Adrenaline is a car race on a Friday evening. Foolishness is a high-speed car race on rainy Friday evening on long-winding uphill roads. Insanity, on the other hand, is a high-speed car race on a rainy and dark Friday evening with army jeeps on long-winding uphill roads in an army base stockpiled full of ammunition.
Master Sergeant P beside me, the only army regular in the two army jeeps full of fresh-faced NSFs, keeps up a meek protest with quiet repetitive whispers, “No. No. No. No. Safety first. Safety first. No. No. No. Slow down. Please slow down.” He seems to be protesting more to himself than to us.
And his protests are drowned out in 98.7FM at volume 15, in our raucous hollering and laughter, and in the roar of wind and screeching tyres amidst the whimper of a cranking 10-year old Ford engine. A part of him recognises he has no authority especially not on a Friday evening (after hours of overtime work slaved entirely by NSFs abandoned by their holidaying superiors); the other part merely wants to submit to the thrill of a high speed automotive chase to end the work week, hopefully not with a literal bang.
It is not just his whispers of protest that we ignore, it is also the countless road signs like “REDUCE SPEED NOW”, “MAX SPEED 20 KM/H”, “THIS IS AN EXPLOSIVE AREA” which fade into a blur of kaleidoscopic scenery that flies past our open windows, choked full of rain and wind.
Oh those screeching tyres and pelting of rain on the windscreen. Oh the furious beating of my heart, especially at the sharp bends wetted by torrential rain. Skid-bait. I wouldn’t actually mind dying in a vehicle wreck at such a height of adrenaline and thrill (plus I would be posthumously promoted to Second Sergeant anyway).
Lance Corporal J, my driver meticulously counts the number of beeps emitted by the in-built speed limit beeper, decelerating vehemently at the ninth beep. A speeding violation would be recorded in the vehicle black box at the tenth beep. All that mental work in spite of the high speed attempt to overtake the lead vehicle. 70 kph is all this elderly jeep can handle, especially uphill. Corporal G, on the other hand, the driver of the vehicle ahead of mine struggles with the weight of the obese soldiers in his jeep. At the sharpest of bends, only two of his wheels remain on the ground – the suspensions at breaking point. Our engines roar painfully at every bend.
Up and up the wet asphalt we race, round bend after bend in the rapidly darkening evening. G forces, horsepower, steaming asphalt and rain. And what seemed like an endless torment of near accidents, we finally reach the explosive area exit gate. By virtue of Lance Corporal J’s quick thinking, we cut into the lane of the lead vehicle before they could exit.
Third Sergeant L leaps out of the vehicle in retaliation and thrusts his chest before the radiator of our jeep – we can’t move without knocking him down. That cheater. We scream “nabeicheebye” at him while Lance Corporal J revs the engine but Third Sergeant L doesn’t move. Private A also leaps out and forces open the explosive area gate allowing our rival vehicle to fly ahead back to the carpark. And there we are defeated in the thickening rain.
Back at the mess, Corporal D says he heard every screech of the tyre even above the din of Channel 5 at full blast. Thank goodness the duty officer was stuck in his underground office.
It’s no wonder why the army never trusts NSFs with motor vehicles. We make tyres screech.