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The Irony of Waiting For The Slow Kids

June 29, 2015

I’m slow. I’m not afraid to admit it. A man should know his limitations. This summer I’ve hiked slot canyons in Southern Utah, I’ve rafted the Arkansas River in Central Colorado and just last week I biked eight miles over rough trails in the Wasatch mountains. 

And what I’ve learned, or rather had reaffirmed, is that I am not fast.  

I started out my career thinking for a long time that I wanted to be a programmer. I studied Computer Science at Brigham Young University. I’ve been playing with, and coding computers since I was a kid in the early 1980’s. I discovered something during my third year of college. 

I am not fast. 

It was a tough realization to come to. There are aspects of programming that I absolutely love and I’m really good at. Architecture is one of my strengths. I can start with a blank sheet of virtual paper and very quickly design the layout that a program should have. I can identify the procedures, scope out the classes, define the needed variables. I have a friend who is a very good programmer who can’t do those things. 

Rodney, I stink at that initially starting piece. The blank page freezes me. But, you’re great at it. The piece that I don’t understand is how you can be so good at the design and so slow at the actual coding.

Did I mention he’s my best friend? Only a true friend would lay it out for you like that. 

I kept up better on our bike ride than I typically do on a hike. That was probably because on an “out-and-back” ride, where you ride back on the same path you road out on, you end up with as many down hills as up. I’m pretty good going down hill. 

Well, mostly. During our ride we came to the first big hill. The irony of mountain biking, is that it’s often scarier going downhill, when you don’t need to peddle than it is going uphill. The worst that happens going uphill is that you only make it part way up the hill and you have to get off and walk. The worst that happens going downhill is that you end up taking a header over the handlebars onto the rocks. 

The Scoutmaster, an accomplished mountain biker went down first. He’s really good. So good that most of the boys immediately got off their bikes and started walking/sliding them down the hill. Soon it was just me and the other assistant, who’s also really good. 

So, are you going to ride or walk, Rodney?

Okay, maybe it was a little pride. Maybe it was the fact that my bike was a 20 year old steel frame bike with fraying rubber on the tires and his was a new carbon fiber one. Or that he was wearing bicycle shorts and a helmet and I was wearing blue jeans, boots and a floppy hat. 

I think I’ll give it a go.

While you are riding down a hill, you do very little with your feet, except stand on the pedals. You’re hands are completely occupied with braking and steering. That leaves no hands free to deal with your floppy hat falling down in front of your face. 

Half way down the hill, it slipped forward and completely obscured my face. I got to see how good my short term memory was. “Where were those rocks?” “The trail bore right, didn’t it?” Meanwhile, I’m shaking my head like crazy trying to get rid of my precious battered felt hat, realizing the guys who wore helmets didn’t have this problem. 

Like I said, I can be a little slow.

I made it, barely. 

In business that’s not an option. I couldn’t pursue a profession where I was going to make it, barely. I can code, but I’m not a programmer. Because here’s the irony of waiting for the slow kids.

During our two day hike last month up into the foothills of Mt Timpanogos, I, as usual was with the last group. At times I was the last group. But, generally there was at least one or two boys that were hiking at my snail’s pace. Hiking 4,000 feet of vertical elevation, wearing a 35 lbs pack is hard. Even guys who are fast and in great shape are going to feel the effects. I’m neither fast nor in great shape. 

Even though our group was hiking along a trail that had only one starting point and one ending point, (meaning it was literally impossible to get lost unless you fell off the side of the mountain,) the lead group would occasionally stop to let the slower kids (me!) catch up. Here’s how it looks from the perspective of the fast group. 

Hey guys, let’s take a breather and let the rest of the group catch up. 

They then drop their packs, drink their water, take a short nap, until the slow group comes into view. 

Alright guys, get your packs back on. Someone wake up Jeremy. Let’s get moving. 

Here’s how it looks from the perspective of the slow group.

Come on guys. Almost there. Keep going. You’re doing great. We’ll take a break at the waterfall. Just another quarter mile and then we’ll get some water. 

You finally “catch up.” You finally join the fast and fit kids and all you want to do it drop your pack, drink some water, maybe take a little nap for an hour or two. And as soon as you arrive, as soon as you close that gap, you are immediately behind again. You didn’t catch up, you just got close enough to see how far behind you are. 

As the fast group heads off around the next bend you have a decision to make. Do you stop? Do you actually rest? If you do, it won’t be for as long as the fast group rested. Not if you want to finish before dark. So, you leave your pack on, you grab a quick swallow of water and you push on. 

There are no rest breaks for the slow kids.

And that’s why I don’t work as a programmer. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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(c) 2015 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved 

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