Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Things That Really Tick Me Off

Someone asked the other day about things that get under my skin. My initial reaction was to say, “Not much,” since I have prided myself recently on learning to let go of trivial little annoyances that I can’t do anything about. However, upon further review, I must admit that there are a few things that positively set my teeth on edge.

Like when we're leaving the racetrack (late for the airport, as always) and some drunk decides that the road is a sidewalk. My MRN colleagues will attest that I have been known to yell, "Get outta the road, Cletus," when somebody REALLY needs to hear it. On the other hand, the full-scale, drunken brawl that took place across the hood of our rental car at Phoenix last year served as a wonderful “time filler” for pit reporter Steve Post and I. We had pulled over to the side of the road to await the arrival of co-anchor Joe Moore, when two relatively intoxicated gents bumped into each other while taking part in the weekly post-race cattle stampede. One thing led to another, and before long, a group of 10-12 people was throwing haymakers at each other, without really understanding why. Two rather rotund fellows rolled completely across the hood of our car, prompting Postman to remark, “What the hell, it’s a rental.” The highlight came when the women jumped into the fray; pulling hair, slapping, tearing at clothes…it was wonderful. Eventually, as is always the case, fatigue set in and the brawl subsided. As the combatants began gathering up their coolers, seat cushions and teeth, one of the women knocked politely on Postman’s window and asked,” Would you mind backing up a little? One of my beers rolled under your car.” You can’t make that stuff up.

I also have a raw nerve for fans that go running through the Nextel Cup garage at 107 mph -- bouncing off people the whole way – just because Dale Junior peeked out the door of his transporter. If you ask me, nobody with a cardboard camera should be allowed into the garage in the first place, nor should the eBay professional with his alphabetized file envelope full of pictures to get autographed. But hey, that’s just my opinion.

I have problems with local, public-access cable TV hosts that interrupt my interviews to ask a driver, "What's your favorite racetrack," and media members that barge in on pre-arranged, one-on-one interviews to ask their own inane questions that have nothing to do with what was being discussed. I will demonstrate my remarkable restraint by not naming any names here.

I also have a hard time with fans that say, "(Insert name of driver here) is an a-hole, because he wouldn't stop to sign my wife's breast at Pocono three years ago." The driver’s meeting starts in three minutes, buddy. Your wife’s boobies will just have to wait.

I have worked as a racetrack pubic address announcer for decades, and some of my favorite “pet peeves” come from things that have happened to me in that capacity. I just love entry-level racers who storm the control tower to raise hell after being put to the rear of the field for dumping five cars in the first three laps of their career. It's a giant conspiracy, don'tcha know?And there’s nothing better than the guy who expects the PA announcer to remember the winning 50/50 number, 20 minutes after it was called (and 18 minutes after the winner collected his money), because, "I was in the crapper, but my buddy says I won."

Rain delays are the worst. Without fail, someone will come to the tower and ask, “Are you going to get the race in?” I politely respond, “It depends. If it stops raining, we’ve got a good shot.”

The next person in line has a simpler question, asking, “Is it gonna stop raining?” My standard response is, “It always has. The previous record is 40 days and 40 nights, but I don’t think we’re in danger of anything that drastic tonight.” I know you’re genuinely curious and concerned, but Jeez Louise people, I’m an announcer, not a meteorologist!

And finally, when there’s a Category Four thunderstorm heading straight for the speedway, and the announcer advises you to seek shelter in your car or under the grandstands, DO IT! The fact that your seat just got wet won’t seem nearly as important after a 70,000-volt lightning strike to the top of your skull.

Thanks for listening. I feel much better now.

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