I’ve never enjoyed being in control of powered vehicles. I think it stems from a visit to a go-kart place when I was about seven or eight. After only one lap I was deemed a danger to myself and my parents had their money refunded. The only time I was ever in control of a moped I fell off before I got to the end of the road. I had first driving lesson on my seventeenth birthday and over the next year I failed three driving tests. For all those reasons, I haven’t been in control of a powered vehicle since about 1980.
So when it was announced that my company were all going off to a “team building” day last Friday and that it would involve trying out all sorts of strange vehicles, I was less than enthusiastic.
Our first activity did nothing to change my mind. We were in pairs in a small vehicle with two engines – each connected to one of the two driving wheels. Each person in the car controlled one of these engines. The way to turn was therefore for one person to pull back on their throttle whilst the other pushed forward on theirs. It was a disaster. I was convinced that there was a problem with my throttle lever but, of course, other pairs worked it just fine so the fault was obviously in my head.
The next activity was clay pigeon shooting. Now I’ve done this once before about ten years ago and I know I enjoy it. But that didn’t prepare me for the instructor saying that I held the shotgun like a natural. I hit about two thirds of my clays and enjoyed it thoroughly. I thought I’d even got away without hurting my shoulder from the recoil, but I’ve subsequently found that to be untrue.
After lunch my team were in small six wheeled amphibian vehicles. Like the first vehicles there were two levers each of which controlled one side of the vehicle. I explained to my instructor that I hadn’t driven a car for almost twenty-five years and she said that it probably wouldn’t matter as the controls were so different. It actually turned out to be a bit of an advantage as I didn’t have any preconceptions of how I thought it should all work. After a couple of laps I felt totally at home at the controls and was disappointed that we had to move on.
Our final activity for the day was driving (sorry, “flying”) a one-seater hovercraft on grass. From what I understand, the controls were similar to a motorbike. There were a pair of handlebars to steer and the right-hand handle also had the throttle. Bringing the throttle up to 50% inflated the skirt of the hovercraft and anything beyong that moved it forward. The one complication was that (again, like a motorbike) turning the handlebars was only part of the steering mechanism – and a minor part at that. The majority of it was done by throwing your weight around. Again, when our turn was over I really didn’t want to stop.
So my mind has been changed. I don’t belief these days actually achieve much in the way of “team-building”, but if this one is anything to go by they can certainly be bloody good fun.
We’re already talking about going back next year. Next time I want to try out driving the tanks they have there.
Oh, and I’m serious considering taking up clay pigeon shooting as a hobby.