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When your race doesn't start


Every day isn't created equal. This is about one of the bad ones and how it relates to rally racing, my favourite motor sport.

A few weeks back, I went to bed early on a Friday night so I could get up early the next morning and do some errands. Nothing strange so far. I like to get an early start when attacking the city.

So I got up at 7:30, ate, showered, put on my power-undies and got ready. And then just before I grabbed my keys / coat / wallet, it dawned on me — I didn't have anywhere to go.

That's weird, I thought. The entire week I felt like I was delaying a pile of things that needed to get done. At the very least I needed groceries, right? But ... no. My place was clean, my fridge was full of ingredients and my freezer was even full of pre-made lunches. Everything was in order.

A little defeated, I figured oh well, I was up, why not play some video games. I never get to do that these days. I switched on the PS4 and started the latest game in a long-favourite series: DiRT Rally.

(If you don't like video games or racing or cars, keep reading. This isn't really about that.)

DiRT Rally is a rally racing game. To play, you choose a car, then a stage (which is a section of dirt road through a forest or mountain or desert) and then you race against the clock. Except this time there was no clock.

The stage loaded. My car in the game was on the start line. Everything seemed normal to a point, but then nothing else happened. The game didn't progress. There was no countdown or RED-YELLOW-GREEN lights to start you off. I could look around and I could see the digital stage marshals and camera men looking at me but I couldn't move the car.

I pressed all the buttons. Nothing.

I sat there for minutes. I even recorded it. If you'd like to watch the most boring video game footage of all time, I put two minutes of it on YouTube. If you make it to the end ... nothing happens.

What a strange bug, I thought. And then I turned the game off. Defeated, again. That was the kind of day I was having. Twice I was all ready to go but unable to go anywhere.

Now and then I have a day like that. You probably do also.

Some days, your race doesn't start.

It's normal to crash

On the other hand, some days your race starts just fine. You get the countdown and the green light and you race through the forest and set a great time and have a blast.

Or not. It's completely normal in real-life rally racing to miss a corner and drive off the road and have your car catch on fire. You crash and roll and destroy your car. It’s expected. It's how you learn to go faster. And I think this holds for life. We are going to have rough days. We are going to drive into a ditch or slam into a tree.

But if you’ve ever watched rally racing, you’ll notice how fast they get their ass back on the track and start again. No matter how big the crash or how beat up the car, if the car will move at all they get back on the track and keep driving. Sometimes with only 3 wheels and sparks flying everywhere.

And if they can’t get the car back on the track by themselves, they’re quick in asking for help. Rally spectators love nothing more than pushing a beached car back onto the track.

That is to say: your friends want to help. They want you to go fast and take risks and they’ll be there when you slide off the road.

But some days, for whatever reason, your race doesn't start. And that’s okay also.

You get through it. You do your best. And you hope that tomorrow the bug is fixed and your car takes off.


I wrote this a few weeks ago, and then before publishing I tried the game again and found the problem. The last time I played it, I had turned on a setting that forces you to hold (not just press) the handbrake button before you start. This allows you to rev your engine and start off by releasing a button, just like you would in an actual rally car. And I had totally forgotten that that setting even existed. Like I said, I rarely get to play.

So really you can extend the already-stretched metaphor here to mean sometimes your car doesn’t start and it’s all your fault and waiting for the world to fix your problems won’t get you anywhere.

And also: don’t just press all the buttons, hold them for a little bit.

Sorry about all the car chatter lately. Next week things go off the rails, I promise.