Wednesday, December 06, 2006

How in the #@#* did this happen?

Monday morning. An early morning meeting in the Big City has me out of the house before the roosters even think about stirring. This meeting's about a complicated subject with people who've never done this sort of thing before. I fire up Sophie and set out on the 80 plus mile trip. It's barely shorter than a regular trip to the office.

Up the freeway in the dark. With the steady drone of Sophie's motor and the usual wind noise as a backdrop, my mind chews on the upcoming gathering. There's several large hospitals in Portland. The one I'm headed for is a Catholic hospital with two very large campuses. One's on the East side and one's on the West side. I'm headed for the one to the East. I'm worried about time. There's a stretch of the Interstate called the Terwilliger Curves. Most mornings traffic crawls for miles through here. After that I've got to cross the infamous bridge where Sophie and I had our brush with the fuel spill on that nasty, rainy, Veteran's Day weekend night. Then there's the Banfield Freeway, otherwise known as Interstate 84. There's a big chance I'll get hung up in any or all of these spots. That's the reason for departing three hours early.

Once at the meeting I'm faced with trying to bring some sort of order to chaos. We're dealing with the Hospital's attempts to establish a viable security system both electronically and through their physical key and lock system. It's a monumental task with a facility this large and complex. All this is churning through my mind as I rumble down the road like any other morning commuter. That's when it hit me like a wood beetle on a fairing. Smack! Any other commuter?

A voice in my head suddenly sounds out with haunting clarity. It tells me that I'm not feeling the ride. Don't get me wrong. I'm still paying attention to traffic. I still have situational awareness. My SIPDE process ( see May 6, 2006 ) is functioning in the background like the well-honed tool it is. This is something else entirely. Something I'd felt every time I got on the bike was missing. It was that feeling of how wonderful it was to be on two wheels. Kind of like slipping into a hot tub, the sensations surround me. Each ride had me saying to myself "This is so stinkin' awesome!"

The ride would be a marked contrast to the day. Hectic day? Soothing ride. Discouraging day? Riding would bring back the cheer. In other words, I never failed to notice and appreciate that special experience that was my ride to or from work. Until lately. Holy crap!! What in the Sam Hill happened?

All I can figure is that I've found an unexpected downside to a really long freeway commute. I found the other drawbacks I thought would be there. All the nasty effects of heavy traffic and stupid people. I never saw this one coming. The hour commute I enjoyed previously on my cherished backroads refreshed me. An hour and a half to two hours of freeway each direction is numbing my mind. God forbid, but I've ceased to become a motorcycle commuter. I'm a person on the way to work totally disconnected from the journey. Disturbingly, I've realized I'm becoming just like the other commuters with the only difference being the number of wheels. It's a horrible place for someone like me to find oneself. I've always thought I was better than that.

The good news is that I woke up to the fact before it became too late. Recognition will bring counter-measures. I've decided to take a Mental Health Day this week as a first step. The sole purpose being to remind myself how to live in the moment. Moment after moment of relishing that special privilege we have to ride a motorcycle to work. The few, the proud, the Motorcyclists. I know it sounds like the Marines. I hold both in extremely high esteem.

There's supposed to be a few cold, clear days this week. I'll tell you how my Get-Back-in-Touch day goes in the next post.

Miles and smiles,


dan_durham said...

I've called in for a "mental health" day just becuase of traffic. Not that my job is stressful or anything, just getting here can make a person crazy. I can really relate to that "zoning out" freeway commute. Just like you said, I'm not ignoring traffic from a motorcycle safety standpoint, it's just failing to enjoy the ride as much as being on 2 wheels encourages.

By the way, you were really in suspense about my interview?? Heh, well it was like jumping through hoops when I already pretty much knew I'd make it. The GOOD news is that this is in Downtown Seattle and I am working 5 x8 days a week instead of 4 x 10.
This means less of that freeway and opens up many more backroads. YAY. Not to mention one more day to commute on the bike.

Those 10 hour shifts can burn a guy out by the end of the week...

irondad said...

Congrats on the job. Although I'm not sure how there can be backroads in downtown Seattle!

dan_durham said...

Not really, but up north in Everett/Marysville I've got options :)

Steve Williams said...

It doesn't have to be a long commute to suddenly realize your mind is in the same place as any other commuter. More than I like to think about I have found myself realizing I can't remember the road I've just ridden over; my mind focused on work or something other than riding. It's an uncomfortable feeling and takes the positive out of the ride.

Glad you're awake and enjoying the hot tub immersion!