Face your fears. Or, you know, run away and hide from them like a total pussy.

A couple of weeks ago a group of us went high-speed go-karting for my friend Collette's birthday. I love Collette, because she is smart and funny and completely honest - not honest for the sake of being mean, but honest enough that she won't spare your feelings if she thinks you need to know something about yourself or your kids or her neighbours who should really close the blinds more often than they do. And she accepts honesty in return. She's also a really great cook, accepts my book recommendations with alacrity and keeps her weed in a Benefibre container (isn't that adorable?) And she's tough and hard to embarrass and willing to try almost anything once. I find myself trying new things because of her - remember when I went ziplining? That was her idea. Tubing? Arranged by Collette. I'm pretty sure she was the impetus for our Eastern Canada trek in summer 2009 - four families, two provinces, cooking lobster over a campfire and wading the tidal flats at Hopewell Rocks, and that one drive looking for a beach where one family's bike rack fell off their car, one family got a speeding ticket and we ended up almost getting arrested for trespassing on some military-type-place. I harboured a slight fear that two weeks on the road and in hotel rooms together might do irreparable damage to our collective friendship, but it was a fabulous experience that none of us will ever forget.

So sure, I was up for being strapped into a tiny car and racing around a track at speeds of 60-70 kilometres per hour. Okay, I don't precisely love driving. I don't even really like driving, really. One might say I'm almost "afraid" of driving, if we're being brutally honest. I can get the job done, but really I'm going around perpetually expecting an imminent crunch of metal on metal, checking my blind spot five times before changing lanes and spending long moments virtually paralyzed in fear when I have to back out of anywhere.

But it was Collette's birthday. And I've tried a lot of things that I thought I would hate and ended up loving them.

This, as it happens, wasn't one of those things.

I kept thinking that maybe when I was strapped securely in, low to the ground, wearing a helmet and pretty much assured that I couldn't actually kill myself or anyone else, I would be able to overcome my fear and drive faster than I'm usually comfortable with. I would have happily tossed back some false courage, but I'm a rule follower, and one of the rules stated clearly:

Please note that Karts are considered as a motor vehicle. The law regarding driving a kart under the influence of alcohol or other substances is the same as for your car.

Based on the fact that the guy giving us our instructions in the cloakroom told us to stand aside because the bachelor party coming off the track would be piling into the room to grab their coats and they were probably too drunk to walk a straight line, "although they didn't drive too badly", maybe be careful driving in Quebec. But, you know, I thought maybe I'd be okay, even sober.

I was wrong. The first time I took my foot off the brake my limbic system threw up, had a seizure, saw its parents having sex and found out that Soylent Green is people. Of course, I tried it again, repeatedly. So basically my entire experience consisted of feeling alternately lame and terrified. Me and the guy with the blue flag had a close and special relationship by the end of the night. The blue flag is the one they give you to tell you to move over so faster people (otherwise known as EVERYONE) can pass you. By the tenth lap or so, he would give a desultory twitch of his blue flag when I went by, and I would twitch my middle finger aimlessly back at him. Finally I just settled in for some fairly grim-and-joyless rounding of the track, feeling the grime and diesel fumes settle a little more deeply into my skin with every minute.

The good thing about being a grown-up is that you can try stuff like this, and if you don't like it or excel at it,  it's okay. Twenty or so years ago, I probably would have had to pretend I was sick or injured, and limp off the track to cry in the bathroom for a while. Now? I just finished up, stopped at home to wash an ungodly amount of black gunk off my face and cleavage, and proceeded on to the back-of-the-liquor-cabinet party. Which I'd also never tried before, but it turns out I'm really good at those.

A couple of days ago our friend Dave sent around an invitation to play paintball for his birthday. Collette's really looking forward to leaving him facedown and crying in a puddle of paint.

I'm thinking that one of the other great things about being a grownup is that you can face something that you've never done before.... and choose not to do it.


harriet glynn said…
Ha!! Be brave; say "no thanks." ((cough))
Sarah McCormack said…
good for you for trying it! as always, your post amused me to no end :)
Julie said…
yeah you! and fuck you to the blue flag dude. what ever.

paintball is fun. there aren't any motorised vehicles. though getting hit does sting and you do get bruises. i'm not really selling it am i?

go for lazer tag. way more fun and injury free!
Nicole said…
I tried go-karting back when I was a teenager. I was terrible. Very slow.
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Ms. G said…
I can't even say anything-because I'm laughing too hard : )
Sasha said…
Ah yes, the blue flag. I couldn't understand why the guy kept flagging me over, it was like, "really? someone wants to go FASTER than THIS??? Are they nuts??"

Things I learned today: the meaning of the word "alacrity". It's one of those words I've read a gazillion times, thought I knew what it meant, but had to admit that, if pressed, I wouldn't stake my life on whatever definition I might come up with, if asked.

Things I want to learn: the meaning of "back of the liquor cabinet party". I have a liquor cabinet. Three, actually. So we have three backs to choose from.
Sasha said…
Or maybe we just need to plan 3 parties...
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Julie Harrison said…
I'm scared of go-karting too. But not for any of the same reasons. I am petrified of putting those shared helmets on my head. I kid you not. People get lice from those. LICE!!!!

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