This essay is, I think rather cleverly, named 'Strictly Come Go-Karting'. ... At least I thought I was being clever till I checked with Georgia who put me firmly in my place by informing me that the originally British TV show 'Strictly Come Dancing' is in its U.S. incarnation called 'Dancing with the Stars'.
Somehow 'Go-Karting with the Stars' just wouldn't work, sounds daft and would leave me feeling decidedly un-clever. So I'm lumbered with the original, now rather foolishly incomprehensible name. And so are you.
Anyway this last weekend, in what I assume was one of those team bonding activities so beloved of American business, we all gathered together at my boss's house, way out in the Texas hinterland and then, to indulge in our particular form of bondage, we went go-kart racing.
Now go-karting is what one might call 'male pattern bonding': it's noisy, smells of gasoline, involves a lot of shaking and vibrating and excessive speed, the possibility of injury (or at least a bit of a burn on the right arm from a badly placed, air-, not to mention arm-cooled engine) and (and last and the most significant fact of all) none of the ladies present deigned to race with us. Ah! My Georgia of course got closest—she actually put on a helmet, but then (in her own words) 'chickened' at the last moment, the rest of them, as befits a more sensible sex, suddenly discovered child minding duties, recent untoward encounters with gravity or old football injuries or whatever and so regretfully declined.
Before our guys-only first go we had a lecture from what we supposed was senior member of the karting kompany's staff on exactly how to go round the course, cutting all the corners in JUST the right way at what is apparently called their 'apex'. Well I say we had a lecture, but actually a larger group (who seemed to be bonding with more flair or at least more expense and matching uniforms) had the lecture, we just happened to be lurking on the periphery, catching many of the words and squinting at a map of the course. You'd be amazed at how many times the word 'apex' can be used in a quite short talk.
As I suspect is usual with such activities, most of our time was spent waiting: go-karting being a lot like war with long periods of boredom punctuated by short periods of sheer terror with a good chance of getting a puncture. Well the drivers might get punctured, the tyres were, of course, all solid rubber. First we waited for our ten-minute go, then we waited in line to get our full-face helmets, which we immediately put on over these great mediæval-style little black hoods they'd given us: hoods that I suppose were intended to save us from the hair gel or parasites left by previous inhabitants of the helmets. Then we lined up, completely insulated in (to keep with the mediæval theme) our Grimhelms , to almost completely miss the final instructions and the number of our assigned kart mumbled to us as we passed by a young man who obviously didn't understand the concept of sound insulation.
Somehow we (by which I really mean me) found our karts. Then we struggled into them and waited till everyone was well enkarted. It was at this stage that I discovered the opportunity to slightly roast my right arm on the plastic cowling for the cleverly-placed engine. Seeing me flinch from this one of the kart-minders came over and shouted (this guy knew all about grimhelms... and sound insulation) that I should avoid the cowling as it got hot, and really really avoid those little metal nuts that held it in place. He then went down the line of karts starting them: just like a lawn mower and added lots of noise to all the other confusions (again just like a lawn mower).
Of course I should report that I was absolutely (indeed abso-bloody-lutely) lousy at it. I have this habit (developed from years of driving on roads... in cars) of slowing down for corners, or (even more importantly) to avoid other road users. This is not behaviour conducive to success in go-karting. And most of the others seemed to know it instinctively, especially the not avoiding other road users part.
One, last, interesting thing is that after I was not avoided by someone, and inadvertently left the track and bounced over the grass for a bit and my glasses were dripping off the very end of my nose and I could hardly see, I did what was by far my fastest lap. But, since I seem to have slightly burned my right arm I'd better say
Cheerio for now
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