I like Starbucks. I'm not going to apologize for it, either. Call me a coffe snob if you want. I'm not really bothered by that at all. I'm not going to give reasons to defend myself, either. The chain works for me. As a man who spends a lot of time on the road on a motorcycle, a Starbucks store is a welcome place to warm up and do a little contemplation.
Today was such a day. Portland had snow, again. I was only as far North as Salem. The temperature readout on Elvira was showing 34 degrees. Pieces of ice, otherwise known as sleet, were falling steadily. Traction was borderline treacherous but we were okay. Riding in the ice made me think of Steve Williams' recent post. Steve ended up riding through ice and thought he'd made an error in judgement.
The comments were pretty much supportive of Steve. Some, including me, shared their own similar inclination to ride in bad conditions. Nobody came right out and condemned riding in the ice. There was one comment that was close, but not pointed right at Steve. I was pondering this as I was riding icy streets this morning. Elvira and I found the welcome shelter of a parking structure. Leaving her to watch the world go by, I entered a building and descended the escalator to Starbucks. I admit to being pretty chilled. I haven't wired her for electrics, yet. This cold weather is making me pay for my procrastination. On the other hand, it's been good to get back to my spartan warrior roots.
I believe there's some sort of unseen loop that ties us all together. We may not be aware of it, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. How else to explain coincidences like the cup I got this morning?
So here's a guy who rides his scooter through the ice. Why do most readers support him and not just tell him he's crazy? It's because we tend to judge others by what they make us see in ourself. I've been a student of human nature for a lot of years. I'm telling you that my statement is dead on. Most of us read stories like Steve's and, deep down inside, we say "There's a little of that courage in me".
A lot of humans crave excitement and adventure. While we might not do exactly the same thing the person we're reading about does, there's a part of us that wants to be courageous and bold. There's another part that says we really could be the same if circumstances were right. Thus we look favorably upon the one we're reading or hearing about. After all, we see in them a desirable quality we see, or want to see, in us.
This is a good time to put in a small disclaimer. There's a very distinct line between someone being reckless on a bike and a skilled rider who shows courage in tackling difficult circumstances. There's a huge difference between skillfully pushing the boundaries of our comfort level and running blindly off a cliff towards disaster. Courage and stupidity are separated by a big, bold, line. It might be hard for some onlookers to see the line, but it's certainly there. If you're reading here you know exactly what I'm talking about.
The fact that we might question ourselves about our decision later merely reinforces the fact that we had the skills to even make it an option in the first place.
In a further coincidence, or evidence of the loop I was talking about, this comment was just posted on Steve's blog. Right as I was starting this post. Coincidence? You will have to decide for yourself.
On Sunday night they predicted an ice storm that would start about midday Monday with light snow thereafter. So I elected to take the bus to work and not ride the scooter. It turned out that the ice and drizzle did not start until about 6:00 pm and I probably would have been okay to ride that day. But it really was not worth it. I am glad I didn't ride although I almost always want to ride.
Part of the problem is that riding is so enjoyable. It has become such an important part of my day. The feeling of freedom and independence is so exhilarating to me that I want so badly to ride every possible day that I can (within reason). It is easy to second guess the forecast, but when it comes to ice or snow, it is really not worth it. There will always be another day.
Maybe part of the indecision is because there might be a little bit of daredevil in all of us. In my younger years I was a pole vaulter, and many people thought it was too dangerous. I admit I had a few "crashes", but the enjoyment of flinging myself 13 or 14 feet in the air was so incredibly exciting. In a maybe strange sort of way, I get a similar type of "rush" from scootering. No I am not like Evil Knievel, but you have to admit there is a lot of excitement that draws us to riding. As I get older I am less willing to take chances, but there is still that feeling of excitement I get from riding that makes me crave it even more. Maybe that is part of the reason why the decision to ride or not ride can be difficult.
This is from Jim, a.k.a., cpa3485. I don't want to put Jim on the spot, again, but his comment illustrates what I was thinking about.
Some of us are sometimes able to find our excitement directly. Other times we have to find it vicariously. We may decide the time is past for us to commit big acts of courage. Reading about another's acts lets us look at ourselves. We may decide we're not up for something similar at the moment, but it's sweet to know we probably could if we wanted to.
Take away from this what you will. I don't claim to be the world's greatest philosopher. Once in a while, though, I have the sweet and genuine surprise of discovering some trace, at least, that's there's more than muscle between my ears!
Miles and smiles,