Speediatrician



The Bowery Boys are a continuing source of delamination for me, which you may deduce is a Terrence Aloysius Mahoney-ian, AKA, Slip-ian, malapropriate use of the English language. Sit back and be ruminated friends. Being a Bowery Boys fan since a tender age and watching their antics today brings me back to Saturdays, but a lot of water has gone over the bridge since then.

In the 1949 masterpiece, Mastermind, Sach’s propensity for eating too much candy gives him a rotten tooth. Whenever it flairs up, “he goes into a trance whereby he's able to predict the future. Slip tries to make some money off of Sach by using him as a fortune teller in a carnival, until a mad scientist kidnaps Sach to use him in an intelligence-switching experiment with a monster.” And when Slip realizes the golden egg laying goose is gone he asks, at alta voce, where would the imbecile go to get a tooth pulled if not a dentist? A speediatrician? An optimist?


No doubt a speediatrician would be an excellent choice. I work (on a pro bono basis) with lots of them (collectively also known as instructors.) (One actually is a physician, a surgeon by training fond of making terrible jokes, medical and otherwise.) We don’t pull teeth. We know and teach speed. Speediatrician (Instructor) Training typically takes a few years and graduation comes with a license to train others in the ways of speed (under controlled closed course situations.) It’s all rather experiential. You go out in whatever car has passed safety tech inspection - tires (with tread), at least one working brake light, no leaks, no exposed wires in the passenger cabin, and anything that is loose or could come loose that could smack you in the head causing you and your speediatrician grievous harm must be removed.


Every speediatrician starts out the same way. They come as students cajoled by friends or the fiendish marketing efforts of a car company in which just a taste of speed is promised and the next you know you’re teaching speed after spinning around a few times. To get out of the equivalent of being a first year student (DE1), you need to manage traffic, know the course layout, attend your group meetings, have correct mirror positions, give and receive point-bys (that is, safely pass and let others pass you), have the correct seating and headrest position, drive at least 85% of the course on the most efficient line, know and observe the flags (yellow, green checker, etc.), make smooth inputs, adapt to instruction, improve each session, and have the correct hand position on the steering wheel.


Getting passed for advancement to each higher group means adding more technical proficiency while maintaining a good attitude and being good at managing an increasingly faster group of speediatricians in training. Strangely or not, since we’re not running a real school, there isn’t a progressive curriculum that students are asked to follow. I mean they can, but it isn’t really emphasized by the speediatrician serving as the group leader that day. The things students are judged on have been assembled from the practical experience of the speediatricians. And I’m not saying that the curriculum needs to be more explicitly followed. It just needs to be kept in mind so there are things that students can actually work on while they are at the track going around and around having the time of their lives. To move up from the sophomore level (DE2) students need to be able to execute threshold braking and throttle steering as well as hit the corner apexes consistently. Moving up from the junior level (DE3) requires students to understand trail braking and the related weight transfer along with oversteer and understeer. It is helpful if they have some idea of what to do if something goes wrong, but this only happens through experiencing something going wrong and sorting it out afterward, hopefully with the aid of a speediatrician. To move up to the senior level (DE4), students need to continue to demonstrate good judgement, be consistent and understand what the limits are for themselves in their car. Once you have joined the ranks of the DE4 level students you are eligible to come to formal speediatrician (instructor) school which takes place over two days and if you pass, includes a third day when you get to instruct your own DE1 student.


I spend most of my time with DE1 students, so I do a lot of definition work – what is threshold braking versus trail braking for example. Can you tell me what an oversteering car is doing, etc. This isn’t because I expect them to go out and perform these things as beginners, but because being introduced to advanced concepts early on makes them more familiar/less scary later on when they have to know them to advance to faster groups.


In DE1 the wild egos of those who think they are coming to race and show everyone how fast they can go are often tamed by their speediatrician and or chastened by the fact that there are other students in less powerful cars that can go faster than they can. Those who stick with the program get faster and advance, but we get folks who sign up for a faster group because they say that they know the track from driving with other groups or just make it up. This doesn’t usually go well. The ego thing is a hard deal. To go faster you need to back off and let the faster driver through so you can work on your craft but passing is still by consent through the point-by so you can hold the faster folks up if you must because your ego is driving the car, at least for a while. If you behave badly long enough (like for a whole session) there will be a discussion and a speediatrician will be inserted into your passenger seat to help you see the light of day clearly rather than through that mist shaded red which afflicts every driver from time to time.


Most of the time Satch doesn’t let his ego get in the way. Usually, Satch knows what he knows and doesn’t pretend to know all. Slip often seems like he is leading with his ego pretending to know everything, but if not at first, certainly by the end of a typical adventure he demonstrates that he knows enough to know what he doesn’t know. (And he’s a quick study.)


Time for class!