At the start of the 21st century the company I work for decided to participate in a ‘Business Team Challenge’ competition being held in the Brecon Beacons. There were changes in personnel right up until the day before the team set off for Wales, due to ‘injuries’ and ‘work pressures’. Nevertheless, the final line up contained a Big Boss, a Medium-sized Boss, a Little Boss and two lowly assistants, one of which was me. A delicate balance of bosses and staff had been achieved – three men and two women accordingly.
My job throughout was to ‘make it happen’, which in practice meant completing entry forms, booking accommodation, arrange transportation and triple-check timings, sourcing and purchase appropriate (matching) clothing, footwear, kit and equipment. And all the while, the personnel (and vital statistics) of the team kept changing.
I had to be there, of course, because I’d organised the team. But in truth, not being of an outdoorsy persuasion, I couldn’t think of a worse way to spend my weekend: it was bound to rain, I had never had to use a map and compass before and it was in Wales, for goodness sake! Wasn’t that bad enough?. I had to put my foot down somewhere along the line, and my fear of heights gave me the perfect opportunity; I said that I did not want to abseil. In turn I was promised I wouldn’t have to.
It was all going so well until the first afternoon when Medium-sized Boss twisted his ankle on a slippery slope, during a torrential downpour.
“There is no one else; you’ll have to do it”, I was told by Big Boss as he trotted on ahead, leaving me to trudge behind him to the edge of a chasm. I didn’t answer, I couldn’t; it’s difficult to speak coherently when your mouth is devoid of spit.
Three of us were to take the plunge for the honour of our company. Medium-sized Boss sat at the base of the drop, somewhere, cradling his ankle and smoking a cigarette, along with Little Boss, who had helped him hobble into position. It was difficult to see exactly where they were positioned as my eyes had suddenly gone all blurry. Horror filled me, as the crowd of lemmings gradually thinned at the top of the drop.
Then there were three… Big Boss disappeared over the edge… two… Admin Girl followed… one…. The few remaining eyes on my level turned in my direction.
“I can’t do it…”I repeated like a scratched record, as I was gently coaxed and manoeuvred into position, clips clicked into place and a fat rope placed in my hands. The moment the soles of my walking boots started to shift from horizontal to vertical, I completely froze.
Except for my eyes – they raced upwards, away from certain death. Realising there was no escape, they slowly rolled back down to meet the gaze of the woman holding my rope. “You can do it”, she said gently, pushing me over the edge.
The journey down was far too short. In fact it was a complete blast!
“Can I do it again?” I squealed with delight, hopping from foot to foot, whilst Big Boss struggled to unhook me.
“No, we’ve got a hike to the next task. Well done.” And off he went.
Little and Medium-sized Boss, though, both hugged me tight and told me how brilliant I’d been to do it. Medium-sized Boss carried on hugging and thanking me for helping him out… right up until the moment I realised we’d covered half the distance to the next stage of the competition.
He let me go and then the laughter started. But the loudest laugh came from me.