It was 104 degrees (f) when I left the office on Tuesday. The fact that it broke a long standing record for that date didn't overly impress me. Nasty hot is nasty hot, record or not. We're in the middle of a short ( hopefully ) heat wave. Every possible vent on the 'stich and helmet was WFO. Wide, flapping, open. Let me get moving and get some air flow going. I was pretty much done for the day so the evidence of my suffering wouldn't really matter. You know what I mean. Big wet spots on the shirt, plastered down hair, reddened cheeks and nose, and sometimes that odor....well, never mind.
The last work related task was to drop off a small box in Salem. It's about an hour South of the office. From there I'd have another thirty minutes home. With this heat, taking the long way sort of loses its appeal. I made my delivery and donned the helmet once more. The inside of the helmet was still wet from the ride down. Gross! At least it felt cool for a minute or two. Now the task at hand was to get back into traffic. I was on Mission Street.
Nearly one hundred and fifty thousand people live in Salem. On any given day, all but a couple drive down Mission Street. It's a major East-West corridor with everything from a hospital to Wal-Mart to be found there. Unless you're at a stop light, getting into traffic during late afternoons becomes Mission Impossible. At least, Mission Quite Difficult. Even turning right into traffic can be a matter of a long wait.
That's the situation I found myself in. I'd approached so that I could make a right turn into the parking lot. Now I had to get out. Traffic is moving slowly enough through this stretch that it's bumper to bumper. Using the superior acceleration of the bike won't help. I'm in need of a Good Samaritan to let me in. These kind of people are getting more scarce but there's still a few. I'm suddenly in luck. A woman cheerfully waves through her windshield. She's smiling and leaving me space to enter the flow of vehicles. The rig's almost the same color as Sophie and has about every chrome farkle imaginable, creating a dazzling brilliance in the hot sunshine.
Too bad it's a Hummer.
I am morally and philosophically opposed to Hummers. They represent the most "in your face" statement to the environment possible. Oh sure, there's other vehicles with worse fuel economy and more pollution. At least these serve a purpose. Hummers don't do anything but massage fragile egos. A driver just doesn't need one for any other purpose. Now this woman is waving me on to cut in front of her.
I'm slow roasting in the burning sun. Basting in my own sweat. It will likely be a lot longer before I get the chance to go again. We're just down the road from a major intersection. Five lanes of traffic are plugged to the max. It's tempting to let my principles evaporate into the sunshine like so much mist. I'm going to have to make a decision soon as the light is about to turn and everyone will surge ahead.
For now, though, I have a few seconds. Part of the problem is that I'm sort of in shock. A Hummer driver is one of the last people I'd expect to show that kind of courtesy. I know it's stereotyping. It's my stereotyping so leave me to it, good or bad. Part of the temptation is the extreme heat. I'm feeling like I'm literally melting. The air right in front of my face is so hot I could easily suffocate. Who would know? I could just go. What does it matter? It's a little thing, really. Won't make any difference in the scheme of things; won't cause anyone to quit driving Hummers.
Laugh at me if you will, but I have this impression that I would somehow be cheapened by accepting an act of largesse from a Hummer driver. We are diametrically opposed in our philosophies. That's a lot of big words, isn't it? Let me say it in my native Redneck.
I'll be damned if I'm going to accept a gift from someone I'm feuding with. On top of that, I sure hope my refusin' is going to insult you!
With a slight head shake I wave her on, refusing her offer. She gave a shrug as if to say "It's no skin off my nose if you're stupid enough to sit there and bake" and proceeded on. I lost sight of her in the tinted side windows as she drove by.
I glanced at Sophie's clock to note the time. I had to put a numerical value to my suffering in the name of Intregity. Eight minutes later I got another chance from an older woman in a PT Cruiser. Have you ever noticed how many of these cars are driven by older women? I love old ladies and don't have too many issues with the car so I waved cheerfully in thanks as I accepted her gracious offer.
Like I say, it's a little thing. Just another small moment with larger implications in the life of a motorcycle commuter. I figure a person either has principles or doesn't. Like my little buddy Yoda says "There is no try, only do, or do not!" ( are you reading this, G.C. Yoda?) I'm not going to hold Hummer drivers as foes and then accept gifts when it suits me. It's a Cowboy Thing my Grandfather ( rest his soul ) instilled into me. Gramp, if you're looking down, I'm sorry I was even tempted!
Miles and smiles,
P.S. There's no picture because I don't want an image of one of THOSE here!