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Monday, June 13, 2011

Fighting Sound and Aaron vs. The Catch Fence

Last Saturday I was once again at a USAC race. The race was a regional Ford Focus midget event at Columbus Motor Speedway and was my 2nd event ever flagging full size midget cars. All the anxiety I had from flagging my first event the previous week was gone and I felt sure in my actions. While this story isn't about how I felt flagging I would like to say that the degree of difficulty was a little bit higher thanks to a certain someone (you know who you are!) forgetting a certain item.

As I said, the flagging side of the night isn't the main story here, but rather I was reminded of just how much fight I have to put up. What does that mean? The USAC cars weren't the only cars on the program that night so I kept walking from the flagstand back to the USAC trailer. As I walked through the pits I passed Late Models, Modifieds, and Street Stock cars. This doesn't sound like a big deal, but would you believe me if I told you I hate hate HATE loud noises?

This is something I don't think I have covered much, if at all, for during my first 359 blog posts. So yes, believe it or not, I hate loud noises. "Well then," you may say, "how do you flag races?" I would respond by saying that it is something I love so much that I am able to, somehow, push aside every thought that my brain is telling me to "run away from the sound" and I just do it. Anywhere else I almost always will not have the inner strength to put up with the noise.

So why were the loud noises bad? At the time as I was walking through the pits I didn't have the ear protecting headsets and it seemed I was a signal for people to start up their cars as I walked through. An idling motor isn't that bad, but when the engines are revved in place and the noise shoots up, then down, then up, then down, well, that's when my body wants nothing more than to run away as fast as possible.

But running isn't an option. Despite my bodies yearning for noise freedom, I had to walk like nothing happened. I looked around at other people and marveled at the fact that no one else appeared to be affected by noise. I tried to put on my normal face but inside I was racing faster than the engines that were revving up around me. The noise of those engines produces a wave that one can feel and the ground shakes and I felt it all. I've always thought it isn't the volume of the noise, but rather the frequency and when I can feel the noise that's when it is the worse.

The noise may have been bad, and the adrenaline was flowing, but I walked to the USAC trailer as composed as I could. I do know my movements at the trailer were more awkward than normal because I was recovering from the noise. This is something I wish everyone could see though. Socially, in that situation, I was unsure, awkward, and ill at ease. However, each time I went back to flag all those moments of awkwardness were gone. The transformation internally is something I wish you could feel because I could write 10,000 words about it and still not give you the faintest of pictures of what it feels like. I'm sure visibly the difference is there too and as I said, I wish everyone could see it.

Of course I survived the night and when I am in the flagstand the noise is not heard or felt at all as I am so concentrated on the cars and the track. If there is a noise such as something dragging on the car I will hear that, but in terms of the noise having any detrimental effect there is none.

Now I do have to share one more story from the night. In one of the heat races there was a spin so I put the track under yellow and started waving my yellow flag. The cars coming towards me weren't slowing so I put some extra movement in my wave. I went up and down and then back up with the yellow and as I came back down it didn't. I was confused, but my flag stopped moving.

I looked up wondering what happened to my yellow flag and I saw that it was somehow tangled in the catch fence that was above my head. I thought nothing of it as I thought it would be a simple fix so I gave a gentle tug downward. The gentle tug did nothing and the flag was very much tangled. My next course of action was to try and use the tip of my flag to untangle it, but the flag was wrapped around the fence. I knew this wasn't good.

The track cleanup was just about complete and I started pulling harder and harder on my yellow flag. I have two more yellow flags in my flag bag and I didn't want to hold up the show because this was my 2nd event and I did not want to be remembered as the flagman who couldn't get the flag out of the fence. With that being the case I decided I was going to pull my hardest and if the flag ripped so be it. I pulled, and I pulled, and eventually I jumped a little to get more leverage as I came down and on that jump the flag was freed. I was hoping no one saw my little panic show, but just as I had that thought I heard a round of applause coming from the crowd behind me. I turned halfway towards them and gave a half-sized raise of the hand and saw that some of the crowd was standing was clapping. So much for not being remembered! At least they were entertained.

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