Is It Worth the Risk? A Moment with Bill Reflection
Montana in a Blur
110 miles per hour.
161 feet per second.
Is it worth the risk?
Two guys, in their early twenties, road-testing a 1972 Porsche 914 on a trip from Tacoma, Washington to Fargo, North Dakota. Pedal to the metal, no fear, no sense, no comprehension of what could go wrong. One gust of wind, one wayward jackrabbit, one rock on the roadway, one tire blowout, any number of situations that would launch the car skyward.
The top was down, the aerodynamics a thing of dreams, near-perfect balance, the wind howling like a freight train, and driver and passenger howling like the damned fools they were.
110 miles per hour.
161 feet per second.
And then flashing lights behind them, then the sound of a siren, and quickly our heroes calculated how many miles per hour over the Federal speed limit and what that would mean in terms of a ticket if, in fact, they were lucky enough to just get a ticket. $500? More?
“Any idea how fast you two were going, gentlemen?” the cop asked.
“Umm, a little over a hundred, officer,” the driver responded.
“Speed limit in these parts is seventy, son. You were going a tad over that, don’t you think?
“Lucky for you we in Montana don’t believe much in Federal laws. Keep in mind, though, that what you’re doing is dangerous. How about you ease off the accelerator a bit and you two can live to talk about this to your grandkids. Here’s a warning. No ticket. You both have a fine day in Montana.”
Me and my best friend, Frank. We still laugh about it.
Was it worth the risk?
Let Me Be Very Clear
No, I’m not suggesting you go do a stunt like Frank and I. It’s dangerous for sure. Hell, I’ve done crazier stuff than that, and I’m not suggesting you do those things either.
Let me tell you about a friend of mine.
We’ll call him Brian.
Brian assesses risk.
That’s not his job; it’s what he does in everyday life before he does anything.
I remember meeting Brian about ten years ago. We had mutual friends and I believe we met at a parade downtown. One thing led to another and eventually Brian and I had coffee and got to talking. While we were having our chat some guy rode by the café on a bike and he wasn’t wearing a bicycle helmet. Oh my God! You should have heard Brian go off about the dangers of riding a bike without a helmet. He quoted insurance statistics, and then he talked about the injuries that can occur, and how helmets save lives, and when he was done I didn’t have the heart to tell him I hated helmets and think they look stupid and I’ve never worn one nor will I ever wear one because I love feeling the wind in my hair and the sense of freedom. I just shut up and let Brian have the stage.
But that wasn’t an isolated incident with Brian. He thinks that way about everything in life. He weighs the risk and then decides whether to do something or not. There is actually a mental process he goes through in determining if something is safe enough to do.
It’s exhausting watching him go through the process. It’s actually painful for me. I want to grab Brian by the shoulders and shake some of that “risk assessment” out of him. I want to scream at him that life is about more than weighing risk.
Life is about living!
Watching Children As a Teacher
One week per month every teacher at our school would have recess duty. Most teachers hated it because it took them away from the break room and the ever-growing gossip. I loved recess because it took me to the kids in a fun atmosphere.
So standing there watching kids play during recess is educational to say the least. There are always those kids who instinctively throw caution to the wind with any activity. They are the first to toss themselves face-first into potential danger. There seems to be no thought process happening at all. They just dive in and if they get hurt, they get hurt, but as soon as you bandage them up they are right back at it again.
And then there are those who sit on the sidelines assessing risk. They come home from school every single day with no grass stains on their pants. They never have a rip in their shirt. They wouldn’t know adrenalin rush if it smacked them between the eyes. Their parents sleep soundly knowing their little cherub is safe and sound and in no danger of ever taking a chance so great as to risk injury.
Where are you on that risk spectrum?
Last week Frank and I got together for the first time in twenty years. He found me online, called me up, and eventually made his way to Olympia and our backyard. We had a great visit. We laughed for a couple hours about the stupid stuff we did as teens and young adults. We shook our heads in wonder that we actually survived some of the stunts we did. And we both agreed that it had been worth the risk.
Because life is meant to be lived, full-throttle, balls to the wall, screw caution and laugh your ass off at the risk you’re facing. Life is supposed to be breathless. It’s supposed to be curly-cues of spine-tingling, sweat on your brow, a catch in your throat, a fleeting thought that you might not survive this latest wild-assed adventure.
My dad used to say you should always have one foot in the comfort zone and one foot in the pee-your-pants zone and then pray for balance.
"Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light." Dylan Thomas
Should we move to a new home? Should we take that new job offer? Should we risk our savings on a new business venture? Should we change careers? Should we fall in love again? Should we risk heartbreak? Should we face our fears, or should we cower in a corner?
Should we lean more towards the comfort zone or lean heavily on the pee-your-pants zone?
Is there value in both?
I can’t answer for you. I have my hands full just living my own life. I’ve squeezed one hell of a lot of cold sweats into the first sixty-six years, and there’s a good chance I’ll try some more in the years to come.
I know which way I’m leaning
161 feet per second.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)