Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Where did they get their licenses?

Maybe you can tell from the picture that I have a strong suspicion! It reminds me of when I first took my exam for a motorcycle endorsement. The guy told me to just take off, return with five more miles on the odometer, and if I was still alive and undamaged when I got back I passed.

I swear half the drivers were tested the same way and most of those were lucky to have gotten back alive.

Mornings are getting a little more complicated now. Official sunrise doesn't happen until 7:20 AM these days. Which means I'm riding in the dark during most of the morning commute. What it really means is that the idiots are still out there but I just can't see them as well.

I'm going to have to move farther North before too long. If for no other reason, to avoid going to jail or getting killed. There's just too much time spent on the Super Slab. Just when I think I've seen it all and it can't get worse, it does. How can people be so stupid and selfish that they'll endanger themselves and everyone around them just to get one car length ahead? What part of riding four feet off someone's bumper seems like a good idea? Stuff like that makes me shudder. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm not man enough to understand how they do it.

These people must all be superhuman. As a mere mortal I obviously have no clue how these Gods live and think. I just know that there's no way I could smoke, drink coffee, talk on a cell phone, and still be able to competently drive a car. Is my anger due to my frustration at being farther down life's chain then they are? All I really know is that the middle finger of my left hand gets awfully light and wants to float up into the air. So far it's been controlled but the struggle is becoming more difficult with each passing day.

It's like a little sore on your hand. If it was just quietly ignored the wound would heal. Instead, though, it gets picked at every day. Pretty soon it's so dang sensitive that it drives you crazy. I'm getting there. My crystal ball is showing an assault somewhere in the future. That would not be good, I'm pretty sure.

Fortunately, I have a working brain. I can control how I perceive things. I am choosing to avoid that pathway. I am changing the context of the story. No longer am I a commuter forced to share the freeway with inattentive and less than competent drivers. No, I am now a Researcher. Remember people like Jane Goodall? She voluntarily inserted herself into the habitat of the apes to study them. In the same vein, I am voluntarily inserting myself into the native Idiot habitat in the name of research. I want to know to what depths these creatures will sink. I want to know if there are limits to the stupidity that can be shown. My hypothesis is that there is a limit but finding it may take years. By the time I find it I may have become extremely nauseated. Nonetheless, I will bravely undertake the task.

Out of this will come entertaining stories, I'm sure. I will keep a log of my observed activity. I will create classifications of behaviour. Most Reckless, Most Inattentive, Most Just Plain Stupid, and so on. It will give my commuting life new purpose and may actually become fun. Each year I will tally the results and create awards in each category. If you all observe examples that will contribute to my research, please feel free to share them. We may never understand the native Idiots completely, I'm sure. Yet research we must.

Here is an observation from this morning. It will be the first official entry into my logbook.

The Highway Department has created The Most Dangerous Stretch of I-5 anywhere. There may be some master plan but for now it is dangerous terrain. Heavy traffic going to and passing through the State Capitol passes through this stretch. It is now reduced to two narrow lanes defined on each side by huge concrete barriers. I call it the Canyon of Doom. You see, a very busy road that leads to the freeway enters in the Canyon. Picture heavy traffic on the freeway squeezed into a bottleneck. Picture hordes of impatient Idiots wanting to join the traffic flow in this bottleneck. Picture the joke the Traffic Gods must have felt they were pulling off when they made the entrance ramp extremely short. Get the idea?

I travel in the left lane but am not immune from danger. Much of the road is grooved, covered with steel plates and patches, and is very uneven. The little rubber bases of the pylons somehow end up scattered all over the freeway. Much of my attention goes towards searching out the next road condition surprise in store for me. So it won't actually be a surprise, just a challenge. As I pass the on-ramp I observe a woman in a blue-grey BMW 5 series car attempting to merge. It appears that she has picked her gap in traffic. I know that her car has the horsepower to successfully pull off the manuever. She's getting closer to the end of the ramp. Just a little more pressure on the "Go" peddle will do it. It's a big truck coming up, true. Just remember who has the best power to weight ratio and go for it.

The woman snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Brake lights suddenly brightly illuminate and the BMW comes to a dead stop. That's right. Just like a boulder in quicksand her car stops all forward motion. She's the only one not moving. Cars start diving everywhere. It's like tearing the top off an ant hill. Things scurrying in all directions. Thank goodness nobody hit anyone else despite some pretty close calls. I was past her when she slammed on the brakes so most of what I saw was in the mirrors.

I'm not sure how she got underway again. I just know she did. I-5 passes through Salem. The speed limit's reduced and the County watches it fairly regularly. I try to be good most days. The woman passes me. Not a lot faster, just enough to go by. I can't resist. She deserves some reward for her performance. I was vastly entertained. Taking my cue from that, I pull just slightly forward of her. I honk the horn and look at her. The face turns toward me. Blank expression on a pleasant middle-aged face. I take both hands off the handlebars and applaud. That's why I got slightly ahead. You know what happens to your speed when you take your hand off the throttle, don't you? I expected at least a smile but got nothing in return. She just looked ahead again and ignored me. There wasn't even a hint of sheepishness. Does she realize that this isn't normal driving practice?

My first day as a researcher has been rewarding. I hadn't dared hope to bag something so extraordinary on my first journey. Now I contemplate what caused this strange behaviour. Was it some bizzare mating ritual? Did she just get her left and right foot mixed up? So many questions and yet I can't wait for my next observation session!

Miles and smiles,
Dangerous Dan


Steve Williams said...

Dangerous Dan---taking your hands off the bars to clap?! You better hope your students don't read that. If I knew my instructor knew how to do that I would be all over him all day long to share that secret skill. *grin*

I was never comfortable taking my hands off a bicycle bar let alone a motorcycle. I'm a big time wussy.

I have to add that your commute sounds hellish. I knew I left Pittsburgh back in 1971 for the buccolic countryside for some reason.


Anonymous said...

I actually learned to ride with the hands off the handlebars on a bicycle. It was at Fort Lewis army base as a teenager. Looking at pictures of where you live makes me wish for what you got. Is that a commandment? Thou shalt not covet your fellow blogger's commute.


dan_durham said...

That was a hilarious story. Many times I've noticed the same "over cautious" drivers actually cause some dangerous near disasters on my equally hellish commute through Seattle.

I've occasionally given people the "thumb's up" after they make a complete moron out of themselves. The little habit has actually replaced "the finger" - my sarcastic little way of translating the hostility in me with a "Hey buddy! NICE MOVE!!!" :)

I recall your prior post about the cagers that actually smacked each other trying to occupy the same lane!

I will pit the idiots of WA vs your OR drivers any day.. :)


Steve Williams said...

My commute might be picturesque but the short 8 miles would not satisfy your need to ride I fear. About the time the oil on the ST is warming up you would be home!


Anonymous said...

I've ridden in the Seattle area. You can have it. WA drivers would win this contest! Maybe I'll paint the thumb of my glove some really bright color. Then they would be sure to know they were being "congratulated".

You're right. I'm sure the 8 miles would somehow end up being 50, somehow. :)

Anonymous said...

Your highway commute sounds incredibly dangerous, and as you know, no amount of skills will save us in certain circumstances. Obviously winter will increase the risk. You
don't want your to be a posthumous memorial do you?

My advice is: relocate nearer your job or use the truck!
Hope you don't mind me being so forthright.
Take care


irondad said...

No offense taken. I respect people who stand up and say what they believe within the bounds of civility.

You've actually given me a fresh idea for a future post. I will most likely end up moving. I'm not relishing the freeway in bad weather.

Anonymous said...

Glad I may have given you an idea for a blog - as I enjoy reading them.