Dear Practically Everyone I Ask About How Your Recent Race Went,
Hey. How’s it going? Good? Good. I’m glad to hear you’re good.
It’s good when things are good.
Now we need to talk. Yes, I know it sounds serious when I say that. That’s because I only say that when I’m serious.
This is a serious thing.
First of all, I want you to know that I am telling you this in friendship. If I didn’t care about you, I wouldn’t even bother. I’d just roll my eyes and let it go. You’ve seen me roll my eyes. But I don’t want to roll them at you. So I’m just going to lay it all out there.
When I ask you, “How’d your race go?” and you answer, “Fine” or “Not bad,” or “I survived,” I want to choke you. To death.
I know. That sounds harsh. But actually I was showing self restraint, because I left out the part where first I punch you in the throat an then spin-kick you so hard you actually travel back in time a little bit.
(Yes, my spin kick really is that powerful. Surely you’ve noticed my quads?)
Now that I’ve explained what I want to do, let me explain why.
When you race, you’re being handed one of life’s little gifts: a custom-packaged story, complete with a cast of characters, a location, a beginning, a crisis, a protagonist, an antagonist (or many!), a resolution, and a conclusion.
You trained for it. You strategized. You probably traveled. And in short, this thing was important to you. So you don’t just have a story to tell, but you have a personal story to tell about an event that was important to you.
So don’t you go acting all self-deprecating, saying something perfunctory and useless like “I had a fun time.” Or “It was a valuable experience.”
We both know that fun had nothing to do with it. Furthermore, even if you were somehow the first person in the history of the world to think “Wheeeeeee, this is fun!” during a bike race — seriously, I can’t even comprehend even the possibility of anyone considering forming such a ridiculous thought during a race — we both know that this isn’t the information I’m after.
I want to know what your finish time was, or how you placed, first and foremost. We both know that. Everyone knows that. That’s what everyone wants to know when they ask how your race went. But rather than just come out and say it, you’re giving me a dose of false humility by revealing pretty much the opposite of what I asked for, as if you came to this race from some kind of higher plane, some magical parallel universe where people race in order to reach a state of peace and joy, and not to beat their chests and throw leaves in the air while yelling in triumph or rage at the top of their lungs.
So let us agree, from here on out, that when I ask you how your race went, you will answer with one of (or a variation thereof) the following:
- “I finished in Xth place in my age group.”
- “I finished in X:YY.
- “I totally kicked butt.”
- “I totally got my butt kicked.”
Are we clear on that? Good. That wasn’t so hard, was it?
Then, once you’ve given me the bottom line — the honest bottom line, not some opaque and meaningless platitude designed to make me ask you the same question again but with greater precision because you’re otherwise too darned humble to tell me a story — you’re all set to tell me tell me the story we both know you’re dying to tell me anyway.
We’ll get to the same place. The difference is you won’t make me drag it out of you, and you won’t be in danger of having your larynx crushed.
How’d your race go last weekend?