Friday, October 24, 2008


My bike is parked between the building and his car. I'm sitting on the bike. Helmet and gloves off. His car is a pale green Toyota Prius. There's personalized plates adorning front and back. They read LES CO2.

Took me a while to get it. Was Les the driver? What did the second part mean? I could be excused, though. There were other things on my mind. Things that were threatening my good mood. Things like the back bumper of the Prius. It was looking to do bad things to my front wheel. Smugsy and I were sharing the Super Slab. The endless ribbon of steel and concrete that connects us all eventually. The Prius and I were to be connected here and now if I didn't do something.

Smugsy had passed me on the left. I was mellow and happy this day. Bike and I rolled easily along in the right lane. The rider's equivalent of smelling the flowers. Pleasure was about to turn to pain. Unless I did something. Real soon. There was only one solution in this formula. Prius passes. Prius moves right quickly. Rider brakes and rolls off. You could say I was disenchanted. At least I was in a good position to figure out that damned license plate.

Now here we were. I needed a stretch. Smugsy needed a bathroom. Circumstances said we should meet again.

Smugsy was walking back to his car. He'd have to pass by me. I studied him. Didn't look like a tree hugger. Sun didn't touch his skin much. I'd guess he spent a lot of time indoors. Hugging a bottle. Flush cheeks and small red veins marked his face. He was a small man. I guessed something like six decades had passed for him. Guys like him are ignored in crowds every day. Just another "nobody" shuffling along the sidewalk.

Smugsy walked with his head down. My eyes glared at his skull. As people will, he felt my gaze. Stare at someone across a room. Pick someone not looking at you. Watch them start to fidget. Pretty soon they'll look at you. Smugsy looked up at me. His body stiffens. There's surprise and a little fright in his eyes. He shoots a quick look at his car. It's on the other side of danger. His human helplessness is naked in front of me. Smugsy hunches his shoulders. Like he's bracing for a blow.

Good and Evil argue. Good says to let it go. Evil tells me I was nearly killed. Good says it wasn't that close. I was able to adjust, wasn't I? Evil reminds me that I call myself a Warrior. Warriors avenge wrongs, don't they? I tell both voices to get lost.

I tell Smugsy I didn't appreciate his move. Smugsy says he didn't see me. His reaction at seeing me betrays it as a lie. Smugsy knows it, too. He's trapped. He takes the offensive. A mouse squeaking at a cat. He's shaking a little. Fear? Self-righteous rage? Booze withdrawal?

"Bikers are irresponsible. You're the opposite of hybrid drivers. Pretty soon you'll all be gone."

Smugsy stares into my eyes as long as he can. Which isn't long. He's at a disadvantage. His eyes are uncovered. Mine are now behind dark glasses. I see his temporary bravery deflate. Does he have a death wish? Is he deluded? The shaking is worse now.

Good is speaking again. Let the man go. He's scared. The strong show mercy.

Smugsy is waiting for my reaction. His fear is plain. He seems shocked by what he just said. Did he just condemn a biker? I'm not one, of course. That's how Smugsy sees me. I slow count to twenty. Delay the reply. Toy with the mouse. Finally, the cat lets the mouse see freedom.

I reply by pointing my finger at his car. Smugsy doesn't get it. Point to him. Point to his car. Now it dawns on him. Smugsy is at his Prius in record time. He drops his keys. Now he's inside. The door slams shut. I've heard these cars use a battery for slow speeds. The gas engine takes over at higher speeds. I smile. I'm sure both help get Smugsy out of here.

I think of Smugsy after he's gone. He's not the only smug hybrid driver I've met. Talk of a bike compared to a hybrid can happen later. Isn't it enough to do the right thing? Why be smug? So many thoughts in my head. My brain needs peace. I pick a thought and go with it. Little people in giant pickups. Little people in hybrid cars. Overcompensation takes many forms, it seems.

Leave Smugsy and his ilk to live how they will. Hunger rumbles my body. A saddlebag holds relief. Over a sandwich I marvel at how beautiful Elvira is. Life's good on a bike!

Miles and smiles,



Anonymous said...

Did he seriously say this?
"Bikers are irresponsible. You're the opposite of hybrid drivers. Pretty soon you'll all be gone."

