Thursday, November 02, 2006

Zen and Mayhem

It's been a time of contrast. Yesterday morning brought a pleasantly mild morning. The sun was trying to add warmth to the night's chill. Last night saw the beginning of pouring rain that's predicted to last a while. Probably until July 2nd, 2007! The radio announcer said it would rain today, the day after that, the day after that, the day after that; I think you get the idea.

The peacefulness of the ride in the morning was offset by violence in the afternoon. This Ducati ST4 was the catalyst for the violence. The Duck had nothing to do with it. It was just my habit of stopping to look at bikes parked in unusual places that put me in the right place at the right time. Or wrong place, depending upon your reference point. If I hadn't stopped to take pictures of the Ducati I would have been in the store when the fun started.

I mentioned earlier that we have a new guy at the office. I needed to sit down and spend some time going over some things with him. Chris lives in the town where the office is. In an effort to save me a little travel time, we made arrangements to meet at a Starbucks in the Washington Square Mall. Who says your office always has to be an actual office? It's like the ad I saw once that asked: "Who says your company car has to be a car?"

Our meeting time was set at 10 AM. Typically it would take me about an hour and ten minutes to ride up there. Just to make sure I had extra time to deal with traffic jams and such, I set out about 8:15. Starting out this late put me on the road after the bulk of the morning commuters had passed. Due to the time and distance I stayed with the freeway. It was a very peaceful ride. Things just flowed. I have to say I actually found what we call a Zen state.

A few of us mention finding Zen on a bike. I suspect we use that word somewhat incorrectly. Zen is a Japanese take on the Buddhist religion that teaches self-discipline, meditation, and attainment of enlightment through direct intuitive insight. Come to think of it, maybe we do use it correctly. In my own Redneck way I've said the same thing. Everything I needed to know about life I learned on a motorcycle. I always tried to teach my boys that the measure of a man is if he can be strong enough to be gentle. It would probably be more accurate to say that Zen is a continuing journey. In this life we never arrive at a place called "Zen" and consider the trip finished. Either way, I felt pretty darn peaceful!

What's weird is that I didn't really have a top-of-mind awareness of it while it was happening. It was only after I pulled into the parking lot and put the sidestand down that it dawned on me what a peaceful ride it had been. It must be that this kind of state is what we were built for. The tranquility seems so good and natural that we don't really notice it. This peacefulness is "home" to us. What we notice is the jarring of the things that work against this mental state. It's a sad commentary on this world that there's so much jarring that the jarring seems to be the norm. On my ride there had been absolutely no conflict. No adverse weather, no really weird drivers, and no blockage to the traffic flow. We literally just seamlessly went from one place to another and arrived in a wonderful mental state. Most two wheeled commuters are looking to go "home" at the end of the day, literally and spiritually. If the bike helps us find this then perhaps riding really is a Zen endeavour.

Call me cynical, but I knew it was too good to last through the whole day. After doing some business related things, I rode back toward home. I wanted to stop at Office Max in Salem to get some calendar pages for 2007. I came across this Ducati parked up against the building. By the way it's parked, it looks like an employee's bike. If it were me, I'd worry about it. This is the back of the building. There are no windows anywhere except in the front of the building. It also happens to be one of those title loan businesses. I'm sure not all the customers are real happy.

Whatever, it's not my bike. I'm just interested in who's commuting on a bike. This title loan business is on one end of a strip mall. Office Max is on the other end. I got to the parking spots in front of my destination and dismounted. Right then I heard a loud crash. The street in front of this strip mall is named Lancaster Drive. It is four lanes with a turning lane in the middle. It's probably safe to say that everyone in this town of a hundred thousand drives this street at least once every day.

Two vehicles were turning left from opposite sides of this busy street. The car was coming out of a Del Taco fast food place across the street. This pickup was coming out of this strip mall. Miscalculations were made by one or both drivers. There was an unexpected introduction session. So far it's just an everyday traffic accident. I put my helmet down and started over to see if I could help until the local officers arrived. You know, the old cop habits, and all. I've still got my gear on except for helmet and gloves. Enter a new complication.

