Some of this touches on things that have already been written about. Not just by me, but some of our blogosphere neighbors. I gotta go there, anyway. Consider it a rant with a happy ending.
People are getting more stupid and selfish all the time. I've got ideas of why but that's way too much meat for this post. It's way worse when they get into cars. There's something about a vehicle that amplifies the effect, to be sure. If it isn't there in the first place it can't be amplified, can it? Cages must be terribly efficient amplifiers. Cars seem to find the tiniest veins of evil and turn them into giant hoses. I've seen what I considered decent, average, folks turn into screaming lunatics once in their cars.
The insulating affect of tons of steel wrapped around a body has been discussed before. This insulating shows itself in so many ways. I find it especially interesting that people get so irate over every little slight, real or only perceived. At the same time they seem to have no clue that their own actions affect other drivers. I see it all the time. No turns signals, suddenly darting someplace in front of others, making obscenely dangerous lane changes, or weaving in and out of traffic at a breakneck pace. There's no concern over the fact that they're endangering themselves, which is bad enough. Endangering others who have no choice in the matter is inexcusable. It's selfish stupidity to a felony degree. What's really weird is that it seems to be a habit they're unaware of. It's like a transformation happens when they turn the key. A transformation that happens so often these drivers aren't even aware anymore of the fact they drive so badly. In a perverse sort of way, it becomes "normal"!
That's them. What about us? I admit to getting frustrated with them sometimes. I'm tempted to do things I shouldn't. Not having attained sainthood, yet, and not likely to do so anytime soon, I struggle with anger and a desire to attack. That "R" word crops up sometimes as much as I hate to admit it. Revenge, oh sweet Revenge!
Fact is, though, I have a choice in what kind of a man I am. Spending so much time on a bike reminds me of that fact. Commuting on two wheels makes it so much easier to stand on my own two feet. Picture that, if you can! When I get into a car I feel the Mr. Hyde shadow descending upon me. I could easily become just another commuter who's powerless to do much other than go with the flock. I feel so much differently on a single track vehicle. It's the power of the bike, I think. I've always tried to instill into my boys that they should be strong enough to be gentle. Believe me, being my sons, they know full well how to fight and take care of themselves. In a strange turnaround, coming from a position of power makes it easier not to use it in a destructive way. The same principle holds true for me in dealing with these demented aliens I'm forced to share the roads with.
While not as cavalier about riding on sidewalks as my bro' Gary, I have more options on a bike than in a car. How do I know? Because I've bloody well used them, that's how! I don't know how many times I used the bike's superior speed and maneuverability to get around some self righteous left lane blocker. As I hit clear space I mutter to myself,
"I don't have to put up with this sh**t on the bike!"
Despite having the power to wield, I find I'm often content to hang back and enjoy the ride. As Gary addressed in a comment on his blog, having a high skill level makes the temptation to use the bike as a weapon overwhelming sometimes. I'll be honest. I've done it and enjoyed it. It's a great feeling to triumph over an adversary. Right after the feelings of victory comes the wondering if the small stakes really made it worthwhile. Did I really put so much on the line just to wipe that smug smirk off of some petty jerk's face?
I saw some comments on the blogs about sheep and wolves. Picture a wolf on a motorcycle looking at the sheep in their cars. He has a serenely wicked smile on his lips. Those nasty fangs aren't showing. Rather, there's just a hint of the power they hold. The smile isn't meant to be friendly. It's more of a teasing threat.
"You know, I could take you out anytime I choose. I'm only letting you go because it's too beautiful of a day to waste time with the likes of you. Don't mistake my mildness today for weakness. No, I'm holding back because leaving you to your pathetic, needy, little life is punishment enough. At the end of the day we each know who we really are."
The wolf on the bike remains calm and serene. His strength and skill have been proven in battle. He knows who he is. His bike is a fast and capable steed. It will deliver as needed. Faithful scooters, too! Not all wolves are big, hairy, and ugly like me. Some are quite classy and sophisticated looking. One would never know to look at them and their scooter what latent power lies beneath. Too bad for them!
A bike is the perfect Bitter Pill antidote. We don't need to be poisoned by the same "stuff" that sickens the rest of them.
Here's a perfect example. Somehow you just knew a story about commuting would come in here, didn't you?
Have you ever heard of the Walt Disney syndrome? When I was a kid The Wonderful World of Disney came on tv Sunday night. It was right afterwards that Grandma made me take a bath to be ready for school on Monday. That television show also signalled that the weekend was ending. Monday morning was right around the corner. Fathers everywhere started getting uptight as the start of the work week slowly intruded upon their consciousness. Thus, the name Walt Disney Syndrome.
On Sunday night Katie and I arrived home and unpacked Sophie. Nearly 800 miles had rolled under her tires. Sophie, not Katie! It would soon be time to hit the hay and start a new work week myself. What did I have to look forward to for Monday morning?
Let's see. That would be to get back on the bike and ride at least a hundred miles to the office. Thinking further, there would be a special little stop on the way up. The weather guessers were calling for upper 70's (f) for the day. Oh well, I'd just have to steel myself for it!
I've used this picture before. It's an aerial view of Pat's Acres. This is the track where we teach our civilian Advanced Rider Training. There was to be a cornering clinic for a group of our instructors in the morning. Later in the afternoon a regular group of students would be doing their thing. Imagine starting Monday morning by spending some time doing some hot laps on this sweet track before the students got onto it. Followed by some coffee drinking and cheerful conversation with fellow instructors as they were arriving to take the cornering clinic. Not only fellow instructors but friends and bike enthusiasts, as well. As they started their class I reluctantly pulled out and headed for the office. I know I'm lucky to be have the opportunities I do. Being a trainer is a lot of work but I get to regularly do things on my bikes that most folks don't.
Our office is in a business park. Doesn't Sophie look gorgeous in the morning sun? I took off the big Givi trunk and slapped on the backrest early in the morning. I think she looks so much more graceful this way, don't you? Not bad for a gal with her mileage. She's around four hundred miles short of 155,000 miles. I got her in February of 2001. Over six and a half years that's an average of almost 24,000 miles a year. Her and I share a lot of good memories of fun.
After a few hours Sophie found her way to the front door and starting trying to entice me to go riding some more. I finally got tired of tripping over her so we hit the road. How can I describe how perfect it is to be on a familiar and well loved bike? Feeling her respond so eagerly to your inputs? To be riding in perfect weather? Coming home from a work day and knowing I was at work but the uppermost thoughts are of a little over two hundred miles of blissful riding? I was almost tempted to wave at some SUV's, I felt so good! Almost, but not quite.
People who commute in cages are missing out on so much. The really sad part is that they don't even know what they're missing! Some folks sort life by neccesity. Some sort life by possibilities. If only they would explore the possibilities of commuting on a bike! Forget the red pill versus green pill choice, or blue, or whatever the heck colors they were on the Matrix. Choose the antidote to the Bitter Pill!
Tomorrow Katie and I are off to Bend. It's on the other side of the Cascade Mountains from us. Depending upon conditions, ( and how much tea Katie drinks in the morning before we go ) it's between two and a half and three hours of riding. I have a meeting at 10 AM. These folks and I have a relationship from a couple of my lives. They will expect me to show up on a bike. Mustn't disappoint, you know. The whole purpose of the trip is this meeting. There will be plenty of time to explore Central Oregon on the way back. You probably won't see a post tomorrow. I'll be living it instead of writing about it!
Miles and smiles,