Better to be safe than sorry

Posted 9/13/23

I love the show “The Amazing Race”, and, due to the wonders of modern television, last season’s show has been amazingly gracing my television screen recently. This reality program …

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Better to be safe than sorry


I love the show “The Amazing Race”, and, due to the wonders of modern television, last season’s show has been amazingly gracing my television screen recently. This reality program fast paced and unscripted and starts out with twelve pairs of contestants who race around the world while competing in various mental, physical and cultural challenges from each geographical area. Because I am not watching the show “live”, the show can be halted for a bathroom break, to answer the telephone, leave the house for work, or to do housework.  (Surely, I jest…housework would never be more important than watching this iconic show.)

One thing that is always incredulous is the fact that most of the contestants seem unable to utilize a map, that extra-large piece of foldable paper that has lines and symbols which symbolize roadways, objects, and geographical details. Most people these days use a GPS, so using this old-fashioned technique is not in their skill set. It is unbelievable that some of the competitors do not even understand the concept of north and south. Thanks to the Vienna Convention on Road Signs, most road signs are consistent from nation to nation, except for speed limit signs which utilize “miles” in the United States and “kilometers” in the rest of the world. Despite the consistent use of directional symbols for north, south, east, and west on the road signs, there are always a few contestants who drive for hours in the wrong direction before they realize they are traveling the wrong way. If someone takes a wrong turn and ends up going in an incorrect direction, this could be easily rectified with a quick U-turn and not turned into a tour of the wrong countryside. 

An additional directional clue would be that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. The morning sun should not be glaring through the right-hand passenger window if they are motoring south. The attainment of this information would be crucial to the contestants in the Amazing Race so they can get where they need to go. Yet, episode after episode, there is always a duo or two who waste precious time driving the wrong way.

Another faux pas made by many competitors is that they are unable to drive a standard car which needs to be shifted. Using foreign cars with manual transmissions can be fun to drive.  Many years ago, I used to enjoy driving my little MG, except for driving up a hill and having to wait at a light, where I had to jockey between the stick shift and clutch pedal, always afraid that I would roll down into the car behind me. Because 80% of the cars in Europe have manual transmissions, the chances are that contestants in The Amazing Race will be faced with this challenge. Despite my experience, I still had challenges waiting on a hill, or downshifting when coming into a town. Imagine how difficult that would be for an inexperienced driver in a strange country and driving on the “wrong” side of the road? They could be the quickest, smartest, most savvy contender in the race, but be eliminated for not being fast enough due to the issues related to their driving.

Also, many contestants come on the show without knowing how to swim.  Some type of swimming activity is generally included, such as completing an underwater maze, swimming to the shore from a capsized boat, or swimming in a large tank of sharks to retrieve a clue. (I would assume the producers would have fed the sharks enough food to engorge themselves so they would not be interested in the swimming humans. I learned this from my son, Steven, who used to wrestle alligators at Regal Reptiles as part of his vocational training when he was in school.  He indicated that the alligators were fed chickens before the presentation so they would not be hungry when they “wrestled.”)

I understand that the contestants who are picked to be on the show learn of their fate to participate only a few weeks before leaving and do not have a lot of time to learn how to read a map, swim, and shift a standard car. The only solution is for all of us to learn these skills now in case we are ever chosen to participate in this reality show. It is better to be safe than sorry.


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