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Here’s a Crash Course on Go-Kart Driving

I always figured there was a reason for those pesky height requirements at amusement parks, but I never really understood why until the summer of 2011. Every time I went to Family First Sports Park, which was my second home, I measured myself to see if I was finally tall enough to drive the go-karts. Don’t get me wrong, I was a tall 10-year-old, but I just barely missed the mark on the 48 inch height requirement. I was tired of the messily painted slashes on the brick pillar mocking me every time I stretched as tall as I could in an attempt to pass the height test.

Being a clever and slightly deceptive little girl, I finally decided one day to tell the ride operator that my dad was driving. I grinned from ear to ear when he let me into the garage, and I slid into the smooth, leather driver’s seat as my dad climbed in next to me. I could easily reach the pedals if I slid down just far enough so that I could no longer see over the steering wheel.

I’d never driven a go-kart before, so it took me awhile to get used to the pedals. Unfortunately, I was the lead go-kart, so I held up the entire line of idling engines behind me. I pushed down on the creaky pedal with all of my might. The cart had a mind of its own, and it decided to travel swiftly into the first wall, though I tried to turn the wheel at the last possible second to avoid the wreck. My dad sat laughing next to me as I failed to get away from the wall while the others whizzed by us. He finally helped me to get back on track … literally.

After somewhat getting the hang of it, I made it almost a quarter of a lap before crashing again. This time, I took two other go-karts with me. The overly-competitive drivers were furious; they were driving as though this was the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

One of the workers sauntered over in his dingy cowboy boots and his T-shirt that was three sizes too small. After sorting out our carts like some tangled Christmas lights, I sped off and tried to adjust my body, so I could see the road. The only problem with that was that I couldn’t reach the pedals.

I navigated the next turn worse than the three blind mice trying to escape the butcher’s wife. By this time, the workers had had enough. The worker who had helped untangle our cars angrily walked out to the middle of the track and stood on the other side of the bumpers, while the other cowered under the garage like a turtle in its shell. (Smart decision on both of their parts.)

        “YOU! Over here, NOW!” he pointed and hollered at me, though I did not hear him over the noisy karts until my dad tapped my shoulder and turned my attention to the boy.

        This wasn’t the best idea—I wasn’t looking at the road again—and I crashed into yet another bumper along the wall. I tried to work my way over to the impatient worker, but the lead in my feet was not exactly on my side that day. I sped by him like James Bond in a high-speed chase not once, not even twice, but three times.

Red steam was pouring out of his ears as I finally managed to pull the cart over near him (with my dad’s help, of course). Just as I was approaching him, the pedals suddenly switched positions under my feet. I pressed what I thought was the brake, and sped into the barrier with full force, only narrowly missing the worker.

        “Bring it into the garage. Try not to hit anything else on your way in.” He glared and pointed at the garage where the rest of the drivers were impatiently sitting in the carts, waiting to exit.

        This marked the end of my go-kart career, or at least for the time-being. My dad took the steering wheel and guided the cart effortlessly around the track and into the garage while still allowing me to push the pedals. Once we entered the garage, we were given nothing but dirty looks … and an expulsion from the park for the remainder of the summer.

I learned an important lesson that day: I was most likely going to fail my driver’s test if my dad was the one who taught me how to drive.

About Lilly Hanko

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