Last Laugh: Social Converging

1 March 2021 By Gavin Rothenburger
remote control cars and drinks
Illustration by John Devolle

Gavin Rothenburger has been the author of Dockwalk’s humor column Last Laugh since 2008. For questions, concerns, or for general badmouthing, you can write to me at

Yachties are known as very social people. This has never made any sense to me because of how constantly we’re in contact with others all day, every day, in a monotonous string of eternities that makes peace and quiet seem like something a masochist invented for an unpublishable fairy tale.

But mostly I don’t understand it because if I had my way, I’d be that grumpy hermit living alone at the edge of the woods who frightens little children but who, for reasons unknown, is hypnotically attractive to pretty women in their late twenties. Yes. If it were up to me, I’d be that guy.

Tragically, for reasons you’d understand if meeting me when the lighting was any better than what’s found in a mine 12 stories underground, I’m not that guy. So, like everyone else, socialize I do. But how to do it safely? We could just ignore guidelines, go back to standing too close to suddenly uncomfortable servers, pass a bottle around, and resume sharing bongwater, sushi, and popcorn (in that order). But disease doctors tell us this is a bad idea and that making servers uncomfortable will just have to wait for better times.

There’s the Internet of course. But this is a temporary stand-in for real contact much like that doll with the shocked look on her face is a substitute for your captain’s weekly trip to wherever it is he goes while making sure not to be followed. No. The Internet is an invaluable stopgap but it’s no substitute for hugging friends, meeting friends, or dancing with a room full of people who suddenly have to go find their friends.

I’ve been brainstorming on this problem and have come up with an idea that, though not perfect, could perhaps help us feel closer. What sprang to mind is that we should all purchase remote-controlled cars, stand at a safe distance in a parking lot, and have too much to drink. Easy. Done. Our cars would be equipped with little Skype cameras and speakers so that they could come close and interact, sometimes physically, while we could actually see the person driving it with our own eyes, though from far enough away that you couldn’t actually tell if they’d bothered with a shower.

What sprang to mind is that we should all purchase remote control cars, stand at a safe distance in a parking lot, and have too much to drink.

This would be the semi-remote equivalent of going to a bar. Live music could be piped in and little trailers affixed to the vehicles so they could be safely loaded by a bartender and then spilled all over itself because remote-controlled cars can stagger and weave just as well as their operators.

The cars would, of course, be a strong indication of personality types. We’d all know that the large, big-wheeled truck erratically bumping into any other vehicle that looked remotely male and then threatening them with a rear-ender would belong to the oversized well of testosterone sitting on a half-empty case of Budweiser trying to nail a look of vulnerable menace. The sleek pink sports car is of course piloted by a girl named Trixie who’s sitting under an umbrella and having Chardonnay thanklessly hauled to her by a string of guys driving remote-controlled Camrys. The occasional drone would show up and make everybody a little uncomfortable as it just hovers awkwardly and stares, the poor nerd in control knowing full well that the least physical interaction with anything else would end in paralysis and a nervous, shattering accident, or a precipitous flight to safety.

New friends could be made, old friendships restored. People, just as they always have, could talk just a little too loudly about Dale’s car looking a little tired or the middle-aged sweaty dude showing up in the Porsche that Trixie’s car broke seven federal laws to speed over and park next to. And should you be someone in the mood for a hookup, romance could flourish as two cars circle, drawing ever closer in an age-old courtship dance that could lead to…who knows? If you really hit it off, maybe caution’s thrown to the wind and a happy couple passionately walks six feet apart, their ardor growing as they frantically dive into the testing booth, have their brains reamed sideways by a cheaply made swab, go home, and wait patiently for the results while quarantining for 14 days until, well…

Okay. It’s maybe not the best idea in the world, but it could be a start. At very least, it’s something different and, hey, if it really degrades, there are worse things in life than a smash-up derby. There’s hope on the horizon that this will soon be coming to an end and in the meantime, we need to stay safe, be smart, let Trixie buy her own wine, and drive with caution. With luck, this ride is almost over and now more than ever we need to take care not to get rundown by the big wheel.

This article originally ran in the March 2021 issue of Dockwalk.


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