I was out on the deck a few nights ago on hummingbird monitoring duty when I remembered this story. It’s a gratis part of the Sticks Series, no extra charge.
When I was hanging out with the sports car crowd, there was a woman who I shall call Zoey in the mix. She had been unblessed with the statistical improbability of contracting polio when that sort of thing was way out of fashion. But Zoey was not the sort of person to let a minor problem like that slow her down. She had a left leg with a set of metal braces, and she had to sort of sling it around to walk, which gave her a bit of a drunken sailor gait, but nobody cared. The story goes that when she graduated high school, every member of her senior class limped and clunked across the stage so she would not look different.
And so it came to pass that the sports car club held a solo event at the local race track. This is a step above roaring around mall parking lots, but a lot safer than an actual race, since it’s one car at a time against the clock. But since it’s on an actual race track, you can get some serious three digit speed on the dial.
Zoey had her own car, although I shall not identify it. By the snobbish sporty car rules of the time, I would be required to denigrate and disrespect it, so I shall refrain from an accurate description. It did have a clutch and a stick, so I’ll leave it at that.
By some random selection, it was my lot to ride around the course with her on a lap, to show her the way and lend her the questionable value of my expertise. So I strapped in and off we went.
We started off on the front straightaway, about a three quarter mile section leading into turn one, a long right hand sweeper followed by turn two, a much tighter left turn. I wasn’t paying much attention until we were most of the way down the straight, when she went for fifth gear at the fastest part of the course.
She did not have enough strength in her braced left leg to work the clutch, so she pushed it down with her left hand on her left knee. This allowed her to work the shifter with her right hand.
Those of you with acute mathematical skills may have noticed a slight problem with this scenario.
I certainly noticed the problem, and I’m glad Zoey was too busy driving to notice the terrified look on my ashen face.
But it worked out OK. Her distinctive style meant that she only shifted up or down on straight sections, setting up for the next turn in advance, which is generally good technique anyway. Her healthy right foot, planted on the loud pedal, did just fine.
I was impressed and appreciative, but one lap was enough. I did not volunteer for any more instruction.
I know when I’m outclassed.