This is What Failure Smells Like

Ever since the first gear-headed lunatic caveman strapped a log to some roughly round boulders and then jumped on to run down a hill, everyone else watching has been keen to see the project fail.

That’s most of the fun of mechanical stuff, especially when it involves high speeds: It’s possible that the whole thing will fall apart in a spectacular jumble of chaos and carnage.

And when it does happen, being able to witness the catastrophe is almost an honor. And we can’t look away.

When I was about 10 I had a fantastic ramp jumping mishap. The ramp was actually built with a cinderblock on end, which caused the plywood to flip as soon as I hit it at speed on my 1979 road/dirt hybrid. So I sailed over the ape hangers and flew, super hero-like, until landing in the road and sliding several feet.

From a spectator’s standpoint, it must have been wonderful to behold.

“Don’t panic, but I think I just broke both my wrists,” I said to my mom as I limped through the front door a few minutes later.”

Of course, she panicked. But it all worked out.

And today, like always, notwithstanding a poorly placed cinderblock, even the best-laid plans can simply fall apart, sending the driver and the machine into a spiral of failure, which may or may not lead to a hospital trip.

If iPhones had been around back when I was kid jumping rams in the suburbs, no doubt the crash would have been recorded. These days, of course, we generally catch it all on video, letting us all settle in for a nice session of failure watching. Enjoy.