Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"Keep Smiling Mr. Aaron"

So it happened again...

This past weekend I was flagging a race when an incident found its way into the wall under the flagstand which the stand is connected to the wall and physics kicked in and I went straight down onto my knee. Actually, this was the 2nd race of the day and in both races an incident found its way to me, but the 2nd hit did a number on my knee and the trackside medical staff highly urged me to get it looked at. I did, the X-ray came back negative, but the doc said I certainly took a knock on it and advised me to stay off of it which meant I was done for the day.

Back at the track I sat in the vehicle with a brace on my right leg and my usefulness was nil. The track flagman had taken over for me and as the day progressed I learned it is a very bitter thing to watch someone else do my job. This started a line of thoughts that, well, I was becoming bitter. What was the point to all this? I go back to the blog in which I talked about my love of flagging and the reasons I do it, but now I was wondering what was the worth. If I don't fulfill my dream and make it to the top what good is this all? Needless to say I was not in the best of places emotionally.

As my thoughts dove downwards an interesting thing happened. The first of many people stopped by to see how I was doing. I had been hiding in the car, but it was getting hot so I opened the door and the first of many conversations began. The first was short, but then a couple drivers talked to me for 15 minutes, then another two drivers talked to me for another 15 minutes. One driver told me, "I just don't want you to be lonely."

The conversations continued and these drivers asked me what my real job was, asked what Asperger's was, asked if I had ever flagged internationally, what my favorite track was, how difficult it is to flag, and a whole host of other questions. Mind you, when I say drivers this is a kids series and yet there was a maturity to these questions that it was as if I were having a conversation with a coworker at the office, or a long-time friend. Then it hit me; for the most part I have zero interactions with the drivers except with a colored flag in my hand. All the drivers know me and yet I don't really know any of the drivers and yet, despite my not knowing, there's a respect that these drivers have for me and between conversations I was moved to tears by the sincerity of it all.

Perhaps this is in line with my presentations I do at schools, but the honesty and genuineness of kids that I have come across has amazed me and I was once again amazed at the way the kids asked questions of me at the track. Now don't get me wrong, it wasn't all drivers as many parents and mechanics came up to see how I was doing.

There was a moment above all others though that I will remember forever and squashed any thoughts I had of, "Why am I doing this again?" As we were about to leave another driver came up and he gave me an envelope that was address to me, well, "Mr. Aaron" and inside was a hand drawn "feel better" card with a drawing of a car crossing the line with me in the flagstand. I saw it and I gave the biggest smile and the kid said, "Keep Smiling Mr. Aaron! Keep smiling just like that!" and he walked off and I had to fight back tears because I was so moved at how amazing this moment was.

When the next race comes around I'll be back at it, fearless, because it isn't about making it to the top of the flagging world. In fact, it isn't about me at all. I may be invisible minus the colored flags I display, but it's all for those on the track. I may not have known most of the drivers, but they knew me and my dedication to be the best has never been stronger. I've always strove for perfection, don't get me wrong, but somehow it all means more now. Besides, I don't know if I've ever been given better advice than the lasting memory I have of the weekend. So the next time it's a long day, or things aren't going smoothly, I'm going to think back to the time that I watched someone else do my job for six hours and recollect being told, "Keep smiling Mr. Aaron." That, right there, is why I do what I do.

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