Chapter Fifteen – Teachable Moments

 

As much as I wanted to definitively declare that smaller is absolutely better, at this point the hypothesis still needed more testing—mostly because I was finding that smaller can also be a whole lot more work. And I soon found out that, on occasion, it can also be downright painful.

When I was growing up, my dad introduced me to two of his passions: sports and engines. Guess which one stuck. To what is I’m sure his eternal disappointment, my knowledge of the inner workings of a car never progressed much beyond the stray do-it-yourself oil change. So naturally the world of automotive sports never really beckoned. Until the IGTS Tour, that is. And to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed my first NASCAR race; so much so that I’m sure I’ll return for another.

So I was pumped when it came time to head to the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona for the 51st annual NHRA Winternationals—the first Full Throttle Series event of the year. Although there had been cars on the drag strip for the previous couple of days, this was the actual “opening day” of the season, with heats taking place for both Funny Cars and Top Fuel Dragsters.

So as I entered the tunnel underneath the grandstands and heard the PA system boom, “…and the 2011 NHRA season is just about ready to start!” I was like an overeager Labrador. I could not believe what great timing I had. And look at that—an empty spot on the rail! I had loved being on the rail for my NASCAR race. I picked up my pace.

“This is so cool!” I virtually giggled as I approached the rail. “This is gonna be…what the hell was that?!”

You’ve probably seen the iconic Maxell print ad, where a guy is sitting in an armchair, pinned against the back cushion, with hair and scarf flying horizontally behind him. He’s being blown away by the Maxell recording that emanates from the speaker in front of him, which is obviously a good thing. I’m here to tell you, though, that there is a yang to the pleasurable yin conjured up by that image.

Any veteran drag-racing fans who happened to glimpse my indoctrination to their sport were no doubt amused by it. In the split second that it took two Funny Cars at top speed to pass by me, I was literally blown back from the rail, staggering as I fully experienced the concept of “shock and awe.” I distinctly remember seriously wondering if my eardrums were about to explode.

I can’t even describe the noise, because none of the usual standards for loud, screeching, or otherwise horrifically annoying sounds quite compare. Not airplanes taking off. Not a group of jackhammers at work. Not a rock band at full volume with bad speakers. Not even an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

The noise of a full NASCAR field of cars racing by is impressive, to be sure, but it has a higher-pitched sound that I’m more familiar with. I had spent an entire race at trackside and never felt the overwhelming urge to seek earplugs or to otherwise cover my ears. That was more “fun loud.” This new noise…was not.

A uniquely deep-throated rumble that shakes you to your core, it redefines the word “ominous”—like the gates of hell were in the process of erupting up through the ground. I had a fleeting thought that this was my retribution for sneaking a BlackBerry into a professional golf tournament.

I quickly abandoned all pride and covered my ears tightly for each and every heat that took place for the rest of the afternoon. And fortunately my doctor assures me that my resting heart rate will eventually return to normal. But it was a teachable moment: for those of you contemplating your own sports walkabout…be careful out there.

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