What a strange thing to say!
what does that mean to be the opposite of Hybrid Drivers?
Is that a compliment?

Here in Eugene, we have our fair share of hybrids on the road. I see more on I-5 than I do around town - and I'm normally being passed by them too!

Mabe they conveniently forget that when they are travelling at freeway speeds, they are basically just driving a regular gasoline powered vehicle - albeit one that is heavier than it's non-hybrid equivalent!

He may think he is emitting less CO2, but I suspect that there may have been an increase in CH4 (in his pants) as he left the parking lot!

Stacy said...

Oh, my! I almost don't know where to begin with this one.

I'm pretty sure my SV gets better mileage than a Prius. Plus, it's not packed with environment-killing lithium batteries. Someone will be laughing in 10 years when those batteries need to be replaced.

This reminds me of an episode of South Park. Yes, South Park can be very crude, but its scathing critique of our culture is often worth watching!

You can even view the full episode online:

Smug Alert (click on "Watch This Full Episode")

fasthair said...

I'm pretty passive when someone pulls a bone head play like that. That comment would have made me want to choke the last bit of O2 out of this guys lungs!


Charlie6 said...

Next time, you can tell the next prius-driving, self-righteous ignoramus:

Making a Prius consumes 113 million BTUs, according to sustainability engineer Pablo Päster. A single gallon of gas contains about 113,000 Btus, so Toyota's green wonder guzzles the equivalent of 1,000 gallons before it clocks its first mile.

Full article here:
Buy a Used car, not a hybrid!

you exercised better restraint than I fear I would have....

R.G. said...

Smugsy?!! That is too funny! I applaud your restraint. When something like that happens to me it sticks in my craw and only time can make it better. At least you got to put your ABS to the test.

Anonymous said...

in situations like that, where the other driver acts as if they haven't seen you I like to vent my frustration with a nice long blast of the 139 dB Stebel air horn.

It will literally make people jump and drop their cellphone/coffee/lipstick!

I certainly would not have been as civil as you were with a comment like that!

Bryce said...

Suspect Oregon allows only six digita on their plates,
customized or other wise. So six numerals, or six letters or a combination of both.
Here in ontario it used to be limited
to five, and now we can do eight
be they letters or numbers or a combination. My car plate is VA3TRN
and a I'll let others figure that one out.

As to the Prius, may I remind everybody in North America you get far better bang for your fuel by using diesel fuel! However the Americans seem to have a love affair with gasoline so gasoline is what powers car, oh and banks of batteries charged by the gasoline powered motor. And pray tell when the batteries need replacing, where do they go, eh?

Now as to His Smugness, suspect
young Dan probably enjoyed every minutes of this, his latest escapade. Persoanlly I looked at hybrid and thought, nice car, too expensive for my blood. I'll continue to drive my ten year old very low mileage Honda Civic which still returns about 40 mpg or better. Very important when said fuel in US terms is STILL well
over $4.00 a gallon. Which in turn makes any motorcycle of any
displacement very fuel efficient.

A short story...the province of Ontario two years gave each municipality in the provincea
tax incentive to purchase fuel efficient vehicles. Note I said fuel efficient. The province of Ontario is huge, in area. Some municipalities purchased Toyota products, Prius and corolla. Others purchased Smart cars (with the diesel engine) and others simply purchased diesel powered vehicles. We get winter here, real winter. Guess which vehicles are
still operating as well as the day
they were purchased?
The diesel trucks, yes, and some
diesel trucks operate on propane as
it is not taxed as a fuel, and the
Smart Cars. The Toyotas were used for parking services, some places c all the green hornets, the hybrid vehicles could withstand a 7/24 schedule and soon failed. The Corollas made 300,000 kilometres but not without problems. The few who purchased Smartcar are laughing
as they are still running and still
returning superb mileage from their 900 cc diesel engines. Sure they
get serviced regularly but they just keep going and they sip fuel.

Makes one think that just maybe they are on to something. Oh and
one other thing; diesel gets you twice as far on a gallon of fuel as a gallon of gasoline.

Am waiting for the 2010 model year when a diesel Honda Civic may well available

Lucky said...

Your story made my evening.

Dean W said...

So if buying a used car is environmentally responsible, buying a used motorcycle should be more so, right?

