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The Psychology Of Sideshows – What’s The Allure?


Perhaps because a Walnut Creek woman is on life support today after being shot while attending one of the impromptu automotive street carnivals known as a “sideshow” in Oakland over the weekend, we wanted to see if anyone out there could tell us just what is so attractive about time spent watching cars drifting around a captive urban intersection.

We’re sure people will tell us about the mad driving skills displayed, the mechanical aptitude needed to turn a front-lawn junker into a rolling party complete with under-lit chassis and tire rims costing as much as some Third World families make in their lifetime. Some of you might tell us it’s a party, old-timer, with music – and guns.

We don’t like to dance around the issues here so we’ll just come right out and ask participants why they and apparently more than a few other people are willing to go out of their way to participate in or witness one of these street festivals, even though people who do seem to turn up beaten, robbed, run over or dead there. We can only surmise that it is the illicit nature of these events, the commandeering of a public street or, more recently, whole sections of highway, that provides the buzz these people seem to seek.

Or do you actually like inhaling rubber and gasoline fumes, listening to the peel of squealing tires, deafening hyphy rap music or lots of people in Raiders t-shirts saying: “Damn, dog, that’s so dope!” over and over again? What is it, really?

We don’t know the name of the 25-year-old woman shot in the head during a sideshow at 106th Avenue and MacArthur Saturday evening. We understand she had returned to her former hometown and was watching cars muscle around an intersection when shots were fired after a passing party bus tried to get through the area and she was hit, along with two others. We’d like to ask the wounded why they were there that night, and what about an automotive game of Ring-Around-The-Daisy is so darn attractive that they’d be willing to risk obvious dangers to participate, but no one is talking.

Anyone? Help me out here. I want to understand.

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