Meet Rick Fowler: Traffic manager for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and tax office IT fixer
When Rick Fowler was a kid, his mom told him not to play in traffic. He didn’t listen.
All grown up now, he’s surrounded by traffic, spring through fall, at one of the world’s busiest racetracks: the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – home of the storied Indy 500.
When not in the tax office during tax season, Fowler manages a team of “yellow shirts” – members of the track’s Safety Patrol who oversee traffic and parking for visitors to track events. (Guess what the yellow shirts wear while working?)
Although there’s plenty of parking outside the speedway, Fowler’s crew directs vehicles that park inside the 2.5-mile track, called inside the oval. And there’s a trick to that.
To get inside the oval, vehicles must pass through one of six tunnels that go underneath the track – where bottlenecks and hotheads sometimes merge. And that’s where the fun begins.
Every which way
Inside and outside those tunnels, Fowler and crew stand in the middle of intersections, signaling and motioning motorists safely through – with nothing but air between them and moving vehicles.
“Our job is to protect our visitors, help them get where they’re going and answer their questions,” says Fowler, a seasonal field systems technician for H&R Block based in Fishers, Indiana. “It’s part of the whole guest experience at the speedway.”
Of course, things don’t always roll along smoothly.
“If traffic isn’t moving fast enough, things can heat up, especially when people are partying and having a good time,” says Fowler.
And, while Fowler has never been seriously injured, he’s had some close calls.
In the line of duty
“I’ve been hit by a tram full of people, when a car wouldn’t stop and the tram couldn’t swerve,” says Fowler. “It didn’t hurt.
“And I almost got hit by A.J. Foyt,” a professional driver who won the Indy 500 four times.
Apparently, Foyt and his wife were driving in a personal vehicle, inside the oval – and having a lively discussion.
“A.J. kept changing his turn signal, this way and then that, and almost clipped me in the middle of an intersection,” says Fowler. “When he stopped his car, A.J. said, ‘Oh, man, I’m sorry. My wife has me so confused.’”
While confusion may surface in parking lots, it has no place in the tax office. That’s why Fowler travels around the region, keeping computers, printers and related devices in top form – and plying the same interpersonal skills that serve him well at the race track.
It not only makes for a well-oiled working environment, it’s good for the client experience.
“When clients come to our tax offices, we want to make their visit enjoyable and memorable,” says Fowler. “I’m here to fix any IT problems and reassure people that everything will be OK.”
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