Almost four years ago to the day, one of my friends died.
We weren’t besties close by any stretch of the imagination, but we had spent some time together through internet forum meet-ups and obscure, late night parts encounters at my house in which he facetiously yet fervently probed the reason why I didn’t believe in God. He was a multifaceted person with a remarkable joie de vivre and an unwavering willingness and passion to learn. That was a rarity, especially in our perpetually lazy-and-broke enthusiast collective.
His name was Bishnu Dinanauth. He was 25 years old. “He didn’t deserve to die” is a particularly empty, self-serving phrase that does more to soothe the person saying it than offer any sort of wisdom or reflection on the event, so at the risk of sounding crass and callous, I’ll call the situation as it was: a tragic, easily-avoidable series of bad decisions. Street racing is what killed him.
Let me get a few things clear - I’m not coming to you as an ivory-tower, know-nothing needlessly-wordy automotive journalist, even though I may fit some of that criteria. I’m not coming to you as an I-was-there-once-too armchair quarterback, even though some of that may apply. I am a car lover - hopeless, addicted and unashamed, in every way that you know yourself to be and I’m here to save you from yourself.
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Let me talk about Bishnu, On the face of it, he was a run-of-the-mill car enthusiast, with the occasional brand bias, strong opinions on engine performance upgrades and an encyclopedic knowledge of spec sheet details.
He also had an extraordinary ability to build cars that had no business being as fast as they were, which fueled an endorphin-filled mindset that helped ensure he never saw his 26th birthday.
On July 10th, 2011, during a light-hearted cruise with some other high horsepower cars around the boroughs of New York, Bishnu lined up with a similarly-minded young driver and mashed the gas pedal as far as it could go, enabling the full rush that only a properly-running car with a massive amount of boost can deliver.
Details are sketchy at best as to what transpired next, but both cars, at some point, lost control and careened off the road. The driver of the opposing car survived his accident. Bishnu didn’t get the same stroke of luck and was killed either from the sheer overwhelming force of the crash or the resulting fire, which patrons of the cruise frantically but unsuccessfully tried to put out with water bottles. He died in the early afternoon daylight, with an audience of shocked onlookers willing but unable to change his fate.
Bishnu raced his turbocharged S14 Nissan 240SX on public streets and highways not because he was extremely competitive, though he certainly was. I think he did it because his brain, high on the constant dopamine drip, didn’t have any good reason to tell him to stop. Historically, humans are risk takers, doing first and asking questions later — a notion only aided by the fact that the brain has trouble valuing theoretical consequences to problems it hasn’t yet faced, not to mention when there’s a quantifiable and pleasurable upside.
In principle, it would be the same as having unprotected sex because it felt good, without having experienced or completely understood the possible consequences of such a risky action. For some with a cautious nature, the temporary satisfaction isn’t worth a lifetime of regret, but for most, the temptation can and will be an involuntary participant in their own downfall.
Knowing this, I think car enthusiasts should approach street racing in a bit of a different manner - not by honoring the senselessly fallen by saying harmful platitudes like “He died doing what he loved” or regurgitating Paul Walker’s now-ubiquitous “If one day the speed kills me, don’t cry because I was smiling.”
That’s utter bullshit. Paul didn’t want to die, he didn’t have a death wish and he left behind a family, a wildly successful movie career, and millions of loyal fans. Bishnu barely started his adult life and would’ve avoided the fateful race like the plague had he realized the full weight of his actions beforehand.
It’s no one’s lifelong dream to pass away upside down and on fire in an impossibly forceful car wreck, so giving the tragic situation a softer tone only solidifies the fact that no one will learn a damn thing and the cycle is doomed to repeat ad nauseam. If you’re considering racing your car on the street, please go forward with the knowledge that you’re a slave to your brain’s pleasure centers that don’t give two warm dog turds if there’s a chance that you might slam into a family of four or careen off a cliff.
A person’s ability to convince themselves “I got this” comes much faster than “No, the fuck I don’t,” so if we approach the issue as a biological one that can only be changed as a matter of brain chemistry, one must only wait until time and experience override your lizard brain’s dopamine receptors and tell you to slow the hell down.
For those reasons, I want you to wait. Not forever, but at least until you reach a track — which is probably much closer than you think — because if you seek out this dangerous behavior, your brain will surely push you to certain death with no understanding of the potential damage that awaits as it’s not built to say “No”.
I want you to wait until you have something that’s not worth losing. I want you to wait until your life isn’t simply a collection of possibilities. I want you to wait because my friend Bishnu didn’t.
I’m saying this as a car lover, sympathizer, and friend - you’re more than two somber dates on a decal embossed on a respectful car enthusiast’s back window and you’re certainly more than a ten second race. Don’t think — just wait. It’ll get better, I promise.
(Photo Credit: DanLopez. on Flickr, One Ton Photography)
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes and makes videos about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world’s cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he’s the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn’t feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.
You can also follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He won’t mind.