|An Occasional Column from the Antipodes||by Rory Gordon, Australia|
At a GP earlier this season, I spent most of the time working.
Some of you, a few perhaps, may find this just a little odd since you may be thinking that, surely, I spent the entire weekend of a GP working. After all, surely I spent a lot of time slaving over a hot keyboard, punching out the Rambles for each issue of Atlas. Or, pehaps, I'm down in the garages, doing research for a future Ramble.
Sorry to disappoint you folks, but Rambles don't come together like that. Most of them. No ... not this time ... maybe another day I'll tell you how Rambles get written. But, then again, maybe I won't.
I suppose if you were slightly more cynical, you might think that I spend my time at a GP doing as little as possible. Gossiping in the media centre, scrounging food and drink from the teams, and then thumping out a Ramble at the last possible second, just meeting my deadlines. Basically, expending as little energy as possible.
Hmmm, I know which scenario I think is nearer the truth!
No, when I mentioned that 4-letter, Anglo-Saxon word "work" at the top of this column, I meant REAL work. Using mind and body in ultimate harmony. And in ultimate agony ... it had been a long time since I had to do some hard physical work.
There are a lot of people who make a GP "happen". At the top of the tree, I suppose, would be the people involved with the teams, the drivers, the mechanics, the bosses, and so on. Most of us are probably pretty well aware of them.
If we stop and think for a few minutes, we might then think about the people directly involved in the support races and the marshalls, the fire people, the medics and the people who find your seat for you. Inevitably, there's the security folks too. (Why do so many of them look as though they have just come from the gym?)
Then we might possibly remember all those people who were trying to prise your money away from you by selling you things. All the souvenir and food sellers.
After that, well, things get a bit hazy. Are there any other people? Of course, there are, or I wouldn't be rambling on like this, would I?
Not only did I get the chance to see and meet some of these people, but I also had the chance to be one of them ... and that's why I was working at a GP.
There's an army of people slaving away who very rarely get noticed at a GP. The job I think I would like the least, even if it meant a free pass to the GP, would be those poor folks who have to empty out and clean the toilets. We all have horror tales about toilets we have seen at a GP. I've seen some that were so revolting that I couldn't even use them, and had to try and go elsewhere.
But the thought of having to go in there afterwards to clean up all the mud, urine, faeces, vomit, beer and everything else makes me feel sick just thinking about having to do it.
Enough of that.
Burrow a little deeper, and you'll find the trades well represented as well. There's always masses of things that need fixing as a GP. Many of the races are held at permanent circuits, but even then there are the extra grandstands that have to be put up (and taken down). Seats have to be put in, carpet rolled out (for those lucky enough to be sitting in a flashy stand), public address systems installed, food and drink to be served, and so on. Carpenters, plumbers, electricians, phone engineers, riggers, scaffolders.
You might now be feeling a little sympathetic towards this army. But then you might think that these people are getting a free pass to the GP and that you'd do anything - just about - to get a freebie, you're not that fussy. And, as a bonus, you'll actually get paid to go to the GP. Realistically, you can't get much better than than, can you?
Hmmm, the reality wasn't that rosy.
I was on a crew that went around filling up the fuel tanks on some of the many diesel generators that were spattered around the grounds of the circuit.
Each day's work was to be at least 6 hours. Oh, start time was 6. That meant I was there, ready to go to work, at 6.00 in the MORNING. And on race day, I was there by 5.00am, just in case.
It all seemed quite simple. Drive around in a truck, with a huge tank of diesel fuel on the back. Get to a generator, pull up close to it, un-reel the hose, open up the fuel tank on the generator, stick the nozzle in and pull the trigger. Simple.
Until the first time you find out that these nozzles don't stop automatically. So the diesel came spraying out, up into the air, and mostly onto the ground? Not a chance. I honestly believe that diesel fuel is attracted to me. Every drop that came out headed straight for me, and went all over me. The guy driving the truck was laughing himself silly. I wasn't so amused.
I got the hang of it in the end, of course. But I got back to my accommodation at the end of each day reeking of diesel. No matter what I did - and I did learn a few tricks - I got covered in diesel.
But the really interesting thing I noticed, in between bouts of misery and self-pity, was that the spectators seemed to look straight through us. We were invisible. Have you any idea how difficult it is to do a rush job, which means that you have to get through a mass of spectators, when those spectators "can't" see you?
So, the next time you're at a GP and when a truck is trying to get through a crowd of which you are part, just think that the folks on board probably are not just on their way to their chosen spot to watch qualifying, but are actually just trying to do their job.
And if you see some filthy, stinking person meander past, just think that they might be the poor people who have to clean out that toilet you just tried to make use of ... and wasn't it disgusting?
Spare them a thought, and a few kind words.
But that's just me.