One in a Thousand

We parked in a field. The cars around us a cross section of what you see on a Pennsylvania highway, but skewed heavy towards pickup trucks. We left our pickup at home. It’s low on gas. Until last year a Sunoco station sat at the entrance to our neighborhood. When we needed gas, an eight-minute errand corrected the problem. That station closed, the rent got too high. Now we need to cross town to get gas. We drove our Hyundai instead.

Walking into the park, we trailed a group of twenty-somethings—eight or ten of them. The women wore long dresses, floral print or some other festive pattern with small Mennonite bonnets pinned to the back of their heads. The guys wore jeans and black tee-shirts with race car graphics printed on the front. The rest of the crowd resembled the people we might follow into a high school football game back when Sophie played in the marching band.

As the crowd thickened near the gate, Susan and I slipped on our masks. Eli went maskless. For the past two weeks he attended school without one. Before the first day, I think he planned to mask-up, but when he arrived, no one else wore one. He’s a sensible kid, but he’s still a kid. I remember high school. I wouldn’t have worn a mask either. On Tuesday, they’ll all wear masks, it’s a new state law. Looking through the crowd last night, no other masks were evident.

We weren’t late, but definitely not early either. The bleachers filled before we got there. Well off to one side, away from the action, we found a spot to sit. Mostly families with kids in this section. A polite crowd—no cussing, no drunks.

We could see four snack-shacks, but they all had lines thirty yards long. All of us hungry, me to the point where my blood sugar crashes, and I start to sweat. Susan waited in line for burgers and fries. I sat with Eli. Last night was his night, he deserved company in the grandstands.

The demolition derby at Buck’s Motorsports was Sophie’s idea. For Eli’s birthday gift, she scoured the internet for local for car events. He watches that stuff on You Tube. Dirt racing, monster trucks, motor cross with big jumps. Sometimes Sophie watches with him. She knew he would love a night at the track watching jalopies smash into each other.

I might have seen four or five masks all night. Easily two thousand people attended, but this isn’t the mask crowd. To be honest, I expected to catch some grief: “Democrats aren’t wanted here!” or “Go back to Philadelphia!”  That sort of thing. Nothing like that happened. The people in the stands were nice to us, probably nicer than I’d be if the one unmasked person in a thousand sat down next to us.

They broke the night into five categories. Muscle cars, compacts, modern V8s, modern V6s, and the “heavy hitters.” The heavy hitters, mostly steel cars from the fifties and sixties, served as the encore. The crowd went wild when two oversized Ford trucks locked front bumpers and spun in a circle.

My favorite heat was the V6s, the minivans and station wagons. Watching the drivers destroy cars so similar to mine gave me slightly higher confidence of walking away from a car crash. By the end of the match, the trunk/hatch area had accordioned on all the cars, pancaked right up to the back seat. The front-ends were smashed flat, the axels bent, the wheels torn, but inside the cab, everything looked fine. A couple of cars briefly burst into flames, but they were easily extinguished with a small break in the action.

I didn’t go into the night with a good feeling. I worried about the masks, aggressive fans, boredom, or simply feeling out of place. But in the end, it was a funny, relaxing night with my family. Something I wholeheartedly recommend. Sophie, away at college, couldn’t participate, but we kept her in the loop by sending her photos and updates all night. She and Eli are already planning our visit next summer.

As we drove out of the parking area at the end of the night, Susan said “It just doesn’t feel right not to crash into all these cars.” Thankfully, she left it at that.

Two masks out of two thousand people.

25 thoughts on “One in a Thousand

  1. Yep. Last night, when heading out for a social distance patio dinner, we got stuck in UT football traffic – cars and peds, the later mostly maskless. Here I n mostly self aware austin there are those with selfish hubris, even with icus full and numbers rising. Then again we can thank our alleged leaders, Abbott, Cruz, Cornyn, Patrick, Paxton et al.

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    • It was strange to be in such a big crowd. I rarely did that prepandemic. I believe that today’s high numbers are what we’ll be facing moving forward and while the pandemic is by no means over, it won’t really ever be. Time to get used to risk. I suspect I’ll be making for years.

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    • My part of Pennsylvania is washed in red. I went to Lowes to buy lumber today and I was one of a couple wearing masks. I keep reading news articles about the pandemic on it’s last legs. I just don’t see it. Wish everything here was masks & vaccine passports.

