Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hummer dilemma

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!


Michelle said...

I couldn't agree more! These huge vehicles are such a burden on the earth.

I'm not sure how it is in Oregon, but here in Texas it's about 10 large trucks/suv's to every 1 modest car. All of these urban cowboys gotta have their pickups!

Allen Madding said...

but PT Cruisers have terrible crash ratings and they're made by dodge/chrysler. And the blue dye the old ladies use in their hair is bad for out underwater aquafers. I think I'd sit and bake in the heat until a hybrid car waved me out :)

Lucky said...

Although I'm not particularly religious, I usually try to remember to love the sinner and hate the sin.

I hate Hummers. Even seeing a picture of one makes my blood boil.

However, if a driver in a Hummer waves me in, I take the opportunity. For that one second, the person has transcended their poor choice of transportation. At that moment, he/she is just a person trying to be decent to another person.

Of course, if they're a jerk, I follow them to the gas station they're inevitably headed to, and point and laugh the whole time they're filling it up. Then I throw rocks at them.

Anonymous said...

With due respect, you sat there for another EIGHT minutes burning gas in 100ยบ heat because you dislike Hummers?

I think your righteous indignation with Hummers just got misplaced. You let your hate of them influence your respect for Mother Earth.


irondad said...

Same here. Even with the gas prices going up bigger vehicles are proliferating.

Not to mention that "Depends" undergarments clog landfills! I've found the hybrid drivers around to be sort of smug and self-absorbed. That must be why the cars have "Hybrid" emblems stuck on as many times as possible. They want everyone to know how eco-conscious they are. Not likely to let a fellow out in front of them, though.

I've come across a biblical passage that says being kind to one's enemies will result in heaping burning coals upon their heads. I'm not sure if following them to a gas station and throwing rocks at them qualifies!

Yeah, pretty much. Although, big picture wise, my few extra minutes of idling is more than offset by how much I ride the bike. My net reduction in fuel consumption and emission generation is pretty high compared to most vehicles out there.


Joe said...

And, do you think this gal will let in the next motorcyclist she sees at a light making a right turn?

irondad said...

My action wasn't hostile. I merely waved her past. She has no idea why. I could have just not been ready. It's just like when other riders don't return my wave. I still wave.

Steve Williams said...

Maybe the woman was a poor single mother working for a dealership and just delivering it to a customer. And then she has to take a bus home....

You never know all the story behnd the surface. And I guess I am more closely aligned with Lucky here.

Hummers don't bother me. Pick-up trucks with raised suspension and huge tires are the ones that do it for me. Same feelings.

Dan, just to get your head on straight you need to check out this link:

Bringing Dan and Hummers into perfect alignment.

Good post. I could feel the basting process!

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Bryce Lee said...

Considering Hummers have been singled
out as the enemy, may I suggest you think of the poor driver of a
Lincoln SUV or large GMC SUV. Here in Canada with regular unleaded petrol about (C$!.02 a litre, roughly equivalent to a US liquid quart.
These vehicles operate on premium fuel which is about 15 cents more per litre. Sophie operates on premium fuel?
The frustration you exhibit
is perhaps your own way of saying
that just maybe there comes a time when a quadracycle might be more
Society seems to enjoy big vehicles
be they cars trucks or anything else.
Canada for all of its size and expanse sells more
small fuel efficient cars per capita than most of the USA. Do we know something? Maybe the world
should all drive a Vespa?

Anonymous said...

I hate giving up my seat these days because too often women refuse to take the offer graciously. Makes me dis-inclined to offer. Which contributes to making the world a shabbier place. As does refusing a kind gesture from a fellow traveler. Even one in a Hummer.

Kano said...

I live in Salem and I can relate to you on both counts! Mission St. and SUVs. Also avoid Lancaster Dr. and S. Commercial St. I'm a motorcycle commuter too and I find Salem pretty mild compared to Houston, TX. where I lived for a couple of years. Love your blog!

irondad said...

Sophie burns regular most of the time. I'm a little worn out tonight as I just rode three hundred miles in hot weather and heavy traffic on the interstate. So I don't have the energy to philosophize on why people are willing to spend so much money to drive these big vehicles. I'm sure there's honest reasons, as well, though.

Maybe there's just more "regular folks" up there to our North!

There's real merit in what you say. On the other hand, we all have to do what our hearts move us to do. For good or bad. We can choose to keep offering even though past offers have been refused.

Maybe it's a character flaw of mine, but I tend to enjoy making a few waves now and then!

Nice to have you on board! You know exactly what I'm talking about, then. Althoug South Commercial doesn't seem quite as bad as the other two.

I've ridden in San Antonio but never Houston. It was enough to relate, though! It was the first time I'd ever seen peanut harvesting, interestingly.

irondad said...

I'm down with that. Maybe her husband made her drive it because her Subaru Outback was in the shop. I should keep an open mind but I have so much fun the way it is, you know!

Maybe I wasn't really being true to my own cause. Perhaps I was just afraid to have a vehicle that large just behind me in traffic. Let me check. Nope, sorry, wrong answer.

Thanks for the link! I really didn't need any more fuel but you went and threw gasoline on the fire, didn't you?

lobsterman said...

I understand your sentiment, I really do. I often feel the same way when I see a single occupant in a gas guzzling behemoth, frequently with cell phone attached to one ear. However...

To me, the offered kindness is a better indicator of the heart and motivation than the vehicle they are driving. People drive the vehicles they do for lots of reasons, and they don't all involve choice and ego.

Tinker said...


irondad said...

I did admit that it was my stereotype. Deep down I know everything has to be taken on a case by case basis.

I swear I'm not quite 6 feet tall! I was in Washington on Monday. It was the West Coast, one, though! Although I do own a baseball bat. :)