My Best Crewmember

I rolled off pit lane and drove back to our paddock. A dozen thoughts raced through my head. “Why isn’t the car working like last time? We used the same setup and now the damn thing isn’t turning. Why is everyone else picking up speed in this class and it seems like I am only going slower? Why am I even here? Why do I spend the time and money on this sport? Screw it, I’m listing the car for sale and getting out.”

I pulled into our paddock spot. The thoughts in my head were surely leaving me with an angry expression. I could feel my head burning inside my helmet as I released the chinstrap and removed it from my head.

She looked out the window of the RV and looked happy to see I was back from my session. There was no smoke, no damage and I was getting out under my own power. She looked hopeful. Maybe the car was working well. “If she only knew how mad I am right now, she’d go hide in the back bedroom.” I felt the anger in my eyes burning a hole right through her. I felt terrible looking at her that way.

It wasn’t her fault. She was with me in the garage every night the past week. She spent countless hours right beside me as I worked on the car. She occasionally left for a bathroom break or to check on something of importance to her, but she came right back to where she could be of use, just in case I hurt myself or needed help with something. I really never asked Samantha, or Sam as I call her, to help with much in the garage, except keep me company. Occasionally I’d ask her, “Sam, where did I put that screwdriver?” The best question, of course, was something like, “Sam, do you think we should head in for dinner and take a break?” It was fun in the garage, but she was happy for a break from time to time.

I opened the door of the RV and stepped in. Was she hiding in the back? Maybe she would just be staring out the window at the car we had spent so much time on. Did she hate the car as much as I did? Regardless of Sam’s feelings for the car, there she was standing at the door ready to give me a quick kiss, just like she always did when I came back from being on track. As I looked into her brown eyes, the anger melted away to resignation. I was so disappointed, the best I could muster was, “I just don’t know, Sam. I’ve done coaching and worked so hard on this. Maybe I should just throw in the towel.”

As I uttered the word “throw,” she got an excited look on her face. She lit up like a Broadway sign. This is exactly what Sam had been hoping for. She did a quick twirl, ran to the corner and grabbed a play toy. At that point, any remaining foulness lifted. I laughed to myself and thought about how easy it is for a dog to be happy. She didn’t care about the money I spent on the car. She didn’t care about the countless hours in the garage, or if I ever set a lap record or brought home a trophy. She was just happy I was back, sensed how much I loved her and that it was playtime. “Ok Sam, you’re right. Time to play. Let me grab a water and we’ll go to the dog walk and throw your toy around. The car can wait.”

Sometimes you find the best crewmember in the most obvious place.