-Dean, with his eye on a DRZ400SM

Doug C said...

The debate over the best choice for fuel efficiency can go on forever and its a worthwhile discourse. But is that the primary reason that anyone rides?

A smaller carbon footprint is a secondary benefit to the enjoyment of riding.

Small people come in all flavors. Smug is just one of many distasteful blends that seem to permeate our lives. Your "correction" was probably the best course of action. There ain't enough "sweet" around to make these people happy.

SheRidesABeemer said...

You are Robert Parker on two wheels. I think you can parlay this into a book.

Steven said...

why would these people spend good money on a Prius when you can just ride their high horse?

dave said...

Don't you live in the "smug"- est area of the country (besides maybe Vermont) in terms of purported greeness :):)?
While he could have hurt you, was he really any more smug than the biker/scooter crowd that is constantly striving to prove that they are the righteous ones of the rolling world?
It is up to us to ride responsibly to prove him wrong. When he see's someone doing a wheelie on the expressway or blasting through narrow holes in traffic because they fit, at speeds way over the limit or doing a stoppie in front of McDonalds - he knows he is right.Just like the teenage driver that has to pay high insurance in spite of their personal record, we all pay the social price for those guys.

Dean W said...

Steven wrote-
"why would these people spend good money on a Prius when you can just ride their high horse?"

Horses emit greenhouse gases. ;-)

bobskoot said...

"Bikers are irresponsible. You're the opposite of ---- drivers. Pretty soon you'll all be gone."

A while ago, I had the same problem with an inconsiderate driver. Every morning at the same time, on the same road, same thing, passing on the right, butting back into the line, tailgating, gassing it at the light . . . anything to get one car ahead. One day I just "snapped". On this particular morning I saw him in my mirror, went slower and left a gap in front of me and he "went for the bait" and now he was in front of me. He knew I was mad. I shadowed his every more, slow, fast, changing lanes, whatever. He couldn't shake me "off his tail" . eventually he went the speed limit and I followed him right into his workplace parking lot. I turned around went really slow and stared him in the eye as I pulled out and continued on my way. I have not seen him since and that was about a year ago.

irondad said...

Steve L,
That was pretty much an exact quote as I remember it. Don't know what he meant exactly. See the next post for more of my thoughts.

I would hope that being the opposite of him was a compliment.

Gotta get me one of those horns!

My son told me about the South Park thing when I told him what had happened. Something about a bunch of Prius drivers and a stifling cloud of smugness.

Believe me, I really wanted to do it, too!

Thanks for the quote and reference. I appears I'm going to have to become more educated on this situation.

It stuck in my craw, too. I was pretty slow to fall asleep that night as I was churning over the situation. The name just sprang to mind.

We are restricted to 6 characters. Diesel has become even more expensive here than supreme unleaded. Which is totally opposite of the way it's been for decades. I think the lure of not using petroleum products at all is driving the quest for now.

More than the Macaw experience?

Dean W,
What? Yet another motorcycle? I don't know how you can keep buying them but you're certainly my role model!

Doug C,
I have to admit that I wouldn't ride just for ecology if I wasn't having so much fun.

I have to admit I didn't know who Robert Parker is. A trip to the library today was in order. I found he writes mysteries. I've always been a Raymond Chandler fan but Parker looks intriguing. I brought a book home. Thanks.

Katie says I should put all my stories together into a book. Sort of like the James Herriot thing. Might be fun.

Personally, I'm not tall enough to comfortably ride a BMW GS1200, let alone a high horse!

You speak wisely. Look at the next post.

Funny story. Good devious use of psychology on him. Once you take a driver's "anonymous shell", aka car, away from them, it now becomes personal. You did this by being in his work parking lot. Now he's out in the open. Different story.

Nicely done!

Take care,


Anonymous said...

I see the same behavior from hybrid owners. Especially in the city streets and freeways.

I have a theory. Here it goes. The smugsies are obsessed with keeping their hybrids charged fully. In order to achieve full charge, they will slam the brakes. Slamming the brakes sends the chargometer screaming to stratosphere but drives every other nuts.

Unfortunately I noticed this while driving with a smugsy-like friend who gets excited about how her car is running while braking. I pointed out to her what her braking incessantly does to rest of the traffic. Her reaction - surprise.