Operating v Playing

In my teenage years, I used to do archery.  We did have an agreement, those of us that partook in this sport at our club, that we would not tell women of the attractive persuasion that we ever shot bows, because it’s not generally considered the most glamorous of hobbies.

So if you’re female and attractive, please pretend that that wasn’t my opening paragraph.

At a club I was in as a teenager, we had a particularly, let’s say, nerdy, treasurer.  He was the stereotype, in terms of look and even voice.  I pictured him going home from the club and turning on his computer and writing bundles of code to do some mundane task.

That was until I was told he played the guitar.  At that point someone else interjected, saying, “He doesn’t so much play a guitar as operate one.”

The choice of words is quite important, and they came back to me the other day as I was driving home from work.  I go over a hill.  On the up side, it’s a national speed limit road.  As you go over the top, about half way down, we go from the 60mph limit to 30 as the school appears on the right hand side.  You go round an s-bend and there’s a speed camera.

My car has a wing at the rear that comes up itself when the car goes over 70 something miles per hour (i.e. when you’re speeding on a UK road) or can be put up yourself using a button on the dash.  It adds stupid amounts of downforce to the car, but with downforce you also get lots and lots of drag.  My car also has a paddle shift gearbox, so I can change gear simply by pulling a lever.  In addition to that, it has an economy engine setting that takes it out of gear when you’re not accelerating or breaking.

I’d worked out that I can brake from 60mph to 25 while pushing the button to raise the wing and pulling the lever by my left hand three times to go from 6th to 3rd gear.  This would keep me at 25mph from the school through to the second part of the s-bend without having to do anything else.

On the second part of the s-bend, I would pull the lever under my right hand to put the car back in to its economy setting and tap the accelerator to take it out of gear.  This would increase my speed to 30mph at which point I would need to brake anyway for the traffic lights at the bottom of the hill.

That might sound convoluted but I can assure you that it is, in fact, a pretty darned efficient way of navigating the hill in terms of brake and fuel usage.

It does, however, feel pretty operational rather than real driving.  It’s an operating procedure rather than something done instinctively, with feeling.  It might be the best way to do it, or at least an effective way, but the thing that bugs me about procedures (and this is coming from someone who works with them for a living) is that they can cause you to do things without thinking, and that’s no fun at all.

I like procedures and operations, but I never want to be in a position whereby they’re the be all and end all; that I start doing things by rote.  They can feel too final, and I’d rather be in the position of working out better ways to do something or at least refresh it to keep it fun and alive.


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