Do you see the sign on the sidewalk leaning up against the telephone pole?

At the time of the accident it had been in the hands of a young man who was hired by Mattress World. They're fairly aggressive about attracting business, it seems. Right after I heard the wreck, this pickup came dashing into the parking lot. Dents and all, here it comes. The driver was a male. I'm presuming it's his wife standing up against the pickup bed. I can just hear the wheels turning in her brain. "What the hell happens now?"

She has good reason to ask. At the time I took the picture her husband was in the back of a patrol car. You see, he must have decided that the sign boy was to blame for the wreck. So he dashes into the parking lot, grabs the sign from the young man, backs him up against this pole and starts hitting the boy with the sign. The young man is covering his head and yelling back, "It's not my fault, it's not my fault!"

Being the only source of salvation close at hand, I switch tactics and go into rescue mode. The driver of the pickup is about the same size as his wife. Pretty beefy. I tried to get a choke hold from behind but I have to curse the Aerostich Roadcrafter jacket. Probably the only time I will do that. The sleeve was just too bulky to make it work. The man put his chin down and foiled my plan. So I grabbed a handful of hair and pulled back hard. So far so good, he quit hitting the young man. I'd like to say I planned it this way but I didn't. Being lefthanded, I just grabbed the hair with my left hand. The assailant for whatever reason reached back for me with his right hand. How awesome! A handful of hair in my left hand and his right arm up behind his back in my right hand. With a little push forward I had his face against the telephone pole.

The really great news is that the cops responded very quickly. No matter how macho I think I am, I have to admit I'm getting a little soft. The effort left me huffing a little. Ok, a lot. With no cuffs I don't know how long I could have held the guy. Things went in my favor and that's all I can take credit for.

Real professionals, the cops, took over and wrapped things up. The county cop congratulated me. A city cop told me I shouldn't put myself in danger. Go figure.

That was my day. Zen and Mayhem. I discovered I really like mental tranquility. On the other hand, the fighting was really fun, too! Katie's looking over my shoulder as I write this. She's shaking her head. What? We all want a peaceful journey but can't we have a little fun along the way?

Miles and smiles,


Anonymous said...

Nate from Salt Lake:

So far the motorcycle industry has not figured out that their best marketing approach for at least one slide of the potential ridership is the issue of Enlightenment Through Motion.

Many of the people currently sitting on special pillows waiting for Everything to Make Sense would make much more progress balancing on 2 wheels.

This is the path of the Zen Warrior - being fully "in the moment" - which is one of the pillars of the philosophy.

Keep up the good work.

Irondad said...

Have you seen the t-shirt that Aerostich sells? It says "The road to Enlightment is more fun on a bike". You're right about the marketing approach.

One thing Grandpa taught me is that good things seldom just come floating to you. If they do, best be suspicious, like a fish seeing a tasty looking worm on a hook! You have to go out and find them yourself.

Riding does keep us fully in the moment. It's a survival thing. The side benefit is that we also reap the good things from the added awareness.

Thanks for the comment!

gary said...

Alright Dan, you're having too much fun. Are people in WA-state that crazy? -Or are you just a magnet for craziness?

Put that in your little Zen pipe and smoke it...

Ride well,

irondad said...

What can I say? I put in a request to be a "babe" magnet. Some clerk typed in "crazed" magnet. Can't get good help anywhere. By the way, WA state has plenty of crazies. This was in Oregon's capitol.


Steve Williams said...

Kim was reading this over my shoulder and unlike Katie who merely shook her head she exclaimed "Oh geezus!".
She goes on to say that it's bad enough he rides his scooter in the snow. I correct her and tell her, "No, this is that other crazy guy!" *grin*

Gary is right, you seem to magically attract drama.

Be careful out there. We only want to read about you here.