with everything I could find from my skateboarding gear: Helmet, elbow pads, knee pads, wrist guards, and cheap plastic Transformers sunglasses from McDonalds, one solid push from the top of the hill sent me on my way. My simple joy from breaking the electric speed barrier quickly dissolved into a wild adrenaline rush as the plastic wheels screamed and vibrated for traction at over 10 mph. I leaned forward and held on as speeds broke what felt like 20. The one soft corner in the street approached and I went for the turn.
Jalops, let it be known that this was my first ever experience with understeer. I fought for control, not so much driving the thing as I was giving it a suggestion as to which way it should point. It still went pretty much straight, and was headed directly for my neighbor's brand-new 535i. I jumped off that thing and rolled into a nearby drainage ditch, then got to witness the horror of a 40-lb hunk of $400 plastic careen into the side of a $33,000 sports sedan at normal car speeds. Panicked, my buddy collected me and we sprung to action before our butts were toast.
My friend may have away over a decade ago, to this day my dad wants to thank the guy who "stole" the Power Wheels so he didn't have to pay $20 to get rid of it at the dump, and my neighbor since traded up to a newer car (but still wishing he caught the vandal in the act). But when my friend's grandparents finally move out of their house at the end of the street, someone is going to open up that unused bulkhead and find a relic from a time where kids could do stupid shit and get away with it.
I wonder if that Jeep's still in one piece. I've got a lawnmower engine in need of a new home.
Photo Credit: Northern Soul