Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Seeing ourselves in others.

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,



SheRidesABeemer said...

Dan, We need you over on Rounder's, we love this kind of attitude! http://yearroundriders.com/forum/index.php

Steve Williams said...

I think you are spot on in your thinking that we see ourselves in the writing of others. And as we write and post on blogs the vision continues.

I'm teaching a blogging class right now and after the technical stuff was out of the way I could talk about how the process of reading and writing about things that interest you can be an ongoing source of personal revelation. When I got my scooter in 2005 and began blogging I had no thoughts or reflections about myself. Since that time I have learned a lot about who I am and what is important in my life. And a lot of that came from reading about the adventures of others (yours included) and seeing how I fit in.

I know you like to wear the warrior badge Dan, but I have always felt you really were the philosopher/teacher. You just happen to do what you preach.

Thanks for the notoriety. Maybe now some people will stand up and post, "You know fella, you are nuts riding in that stuff..."

Even my daughter didn't do it. She just threatened me...

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

-Tim said...

Dan, I am ashamed of you...Starbucks is only a good option if there is nothing else around...but you live in the PNW, the coffee snob hub, the land of beans...I would not call you a coffee snob for going to Starbucks, it would be the exact opposite...you might as well be going to McDonald's for a burger...

Bryce said...

There's a course in blogging?

What will they think of next?

Motorcycle classes year round, inside a large building with proper ventilation??

It would sure beat the heck out of classes in the snow and ice.
Mind, what excitement is there in doing that?

Dan is an inspiration to all of us, blogger or not. Right Steve?

Steve Williams said...

Dan is THE MAN!

Stacy said...


That is all.

irondad said...

I have to go check the site out. Don't be upset if you see me over there. You invited me!

Steve W,
The third paragraph in your comment is, indeed, a high honor. Thank you!

Notice I didn't say I was a snob. Some people might call me that, is all. Exactly because I don't go to McDonald's. By the way, have you seen McDonald's new commercials for their coffee? I really get a kick out of them. They illustrate exactly what you're talking about.

Bryce, Steve, and Stacy,
Come on, I'm blushing, already!

Take care,


bobskoot said...


You have a very analytical mind, always surveying the situation . . . and I mean this in a good way, and very perceptive to your surroundings tempered by years of supervising others. (and a stubborn Spartan to boot)
Actually McDonalds does have good coffee, try getting a burger at Starbucks

cpa3485 said...

Hindsight is always 20-20. We all have to make decisions in life based upon the information we have available to us at the time. If you are careful, then there should be no regrets if that decision turns out not to be the best. It happens to all of us. You just get yourself back up, dust yourself off, and go at it again.

To Steve: I certainly hope you did not take my comment as criticism. It was meant only to express my frustrations at the decisions I make to ride or not to ride. I would not presume to judge your actions in any way. I am extremely happy you made it through your ordeal unscathed. I would only hope that I would react with a similar amount of skill in a similar situation.

To Dan: I am honored that you thought my comment was maybe worthy of further discussion. It does seem ironic that we were apparently thinking similar thoughts at roughly the same time.

To both of you: I have enjoyed both of your blogs over the past few months. I very much respect your eloquence, knowledge, and obvious riding experience. By blogging, not only have I learned a lot about scootering, but as Steve says, learned a little more about myself in the process. (I certainly know much more about transporting Christmas trees than I did before.)

To everybody: I have a daughter that works at Starbucks. The only thing better than Starbucks coffee is:

FREE Starbucks coffee!!!!

Steve Williams said...

cpa3485: No offense taken. I thought your comments were excellent. For people who don't ride they don't understand the mental gymnastics that riders go through trying to justify getting on the bike or scooter and weighing it rationally against prudence and conditions.

I can't imagine doing it with four wheeled vehicles. Hmmm, should I drive the Porsche or the Rover today..... (like those will ever be my choices) More like should I walk, take the bus, or my old truck.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks