Years ago a friend got me into rally racing. I was only ever involved as a fan, despite his plans to take my VW Golf GT and race it. In the end he wound up with my car, but I moved away before either of us had the chance to stick a roll cage in it, much less race.
Regardless, it stuck with me. To this day my two favorite motorsports are autocross and rally. I don’t keep up with either one to the degree I could tell you who’s on top in any given year, but I enjoy watching them.
Earlier this week I hit Youtube and went through some rally compilations. These things tend to be mostly crashes, which really don’t interest me all that much, but you can find compilations that also highlight the incredibly skillful driving that makes rally what it is.
And then I found one that highlighted another side of rally that I hadn’t really thought about before.
Rally racing is a good metaphor for life.
“But the road is slick!”
“Drift the turn and keep going.”
“But my bumper just ripped off!”
“Your car just got lighter. Keep going.”
“But I just clipped a telephone pole!”
“Your car’s still running, right? Keep going!”
“I just flipped upside-down!”
“Your fans will flip you right-side-up! KEEP GOING!”
The first segment in the video summed it up beautifully. The driver hits a pothole in the road, rolls the car over on its side, and still manages to get it back on four wheels. His comment to his co-driver? “No problem!” To which his co-driver replies, “I’m OK. Go!”
We’ve been working almost every day on a project at work to prepare for the arrival of a new instrument. It has involved tearing down retired instruments, grinding down mounting studs, drilling concrete, installing new mounting studs, new plumbing, new wiring, painting, crane lifts, high work, you name it. It’s been a massive effort on the part of almost everyone I work with.
Somewhere in there several weeks ago I developed coprolalia: uncontrolled swearing. This is the tic the media would have you believe is the defining characteristic of Tourette’s Syndrome, when in reality only a relatively small percentage of people with TS ever exhibit that symptom – somewhere around 10%. But as I’ve pointed out in the past, tics come and tics go. There’s no telling what tic will show up next. In my case, it was taking one of my complex vocals and adding “Fuckers!” to the end of it.
Like most of my tics, it came as a complete surprise the first time. I wasn’t even particularly upset when it hit. I’d just stopped off in a lab to grab a tool and let out some tics in the relative privacy of the room. After my normal Hup! Hup! Growl combo, that word came out. I remember thinking, “Where did that come from?” But by the end of the day it had come out several more times, and I knew. Fuckers…
Of all the tics associated with TS, coprolalia and copopraxia (rude gestures) are, from a social standpoint, some of the roughest. It’s easy to feel isolated when people are staring at you because you’re jerking your arms around or growling, but it’s a whole lot worse when they’re covering their kids’ ears and glaring at you like you’re some sort of demon for what’s coming out of your mouth. I’ve managed to make a life for myself in which there’s little room for people to react to my arm jerking or growling, but I couldn’t predict what would happen with the addition of my latest tic.
What happened was that life went on. In the weeks since the tic first showed up we drilled new holes in the floor, installed the new mounting studs for the new instrument, painted the floor, installed clean room curtains, mats, and a garb station. We serviced other instruments, pumped cameras, and did all the other things we need to do to keep the place running. I made coffee for my family in the morning, ate breakfast, went to work, came home afterward, made dinner, read to the kids, and went to bed. And I ticced. Oh how I ticced.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
I’d hit a pothole. It threw me for a loop. But I got all four wheels back on the road and got the car pointed in the right direction. “No problem. I’m OK. Go!”