What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
We asked this question on the streets of Wellington and the replies we recorded included all sorts of dodgy behaviour, from theft to cheating.
But taking a risk doesn’t have to involve doing a bad thing. Maybe you chose to do something for the right reasons, like a better job, but it might mean losing something else, like friends if you have to move to a new city.
Every major decision we make is based on what we might win or lose.
In The Wireless office yesterday we talked about the biggest risks any of us had taken. Truly great risks were hard to talk about, probably because we were young and dumb when we took them. There’s also the pain and shame of those punts on love or money that didn’t work out.
But one person who had taken an honest risk was our intern, Alex. He did it for the money.
When he was 22, Alex spent the better part of a year working two weeks on, one week off in an underground mine in Western Australia. First he drove trucks. When he’d had enough of that he worked on a crew that made sure all the ventilation, electricity and waste disposal lines were working. Then he took a job with the “charge-up crew” driving through the mine fixing detonators to explosives to blow-up the rock.
“You just had the truck literally going sideways around every corner because no-one else was down there. You were literally just smashing around letting all the [explosives] off. It was crazy.”
There were no deaths in the mine while he worked there, but someone had been accidentally killed the year before and Alex says the risk to life and limb was ever present.
“Every time you went into the hole you really had to look out for yourself. That's how I treated it. Anything can go wrong down there and anything does go wrong down there.
“You can't be skylarking and not be switched on.”
Alex decided to give the job up after he thought he lost a finger while working on fixing some service pipes. The vehicle he was working from jumped forward when the driver accidentally took his foot off the brake.
“My whole finger went into the pipe and I was just laughing like ‘there goes your finger mate’. I didn't want to look at it because it felt like it was just gone.”
Fortunately, he’d only lost a fingernail.
In the end the risk just wasn’t worth it, and he had a life to live that he decided was better spent somewhere other than a hole in the desert.
Having already worked as tree planter, private house cleaner, barman - “every job you could do without a degree” - Alex moved on to become a soil tester in Perth.
This was all about six years ago.
Now he's on the cusp of graduating from the New Zealand Broadcasting School and is hoping that the risk he took coming to The Wireless pays off.
The risk we took in taking him on board certainly has.
This month on The Wireless we'll be exploring more on the theme of risk. We'll have stories on living in earthquake prone buildings, dangerous sports, dangerous jobs, getting home after a night our and risks that seem big but turn out to be not so risky.