Leslie’s Advent Calendar – December 9

December 9 – The Sanchez

Having read the title of today’s posting, you’ll either know exactly what I’m talking about or have no idea whatsoever. If I told you I saw a row of three Sanchezes whilst walking this morning that wouldn’t really help you to find out more. Neither would the information that I was woken up by the sound of a Sanchez starting up be of assistance in leading you to understand what this object with a Hispanic-sounding name actually is. Seeing as the vast majority of posts here are to do with vehicles, you might well guess that much, but beyond that it’s pretty much guesswork.

I was hoping to end the opening paragraph with some smarmy comment about how typing the words ‘sanchez’ and ‘vehicle’ into Google Images still wouldn’t produce any meaningful clues, but before writing such a thing I decided it was best to put my confident assertion to the test. Feeling pretty chuffed with myself for writing such a cryptic couple of paragraphs, I hit the return button and was faced with a picture of exactly what I had been writing about.

If you try this soon after this entry has been posted, you may well get the same result. Go on, try it. I’ll wait.

What did you see? If it was a screenshot of Grand Theft Auto portraying a man on a motorcycle, the game is up. If not, I’m sorry for wasting your time. For ‘Sanchez’ is the name given to one of the motorbikes available to the player in the Grand Theft Auto series of computer games, specifically the dirt bike. Anyone who’s ever spent a little time playing GTA will use the term ‘Sanchez’ to describe any dirt or trials bikes they may see on the road in real life, even though there is actually no two-wheeled motorised vehicle in the non- digital world that goes by this name.

This seeping of names out of the virtual realm and into real life happens because the Sanchez is so distinctive. As you walk the streets of Vice City, San Andreas or Liberty City, chances are you’ll hear the Sanchez before you see it. No matter whether you’re in the process of stealing a taxi, beating up a pedestrian or engaging in a grenade-
lobbing match with a friendly neighbourhood organised crime racket, it’s only a matter of time before your activities are interrupted by a loud nasal groaning that could be coming from anywhere between three blocks and three miles away.

This can prove to be more than a little irritating if you decide you want to steal one of these motorbikes. Normally, if you can’t see a vehicle you need in GTA then you remain blissfully unaware of the possibility that one could be cruising just out of your field of vision, or equally seconds away from running you over. With the Sanchez, however, you are constantly baited with the knowledge that the game has spawned one of these vehicles somewhere in the vicinity but won’t tell you where it is. I have literally thrown myself in front of trains, hurled myself off bridges and ditched helicopters into rivers in a do-or-die attempt to get hold of a Sanchez. At other times, by contrast, the game nearly crashes as it attempts to produce the sounds of nine or ten of these machines zipping along the road in succession – never at a time when you need one though.

It’s the off-road capability of these machines that makes them so handy. Sanchezes can drive up mountains, negotiate stairs and ride over police cars without a hint of complaint, making them the ideal form of transport for the virtual crimewave instigator. There are very few machines as it is in GTA that allow you to ride into a sixth-floor office, uzi in hand, drop off a bomb and then exit by accelerating out through the window without blowing up when you hit the ground, but that isn’t even testing the capabilities of this awesome bike. One day I might try to complete every mission in GTA using nothing but Sanchezes just to prove a point.

This funny little dirt bike, based on a real-life trials machine, has seen its computer game name become the generic term for any of its real life counterparts. It’s because of this slippage from the virtual world to the real world, coupled with the number of happy gamers produced as a result of Sanchez-based success, that I’ve decided to pay tribute to the line of Sanchezes – sorry, dirt bikes – that I saw this morning. I could even forgive the guy whose bike woke me up.

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