By Aaron Waldron
There’s no question that Facebook has revitalized how RC racers communicate, and how brands and tracks market to their consumers, and before that Internet forums provided a digital water cooler for drivers to interact, but RC racing has always been a very social activity. These relatively inexpensive toys allow a wide variety of people to compete against one another on a level playing field. Anyone who picks up a radio and walks onto the drivers’ stand instantly has something in common with thousands of others across the country and around the world. RC racing bridges gaps in age, race, birthplace, physical capability and, for the most part, economic status. The more talented driver with the best-prepared vehicle will most likely win, but the process of learning those skills unites all of us.
When I was nine years old, I noticed the jacket of a man standing in the same restroom line at a Major League Baseball game - and after my father and I introduced ourselves, we learned that he was the owner of a major RC company. Now that the Internet makes it so much easier to recognize faces, these kinds of real-life run-ins are a lot more common. Twenty years after that (admittedly kind of embarrassing) encounter, I’ve had the opportunity to meet fellow RC enthusiasts in all sorts of venues that aren’t the racetrack: airports, restaurants, even grocery stores.
When my fiancée and I moved across the country last year, we meandered our way from California to Maine in order to see family and friends across the country — and one of the places we stayed was the home of a fellow RC racer. I’ve watched RC racers I’ve known since I was a young child get married, with other RC racers in their bridal parties. I’ve watched as the grandchildren of the experienced racers I met when I first started going to racetracks are now rising through the ranks.
Stick around any group with whom you share a common interest, and you’re likely to forge friendships. For the vast majority of those to ever wheel an RC car, these interactions will likely be the most valuable trophies taken from RC — and that’s why it’s so difficult to watch members of the same small-knit community tear each other apart over silly, meaningless squabbles on social media. You don’t agree on something? Fine. But I don’t understand insulting people, or their family members, beliefs, political stances, or life choices because they like a different driver than you do, or race a different brand car, or have a different take on some news story that happened in this little fish bowl fantasy world we all enjoy. We're all tangled together in a complex and intricate web that's smaller, and more fragile, than some want to acknowledge. Next time you're frustrated, or are confronted by someone or something or some idea you don't like, resist the urge to grab a blow torch and set the web ablaze whether it’s online or in person. You never know the kind of connections you may be missing, or the ones you'll stop from ever happening.