Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When you see a tyrannosaurus, run.

Saturday, within hours of the ribbon cutting, Dustin and I were scanning our tickets at the Perot Museum's opening day. I had wondered, as we passed children banging on outdoor xylophones, children crawling and sprawling and leapfrogging an army of lime-green meter-high frog sculptures emerging from the courtyard gravel in rows, if adults came here without children. I saw no definitive proof until I overheard an adult voice at the robotics station, what turned out to be one of three men huddled together saying to another in his tribe, "The problem is you're used to thinking in centimeters and not in inches!" Perhaps it was. Or, if his robot vehicle was like ours at docking station #2, the problem was it couldn't turn right.

If it weren't for the children, we would have built a bird avatar and taken it for a spin in the full-body flight simulator. We would have donned lab coats and stained the cells from our cheeks and spooled DNA. But it's hard to stand in line with people half your height and not feel like they should go first. It's worse than taking candy from a baby, it's taking away valuable educational opportunities. Or so it feels. Unless the line is moving fast enoughif the line is moving fast enough, like the one to race avatars in Sports Hall, I am happy to make an exception. Which is how I came to race a tyrannosaurus in the thirty meter dash.

If I'd been looking to win, I'd have taken a shot against the gymnast or the famous running back. If I'd wanted to win the crowd, everyone loves the moment when the cheetah has already disappeared and its competitor has only taken three steps. But I was in it for glory. The tyrannosaurs won handily, coming in at 2 seconds something, compared to my finish of 3 seconds something. Neither of us were surprised. Sprinters, the exhibition text had informed me, have up to 80% fast twitch fibers, endurance athletes have up to 80% slow twitch. A high school track coach once remarked that the only fast twitch fibers I had were between my ears, and he wasn't wrong. My defeat on the tiny racetrack was as predictable as my last-place finishes as a junior varsity hurdler, but that's fine. What's sad is that there's no simulator stretched around a longer track, no ten-foot-tall simulator wrapped around the gym where you'd keep running even after the 60mph cheetah had to stop after 600m. Over an hour you'd run down any number of game animals, leaving them panting until they stood stock still. Never mind the celebrities.

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