How I Undermined my Reputation as a Marshal

As I’m watching the live stream of the Bathurst 12 hour race in Australia, I read an interesting comment from a friend currently marshaling on Mount Panorama that made me want to write this post. It is entirely possible that I have misinterpreted the comment, but it’s worth writing my thoughts down because they reflect the way I feel at this point in time. My opinions definitely change with time, based on the circumstances and with any new knowledge gained from experiences at various events, so I want to write this down to see how I felt when I read it in the future.

Over the past few years of my volunteering in motorsport I have noticed that depending whom I worked with my reputation did not reflect what I intended to project to my colleagues and coworkers. This feeling was magnified but was not limited to events and people in the US. I made a comment about marshals boycotting a karting event in Singapore that was received negatively, which wasn’t my intention at all. And before that, my comments about being prevented from registering to marshal the F1 race in Abu Dhabi allowed some people to form the opinion that I dislike ATCUAE and the Yas Marina Circuit which couldn’t be further from the truth, because after finally visiting the circuit and working the Gulf 12 hour event, I found it to be the most amazing facility I have ever been to.

But events in the US, and certain interactions with people that I felt treated me badly (and ultimately blogged about it on this web site with all the unedited posts still available for the reading) caused retaliation. I’m not just referring to the physical threats by the former flag chief of the region that I dumped with my local club, but also comments by friends which makes me wonder: at what point did I cross the line and undermined my reputation as a marshal?

I say this because obviously in my mind I never set out to volunteer as a marshal and be a dick to other people. I have never intentionally did things “wrong” just to fuck with people. But that’s the vibe I get from people that judge my character and form an opinion of me as a person. The line must have been crossed when I took the whinging that everyone else seems to do over a beer at a post-race party and brought it online in the form of a blog post.

Everybody complains about something. There’s no doubt in my mind that people bitch, moan and complain far more than I do. But I became the enemy of the Motorsports for talking about things publicly on a web site that nobody reads. People complain about everything, from being treated like shit while volunteering by the event organizers or the circuit, or the security staff; to the sloppy food that is provided sometimes, the early meetings, or the fellow marshals they work with, etc. I know this because I have heard it from Singapore to Australia, to Canada and certainly around the US. Blogging about it undoubtedly undermined my reputation. But I don’t agree with writing “rosy” posts just to please people that treat me badly. Or to censor myself. It really makes me wonder how in a country that has OSHA, events/circuits can get away with inhumane treatment (long hours, no breaks, poor working conditions, etc.) But they get away with it because ordinary marshals complain only among themselves at beer parties and not where it actually counts apparently.

The other act of course was picture taking. It was the first nail in the coffin of my career and even though I’ve stopped (or rather changed my focus with the Marshal Cam project) it became the last also. And its ironic. The rules don’t change from track to track or event to event. Marshals aren’t allowed to take pictures while cars are on track whether the event is Formula One, WEC, V8 Supercars or the Australian GT race I’m watching right now. And yet, my facebook is filled with photos posted by people that are currently volunteering track side. And those pictures show race cars, on the racing tarmac. There’s little difference from what I’m seeing now while at my desk at work watching the live stream on one of the screens, to what I did at Montreal during F1 that got me in so much trouble thanks to an overzealous post chief. But me doing it was far worse apparently than anyone else doing it, because I got a web site that no one reads. And that’s a shame, I think.

So what do I intend to do to change my reputation in the future? It’s hard to say at this point because of the awful situation I find myself in, in my personal life. I certainly do not intend to go do club racing exclusively just to kiss ass of the same people that went out of their way to spread rumors about me and then got all bent out of shape because I refused to “respect” them as a result. The bully flag chief pointed out to me that PERCEPTION = REALITY, and I don’t agree with that at all. There are plenty of trolls out there that think they’re cool spreading a rumor to undermine someone they don’t like because all of their buddy buddies adore them for it. It’s absurd. I will choose my future events more carefully. There’s no reason to do every pro event out there because it features something amazing. It’s unrealistic both logistically and financially. I will have to ultimately pick and choose events that I know will make me happy, not someone else, but me – personally. I will work with people that don’t smile to my face and then back-stab me because they’re jealous of the events I’ve done in the past. I will have to volunteer smarter, that’s for sure.

I also want to open an opportunity for feedback from people I actually work with (Not someone that overheard, someone else who overheard another person’s opinion of me. But actual coworkers) to tell me what they feel I did wrong at an event and what I can do to improve, or if I did something right – I should continue doing it. I like the idea of references, like those used on CouchSurfing that help both hosts and travelers to form their opinion on whether or not to deal with someone directly. Maybe the same approach could work well with Motorsport volunteering. I doubt others would jump on the concept because as this blog has clearly pointed out, everyone is very sensitive to even the most innocent amount of criticism. But I am happy to use myself as a test subject to prove that this would be worthwhile in marshaling. In other countries a simple Log Book serves just this purpose, but the only log book I have been filling out is the same one that pisses people off on my web site, because they perceive it as “bragging” so hopefully the reference idea takes off.

Have something to say about me? Post it in the comments below. I will respond to you. Just don’t delete the comments like the old lady from Florida did, when I responded to her comment that called me a “disgrace” or something along those lines. IF I’m wrong, I have no problem admitting it and hopefully learning from my mistakes.

I am very interested to read some feedback about my performance.