Taking the hill

montecarloThere was a light rain followed by a sharp temperature drop, and fresh icy snow had formed all the way up Salisbury hill. There were other ways I could have gone home, but I wanted to take this shortcut.  My beloved ‘71 Monte Carlo had plenty of power – a 400 cubic inch engine with a Holly 4-barrel carburetor (environmentally-friendly at 6 mpg in the city, 9 on the highway.) It had shiny Cragar rims on wide racing slick tires – great on hot Indiana asphalt; nearly useless at getting traction in the snow.

I thought if I just got enough momentum at the bottom of the hill, surely I could make it to the top. My girlfriend Carol said “You’re not going to make it.”  Well, chalk it up to 19-year old macho, but I took this as more of a challenge than a warning.  I punched it and charged up the icy hill.  About a third of the way up I noticed the car was starting to slow down. And the harder I stepped on the gas pedal, the slower we went.  I floored it with the speedometer buried at 120 miles per hour, but I could see out the frosty window that we were only doing about 2.

Apparently my slick back tires were spinning so fast they were able to burn their way down through the ice, and grab just enough of the asphalt pavement to get a grip.  The engine was whining and the tires crying out for help, but we were inching our way up that hill.  That’s when I realized how deep I was into this commitment.  If I were to let go of the gas and hit the brakes, I would just slide backwards out of control, and surely hit a tree or a parked car. I had to keep going.

When the hill finally leveled out at the top and I could let off the gas, I yelled out “YES!!”  in triumph.  Then I looked over at Carol who had dug all 5 fingernails into the imitation leather arm rest.  She didn’t have to say a word.  I got the glaring look that screamed “Don’t you EVER do that again!”

That’s when it really hit me about the risk I took. I could have slid back down, crashed and injured us both. I could have blown up the engine.  Was it really a good decision to take that hill?  Actually, it was not a decision at all.  It was an emotional burst of stupidity.

Have you ever charged into something at full speed before REALLY thinking it through?  Of course you have.  Motivational experts tell us all the time to take a chance, take a risk… nothing ventured, nothing gained.  But the older we get, the more our experience and intuition drop hints about what could cause failure. 

This is exactly my point.  There is nothing wrong with listening to your intuition before you hit the gas.  It’s a built-in check and balance system.  If something is bothering you in the back of your mind before you start, take a moment to bring it to the forefront and deal with it.  Because once you go with the emotional charge up the hill, you just might get yourself in deep before realizing you have no traction.

I’ve learned plenty of things the hard way in my life, but I’m finally starting to get it.  Call it intuition, call it conscience, call it God whispering in my ear…. I’m better off when I listen first, act second.

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4 Comments on “Taking the hill”

  1. Rich Says:

    Balance in listening to that voice is crucial. The younger you are, the less likely you are to listen. But as the years go by, that voice can go from a wise sage to a curmudgeonly critic, preventing us from even thinking about getting to the top of the mountain.

  2. Ron Says:

    As Rich says, you can’t ALWAYS listen to that curmudgeon, nor the wife-to-be in the other seat, or else you never make it up there.

    After all, you DID make it!

    Not your only headlong charge up the hill, either was it? Most of those worked out pretty well, I’d say.

    Listen to the voice, but don’t always let it win!

  3. davidgoad Says:

    Can “curmudgeon” be used as a verb just like “bludgeon?” If so, I have indeed been curmudgeoned quite a few times in my later years… frozen into analysis paralysis and unable to move forward in my career. Good point about balance my friends!

  4. Roland Says:

    This is an interesting subject, Dave. Sorry I came on late with it.

    The problem I see with NOT taking the risk is risking to learning that one should not challenge. Being TOO careful in life is simply a burden. I have learned, and not that long ago, that there are only challenges and opportunities in life. I had heard the words before, but they were only words. Now they mean something.

    …and people can get better and stronger at things as they age….

    At age 50 I had a stroke, as I may have mentioned. During those years previous to that, I would play racquetball with a friend, and after an hour and fifteen minutes, would have to stop, and bench myself. Now, I play three times a week for 3 hours or more, and I am a fairly strong “B” doubles player. I came back from the stroke, lowered my blood pressure, built my heart strength from 88 BPM to 62 BPM, and I am having a great time.

    …then I started a new business…

    …then I joined a rock band…

    I believe it could have gone many different directions. But now, I don’t have obstacles or roadblocks… only challenges and opportunities.

    Maybe the best thing is that in aging, my own realm of common sense keeps me from even wanting to climb Half Dome! Nuf-sed. :o)

    Roland.


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