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I wanna drive the Zamboni

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For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blakesebring and at his blog www.tailingthekomets.com.

Reporter tries out machine before making bid at auction

Friday, June 21, 2013 - 5:47 am

Well, Judge, the story starts like this…

When I read that the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department was auctioning off equipment from McMillen Park Ice Arena, I knew exactly what I wanted to bid on. Like the song says, "I wanna drive the Zamboni!"

There are three of them up for bid June 28, so of course I wanted the newest one, a 2000 model with about 4,500 hours of usage. That means it's only resurfaced a complete ice surface about 6,027 times. (Hey, I do research on what I'm buying!) It's practically brand new for a middle-aged vehicle, and believe me, I am intimately acquainted with middle age.

First, I had to see what I was bidding on, so I asked Parks Department Director of Leisure Services Perry Ehresman to show me around, and it's not really his fault that he turned his head at the wrong time. It was a natural reaction when the rock I threw landed in a far dark corner. While Ehresman tried to figure out where the sound came from, probably fearing some large critter or maybe thinking about lunch, I did what every prospective owner does with a new vehicle – I took it for a test drive.

Let me tell you, this baby can really hum. Slamming the pedal to the floor, I pushed that fine-tuned engine up to 9.7 miles an hour. Look out, Dario Franchitti! I might have gotten even more speed out of it if I hadn't made my break across the McMillen Park grass. A Zamboni does not do well as a mower, though it does cut the time in half with the wide swath.

I picked up momentum when I hit the golf course, steered into the tailwind and leaned forward. I looked like Motley Crue's drummer trying to push a little more oomph out of my ride. Without the hair, of course. Or the hot lady.

Figuring I might need a few tips, I pulled out my cellphone to call expert Zamboni drivers Paul Hollabaugh and Jeff Alcox from Memorial Coliseum.

"Hypothetically, Paul, what's the best way to gain some extra speed on a Zamboni?"

Hollabaugh said a Zamboni is not built for speed, so I hung up and called Alcox. Spoilsport!

Alcox didn't have any tips, either, and right then I needed more speed: I'd been spotted by a police cruiser that pulled up beside me.

"What are you doing?" the exasperated officer asked.

"Trying to figure out how I'll mark this down on my expense report," I said. Oh, and working on a new marketing campaign.

I'm thinking I can make some money off this by selling advertising for the sides. Everyone in the city will be staring at it and expressing awe when I'm driving through town. I figure all those hand gestures and exclamations will make this baby a huge talking point. Yes, sir, I agree, my Zamboni is indeed No. 1!

At the very least, anyone unfortunate enough to get caught behind it will have plenty of time to look at the advertising.

I also think I could rent the machine out to clean up homemade rinks in backyards, ponds or on cul-de-sacs where kids will be holding games during the winter. I might have to start driving to the locations a few days before appointment times, though.

It would also be perfect for parades, kids' birthday parties and to pop the lid so Icy D. Eagle can emerge as a surprise. A Zamboni could also be used to walk a hoard of dogs, but you'd need extra-long leashes. It could be the ultimate pooper scooper.

Somehow, the police officer wasn't buying it. No, I wanted to buy it.

It didn't help my case when he left his car to walk alongside the Zamboni. I might have gotten away if I had cut back more often on the side streets. Unfortunately, that would have meant going against the wind.

One thing about driving such a unique machine is that it doesn't blend in very well with the rest of traffic unless you manage to draft with a fire truck. There's an idea! The Zamboni could become the official mascot of the fire department! That old spotted dog has nothing on a Zamboni.

But then the police officer got tired of chasing me. It didn't help that I tried to hide in a drive-through and got stuck.

Anyway, that's my story, Judge. I tried calling Hollabaugh to raise bail, but he just hung up.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Blake Sebring at bsebring@news-sentinel.com .