Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Group Dynamics in Sticky Situations

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“Hellooooo! Can someone please tell me where my right tire is at?” I yelled, as my Jeep teeter-tottered on two wheels.

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Blank Stares.

“Is my right wheel gonna drop into that hole?!” I yelled out the window to the crowd of onlookers standing on the ledge above the trail.

More blank stares.

I was driving my Jeep through a tight, rocky canyon, with boulders the size of Buicks. I was attempting to climb over a particularly narrow crest with a huge boulder on my left, a three foot deep hole on my right, and only four inches of axle width to spare. To drop into that hole would mean, at the very least, high-centered on the frame, or at the worst, rolled over in the bottom of a narrow, rocky gorge at risk of damage and injury and making for a difficult recovery.

There was a significant step down in front of the left tire, which made the Jeep “teeter” back and forth as I negotiated over the crest. After realigning several times to squeeze through, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure where my right tire was.

Even a novice could tell me if my wheel was heading for the hole on my right, or if it would just skim along the edge, but no one spoke up. With your Jeep teetering back and forth, it isn’t exactly safe to hop out to see where your tires are. What’s needed at moments like this is a little help from outside. What you need is a spotter.

This has happened more than a few times out on the trail, where I wanted spotting, but no one stepped up. I have also witnessed the opposite situation: Tag along on any club run or four-wheeling event and you will find hoards of willing opinion givers hanging out at every obstacle. So many people are shouting out conflicting opinions that the driver still doesn’t know how to proceed.

This got me thinking about the group dynamics of 4-wheeling, and especially about spotting and recovery.

I say that any opinion may bring something of value to the discussion, especially where safety in involved. To prevent a situation from degrading into a free-for-all, there are some tried and true rules to follow.

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