Last Friday I did something that’s out of my comfort zone – I went to a networking meeting for local business people. Now I don’t say it was out of my zone because I don’t enjoy being around people. But I’ve never been much of a schmoozer so walking into a room full of strangers standing ready with hands full of business cards isn’t always my idea of fun.
But it could also be a good way to meet some local folks who might need a writer someday, so I put on my big girl persona and went.
About 50 people were there, which apparently was a bigger-than-normal crowd. The entire time was focused on networking – mingling beforehand, everyone taking a minute during the meeting to introduce ourselves and tell what we do, and more mingling afterwards.
I survived all the chit-chat, and then the unexpected fun happened.
You see, different businesses in the county host the meeting each month, and this one was at Atlanta Motor Speedway. I’ve been to the racetrack quite a few times over the years, but this was different because we were meeting in the media center, which is smack in the middle of the track’s infield.
Driving through the tunnel from the perimeter road to the infield was kind of neat – because, really, how many people in all the thousands who are there on race weekend get to do that? Parking at the media center and taking a minute to look up at the stands was a little overwhelming. Being flat on the ground and seeing how steeply the track angles up and how far the stands reach toward the sky is a humbling perspective. It was all so much bigger than it seems on TV, or even on race day, because it was empty and quiet.
Talk about feeling small! Even if you’re not a race fan, you’re bound to be impressed.
The AMS staff people were great hosts and ended the meeting by inviting us to ride around the track if we’d not done it before and could spare the time away from work. I thought about the newsletter I was trying to finish and send out for approval. I thought about the other one that I should have been halfway finished writing but hadn’t even started.
And then I thought, “I’m doing it! I’ll probably never get the chance to do this again!”
That was a big deal for this list making, plan loving, deadline oriented girl. There’s a reason my family has a running joke that I never buy anything at the grocery store if it’s not on my list (though I really do – just maybe not very often). 🙂
The meeting had already gone past the usual hour and I hadn’t planned on spending extra time away from work. But the day’s plan went on hold when I signed the waiver (!) and followed the others outside. That’s when we learned that “ride around the track” didn’t mean we’d be taking turns loading into a car with one of the marketing folks who’d done this before. No, it meant we’d each be in our own vehicle following a staff person in a pace car.
What?! I’m going to actually drive on the track myself?! In my little Equinox?!
I was excited, but also a little nervous. What if I was the only one who did something really stupid or who was too chicken to go fast enough to stay on the track? What if driving at that crazy angle made me dizzy or sent my always-present tinnitus into overdrive?
They gave us three bits of advice:
- It’s steep and pretty bumpy moving from the apron to the track, but you need to be on the track.
- You’ll want to be going around 60 when we get to turn three.
- The middle of the track or a little higher is the best place to be.
And that was it! We got in our cars and snaked our way through the parking lot and down pit road. Just before we started, I glanced in my mirror and saw the lady behind me taking a picture with her phone. I should’ve done that! But at least I did shoot a quick text to my husband letting him know what was going on. “Guess who’s about to drive on the track?” “You?”
Proof that wonders never cease.
Our leader was right. Moving from the apron to the track was steep and bumpy, and the car did seem easier to control once I reached the middle of the track. It was strange to be riding at such an off-kilter angle – my car thought it was strange, too, and immediately popped up a warning light about checking my stabilizers (which fortunately cleared itself when I was back on flat territory). I definitely kept both hands on the wheel but dared to glance at signs and up at the stands a few times.
Four laps went by super fast, even at only 60 mph. And it was a blast! I can’t imagine what it’s like to be out there side-by-side at nearly 200 mph with thousands of screaming fans.
When the season starts back in a few weeks, I’ll have a new perspective and appreciation for what those drivers do. I’ll have a happy memory of my tiny taste of what’s happening. And it all started when I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and RSVP’d for the meeting. Maybe I should put down my list more often and look for a little more fun. Couldn’t hurt, could it?
Your turn: If you tend to be married to your lists and plans like I am, when was the last time you said “forget it!” and shook things up with an unexpected opportunity?