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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Rat Racing

With the baseball season finally under way, we’re all abuzz over at Bugs & Cranks. If you’ve missed me here in the past few days, then you can rejoice (or recoil, if you like) in the knowledge that there’s a Braves-flavored twofer waiting for you over B&C way:

The Rotation Carousel Spins Early — a view of the just-before-opening-day state of the Braves’ starting staff.

and(!):

TiVo Takeaways: Textbook Braves — It’s not live. It’s not Memorex. But it is a Braves win on Opening Day. Huzzah!

And now back to the non-baseball sort of affairs. Carry on.


Sometimes I might go just a tad too far in making life ‘interesting’.

One of my favorite weekday games is ‘How Short Is My Commute?‘ Within the bounds of reason, most laws, and marginal sanity, how quickly can I get to or from work? The timer starts when I start the ignition, and the race ends when I turn off the engine. In between, it’s all about shortcuts, spouting filth at long red lights, and not getting stuck behind slow stupid jerks. It’s a pretty spectacular game — like GTA without the body count, or Spy Hunter without the cool soundtrack.

“It’s hard enough cutting off some squinty-eyed old grandma on an onramp during rush hour; try doing it while adding three minutes and forty-one seconds to the six minutes and change the last two songs lasted.”

Only, my version does have a cool soundtrack. My car clock doesn’t have a second hand, so I keep track of time elapsed using the CD counter. I even burned a disc of all five-minute songs, to make the math easier during the drive. It’s hard enough cutting off some squinty-eyed old grandma on an onramp during rush hour; try doing it while adding three minutes and forty-one seconds to the six minutes and change the last two songs lasted. It might help if I’d paid for the steering wheel abacus option on the car. Or stayed awake in math class, one or the other.

Meanwhile, the new CD comes in handy. Before that, if I found a song that ended after exactly a certain number of minutes, I’d play it over and over so I could concentrate on the game. My current record — set during a ten pm drive home after a late night at the office — is two complete versions of Spybreak! by the Propellerheads, plus an extra ‘dun-dun-dun-de-dun-dah-dun-dun‘ or two. Or fourteen minutes and twenty seconds, if you’re scoring at home.

(If it helps, Spybreak! is the music playing during the ‘lobby scene’ in the original Matrix movie. It’s no coincidence that it helps to get home faster if you imagine heavily armed groups of people shooting at you from all directions.

See, this is the really useful sort of advice they don’t teach you in drivers’ education class. I hope you people are taking notes.)

Of course, I don’t get to play the game every day. It’s rare that I visit the office on weekends, for instance, so I have to find alternative entertainment — like ‘How Many Cheerios Will Fit Up My Nose?‘ or ‘Can I Retrieve the Sunday Paper Without the Neighbors Seeing Me Naked?‘ As you can see, weekends aren’t quite so enjoyable for me as for most other people. Also, they’re quite a bit draftier.

Sadly, I can’t play the game as often as I’d like on weekdays, either. Many evenings, I don’t travel straight home from work — and the game can’t be played with just any old destination. It might be impressive to reach the gym in ten minutes, or the hardware store in twenty, or Rhode Island in under an hour, but how many chances do I get? How realistic is it? And why the hell do I want to be in any of those places to begin with, much less be there faster? When I race home, I’m travelling toward beer. And when I race to the office, I’m at least on my way to earning money, with which to buy more beer. No game is worth playing without incentive.

The biggest weekday interruption to the game is taking my mutt to ‘doggy day care’. Yes, I know how it sounds — and yes, I know I can never fully hide my shame. Still, better that the pooch should earn the occasional treat and have plenty of crotches to sniff than to sit at home eating our couch all day. That’s got to get boring after a while, even for a tickturd terrier.

What’s excruciating, though, is that the first half of the commute to deliver the dog is the same as the trip to work. And some days when I have the furball in tow, the traffic gods get their twisted rocks off by smiling on me. Every light turns green, every shortcut works, and every blue-haired glacial old fart stays the hell in the slow lane where they belong. I’ve made record time — up to a point.

But I can’t take the dog to the office. Some crotches just aren’t meant to be sniffed. And I work near a lot of them. Believe me.

So I’ve got to turn away from near-certain records and racing immortality, and drop off the drooler before schlepping the rest of the way to the office. I know I could beat my best — coming in under two Spybreak!s, or two fivers and a Jesus or a Gun, is the holy grail — but I don’t often get the chance. Someday, I’m just going to go for it. The boss will find me and the dog in the parking garage, running around like idiots and scarfing Milkbones to celebrate. If we beat fourteen minutes together, the mutt can sniff whoever’s crotch she wants.

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2 Responses to “Rat Racing”

  1. skrood says:

    I swear there are traffic light techies holding a remote with cameras panning for me down the stretch…and as soon as I see a light rotation from red to green I’m thinking, “Maybe I’ll make it THIS time!” Not a chance. I bet these same techies head to the bar every night and laugh about it over beer. The bastages.

  2. Kerry says:

    i always find that if i’m in a hurry, i hit every single red light, every time. but if i’m hoping for a red light, say to pick up the coffee i just dropped, or blow my nose or something, every light is green and there’s no place to pull over.

    the traffic gods are cruel gods, to be sure.

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