Just recently, I’ve noticed a few journos’s describing this time in COVID-19 as a roller-coaster ride; especially since government restrictions have been imposed again. It’s a metaphor often used to describe what life is like: full of ups and downs, sharp bends, surprising dips and steep climbs. It’s a ride that can be both exhilarating as well as sickening.
I can remember my first experience of such a ride as a child. We were on holiday at a place called Gt Yarmouth; a popular tourist destination that offered a heady mix of smells, sights and sounds. It catered for everyone. The place was full of pubs, bingo stalls, and ice cream stands. It was a hot day in July. I’d just eaten a bag of chips, a small dish of cockles and was making my way through a Wall’s ice cream when my older sister grabbed my hand and dragged me toward a roller-coaster ride. It was quite a small scale but looked really big to me. I was 6. We climbed in and big red-faced men lowered the safety bar into our laps. Looking back, I think I was much too small for the ride. Anyway, we start the slow climb to the top of the ride. Higher and higher we go. I shuffle across to look over the side and can see mum waving enthusiastically. So far, all is well. Then the roller car takes a sharp left and immediately plunges down a steep valley track. Older kids are shouting and laughing. It races to the top again without slowing and once again veering left, hurtles into an even deeper descent. As you can imagine, the chips didn’t stay down for very long and it was lucky for everybody else that we were in the back row.
But, as a metaphor, I’m not sure the roller-coaster ride really works as a way of describing what life is like for most people. It’s a bit too dramatic as well as being inaccurate. Forest Gump’s mum reckoned life was“like a box of choclits” – full of random surprises.
I suspect we’ve all got our own preferred metaphor. Personally, I reckon life is a bit more like a Go-Kart race.
- It’s low to the ground
- You’re on your own
- You strap yourself in
- Some karts are better than others ( it’s the luck of the draw)
- You can race to win or you can just enjoy the experience
- Each time you have the experience, skills improve and it gets better.
- Just when you think you are going fine someone comes up behind you and knocks you out of the race, or the kart breaks down.
- And, just when you think you are in front, someone sneaks up inside and wins the race.
- Sometimes it’s frustrating but most times it’s just a heap of fun.
Of course, there is always a risk in pushing a metaphor too far – but you get the point, right.
Once you are strapped into a roller-coaster trolley that’s it. Any control over what happens next has gone out the window so-to-speak. You climb in. You hang on. You get out. I don’t think life is like that.
But with a Go-Kart ( as in life), you are largely in control of what happens on the track; you get to make a few decisions. There’s bad luck and there’s good luck. There’s usually someone else trying to get in front or cut you off. Sometimes you’re the one trying to get in front or cut someone off. Go fast. Go slow. Go steady. Get annoyed or just have fun. But there are lots of choices involved. Personal choices.
The metaphor works for me. Mind you, I do quite like the idea of life being ‘like a box of choclits’ – especially if I pick one of those crunchy ones. I’m not that keen on the strawberry syrupy ones.
Meanwhile, strap yourself in and get as much out of the COVID ride as you can. I think we’ll be on this ride a little bit longer. Actually, quite a bit longer – together and alone.