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  2. I felt that way last Sunday at the concert. To see two maskless adults with two kids that looked to be around 8-10 years old, also maskless, in a crowd of thousands and thousands of people, mostly maskless… it was scary. We had “Floor” seats which on the baseball field meant rows of 30 hard plastic folding chairs zip-tied together, with very little room between the rows.

    There was zero COVID protocol. We had to walk through a metal detector, but nothing about vaccines or masks. It was outdoors but it was packed too.

    Risk assessment. Yep. Green Day is Daughter’s favorite band and we bought the tickets in early 2019 for a scheduled 2020 show. We are both vaccinated and we both wore masks. We wanted to go and judged our risk to be low.

    Demolition Derbys are fun! We used to have an eighth mile oval track for racing and they’d run Demolition Derbies in the middle sometimes. I always wanted to drive one of the cars😂

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    • We seem to have slipped into the ‘covid is now just one of the risks of life’ mode. No one consulted me. As you know, I see bad stuff coming. Hopefully none of these new variants jump past our antibodies as a new disease.

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      • Yes, hopefully 🤞 We have done all we can, and continue to do so. I’ve had it pounded into my head, and finally accepted that I have zero control over what other people do. The anti-vax/anti-mask people will keep doing their thing. I’m not a big socializer at all, but occasionally there are things I want to do. Taking a risk assessment is unfortunately part of our present and future. But then, every day and every thing carries some risk, right?

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  3. Glad you had a good time! It’s sweet that your kids are so nice to each other. I have fond memories of demolition derbies as a kid. We had some family friends whose dad was in one, in a car painted as Barney the dinosaur. The two finalist cars were Barney and one painted as Gumby. It was so fun.

    I don’t really wear my mask outdoors anymore, even in large crowds unless it’s required. Richard got tickets to a football match next weekend and he’s sooo excited. There’ll be tons of people screaming and singing and I doubt there will be many masks… hopefully it’ll be ok, I think the majority of people here are vaccinated.

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  4. sounds like a fun nice out, and glad to hear the crowd was friendly. I wonder what hte first few days back at school will be like with the mask mandate. My college also jsut mandated the wearing of mask starting tomorrow. At least we got a couple of weeks in seeing what each other looks like…

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  5. I took Declan down to the Jersey shore to spend a couple of days with my mother-in-law this past weekend. The boardwalk was so crowded and we were the only three wearing masks. We did an escape room for fun and took them off for that, but we were alone in a room. I swear Jersey is bizarro world when it comes to masks. I’ve gone a few times in the past year and even back in the early days of things reopening they just refuse to wear them. People looked at us – SOME people looked at us but no one said anything.
    My kids have had to wear them in school and they tell me that someone is at the entrance to make sure each student walks in with a mask and is corrected if the mask is not covering the nose. The kids do not seem to mind them. I feel like some of the parents are the ones that are the most upset about them.

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    • Hmmm. I just dropped Eli off at school. I hope he remembered his mask. From an anthropological standpoint, I’m curious to see what happens over the next four months and how we deal with it. I don’t think it will go well, but I’ve been wrong before. I’m not sure people are really wearing masks anywhere now. At Lowes yesterday, we were pretty much the only ones. The staff had them on, but they were all stretched down under their chins. I don’t think I saw a staff member wearing their mask over their mouth or nose.

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  6. Here in NYC everyone is masked indoors and I’ve noticed more people wearing masks on the street again too. Of course here you can’t do any indoor activity without proof of vaccination and a mask for museums, theatre, etc. I’m very grateful, and so far our case numbers are pretty low. We’ll see what happens when school starts next week. All public employees are required to be vaccinated by October, no testing exceptions. Of course the police unions are fighting the mandate 🙄

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    • I swear, people in south central PA are simply done with the pandemic. I see almost no one wearing a mask outside of my work (where they are mandated). I’ll be interested to see if things change when the cases go up (even more). I think people have hit that stage where they are just leaving the chances of sickness and death up to fate. Given our ages, health and vaccine status, the chances of one of my family members getting seriously ill are low, but I’d feel pretty stupid to ignore precautions and then get a really bad case.

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