Periscope Depth

big two-hearted racetrack

This past Thursday I went to a corporate event at F1 Boston in Braintree. The sales team had been meeting there all day; Managed Services was joining them for dinner, drinks, and kart racing, not in that order. We drove on F1′s “City Course”: an uphill slope, two ninety degree turns, a downhill hairpin, and another two ninety degree turns with a straight shot to finish. Over thirty of us were racing, so we were divvied up into qualifying heats.

To drive an F1 kart, you have to forget half of what you know about driving. The karts lack power steering, so they respond only to vigorous turns of the wheel, but they respond quickly. It’s easy to oversteer, especially if you accelerate into a turn, slamming into walls or spinning out. Add to this the nine other racers on the course with you, each with their own agenda. You not only have to drive with skill; you need the killer instinct to pass as well.

There’s something thrilling about whipping down a straightaway at thirty miles an hour, mere inches off the ground. There’s also the joy of a job well done, applying brake and gas in just the right rhythm to squeal around a turn on the inside. But then you realize you haven’t seen another driver for the last two minutes. They’re in a knot at the opposite end of the track, jockeying for position, and you’re fighting your hardest just to keep the kart under control. Then the race ends and you stagger out of the kart, forearms shaking from exertion, and wrestle your too-small helmet off. The other racers are slapping each other on the back, exchanging friendly taunts, or recounting stories of near misses and sudden reversals. It’s as if they were in one race and you, another. And there’s still another qualifier to go, and then the final bracket. You consider shrugging out of your jumpsuit and going upstairs for a drink, but you know you have one more run in you.

I didn’t expect to win any trophies. But I got better with each race, and now I can say it’s something I’ve done.

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