February 29, 2008

Many people have courage they never knew about because courage comes in many forms. Most don’t recognize it for what it is. Sticking your head in a lion’s mouth is not courage, its stupidity. Not sticking your head in a lion’s mouth is smart. Not sticking your head in a lion’s mouth when your friends goaded you to is courage. Any act that makes you stand up to yourself, others or not do something you instinctively want to do, is courage.
Sound silly? Not really. The other day I was coming down a really fun street here in town. I know it well and know how fast I can take the corners. I drive it at least three times a week for the last year. Now a bit of background for you. I used to race cars. Not Formula One or Indy, but cars. Take an old beater and put it on the track. Remove all unnecessary weight. Y’know, seats, spare tire, Radiator. I have always prided myself on being able to find the limits of the vehicle I was driving and staying within them. I could also exploit the strengths and use some of the cars’ more interesting characteristics. I had an old Jeep eagle that would wobble on all four wheels as it slid to the outside of a turn. Neither end would ever break free it would just wobble. So I once came into an S-bend and threw the car sideways and wobbled my way through it. It gave me the needed second and a half to be ahead at the end of the straight to enter the slow part of the course in front. And anyone who has raced with me knows I am all but impossible to pass on a series of corners.
I have been driving my current vehicle for over a year now. That’s longer than I have ever driven a vehicle. Its underpowered, ugly and a really awful blue. But I can drive the wheels off of it because it is predictable. If there is one quality I love in a vehicle it is predictability. I know what it is going to do no matter what I do. It’s a great relationship. Combine that with an inherit stability and it’s a lot of fun to drive. I have overtaken many a more muscled car with my puny vehicle. I love winning from a disadvantage.
So the other day I was coming to my fun road when a more muscled car pulled up alongside. He obviously wanted to race. I knew I could take him. His particular vehicle had a solid one piece rear axle. Meaning that the tightest corner at the end he would have to break his end free to negotiate it properly at a reasonable speed. That meant when he spun it I wanted to be ahead of him. It would be tricky. He has more power on would most likely take me in the straightaway. I could push and be ahead of him but he might push too. So we went into the first corner and he was pushing. I let up off the gas.
I consider that courage because it went against what I call my natural instinct. The instinct to race to prove to him what I already knew. I am a better driver and might beat him in an inferior car. But it might have killed us both. He called me a coward, so what. I called the ambulance when his back end came free and slammed into the light stand.
It’s a fine line between courage and foolishness. I win.

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