Relax, I tell myself. Be the puppy. It's no use. It's happening anyway.
My mind's been chewing on this strange paralax. Yes, I know some big words and can even use them in sentences. How odd for someone who calls himself a Warrior. In case you don't have a dictionary handy, here's the definition.
paralax: the difference in apparent direction of an object as seen from two different points.
I'm presuming it's correct to use this word in a philosophical sense as well as describing a physical sight picture. Ok, I can hear you talking. Where the heck is he going with this? Fine, I'll put my dictionary away and get to the point.
Riding a motorcycle is supposed to be a relaxing endeavour, right? I've read in other blogs where riders have described motorcycling as a Zen-like experience. I've described it that way myself. I'm sorry, but I have to drag out the dictionary, again.
Zen: A Japanese Buddhist sect that teaches self-discipline, meditation, and attainment of enlightment through direct intuitive insight.
Reading that definition would lead one to believe that the intent of this would be to have a positive outcome. So here's what I've been musing on.
If motorcycling is supposed to be a Zen-like pursuit, then why the heck do I still get so darned pissed off at other road users? I'm getting enlightened for sure. Unfortunately, the enlightment is about how bad other drivers are!
As one who commutes, ( read: rides a lot in commuter traffic ) we're exposed on a frequent basis to people with less than stellar driving habits. Let's just quit being all nicey-nicey and come right out and say it. Most people drive with their heads up their ass. If there's a chance to do something stupid they'll be first in line. Here's an example from Tuesday morning.
I'm heading North on Commercial Street in South Salem. There's two lanes of traffic in each direction with a big refuge / turn lane in the middle. Salem has an extensive mass transit bus system. Which means that the right lane traffic flow is subject to regular interruption as buses stop. Traffic's heavy as befits a city of over a hundred thousand. I'm eventually going to have to turn right so, rather than make a bunch of lane changes, I remain in the right lane and go with the flow. On top of heavy traffic, things are complicated by the fact that it's near freezing and sleet's falling fairly steadily. Better not to do too much dashing about on the bike.
As expected, a bus stops. It can't get out of the lane so traffic has to stop behind it. I'm second in line. Ahead of me is an elderly woman in a beige Buick. She's talking on the cell phone. Is nobody immune, anymore? At some point I figure I'll go around to the left and not worry about the bus anymore. Here's a prime opportunity for people to get stupid. Right on cue, they go for it.
Traffic behind me starts blindly whipping to the left. There were a couple of near collisions with drivers that were already in the left lane. I mean these people didn't even slow down. They just cranked the wheel and hoped for the best, I guess. You know what I'm doing all this time. Yeah, just sitting patiently and waiting for things to clear out. The bus is still stopped. Somebody needed the bus to be lowered and a wheelchair ramp put out. Now there's nobody behind me that will pose a problem to my lane change. Buick Lady is still sitting there talking on the phone. I figure she'll stay put but I keep my eye on her.
I'm starting from a dead stop so my lane change isn't real quick. About the time I get even with Buick Lady's rear door, she starts her own lane change. Her head never turned. No big deal, I was ready for it. I honk but she keeps coming over. I move to the refuge lane. I could have stopped, but I have this perverse streak in me. I wanted to see her reaction when she finally saw me. The car that suddenly pulls into the turn lane facing me makes it a little more complicated but I'd left some attention for things like that. It was a 'No Harm, No Foul" situation as far as danger to me went, but I was still aggravated. On top of it all, having to move quickly to get out of danger meant I couldn't see her face when she wet her Depends!
This isn't about my ability to take care of myself. There's a difference between what we perceive as a close call and "no big deal" which I'll post about later. What really angers me is the actions of other drivers. Specifically, their willingness to put everyone else at risk just to satisfy their own selfish desires. On the flip side, there's the willingness to drive in a total fog of oblivion. Thus is the basis of my ire.
I try not to let it get to me. Several coping mechanisms have been tried. I've made excuses for people and tried to look at things from their point of view. One side result is that I've found it's impossible to get my head inserted that far.
For a while I even tried an analogy. I likened other drivers to dogs that crap in my yard. They can't help it. Dogs are a lower life form and don't know it's wrong to just go dump on someone's grass. Why waste so much energy and stress about it? Just deal with it.
That didn't help and it actually bothered me. Viewing humans as lesser lifeforms are the big keys to allowing everything from stereotypes, racial prejudice, and worse, genocides. I just wasn't comfortable being there. So with a shudder I abandoned that strategy.
No matter what I do, I still get upset. Not so much that I do something crazy or become a candidate for a heart attack or something. Still, I picture myself a few years back with my wife and young family in the van. Somebody decides they need to be going two miles per hour faster. Or get one car length ahead. So they make a dangerous move, putting my family in a high risk situation for a bit. And for what? I still take some of these dangerous acts by others as a personal attack, I guess.
Come to think of it, though, maybe my ire really is a chance to practice Zen. I'm certainly getting the opportunity to work on the self-discipline part. No matter the actions of others, the responsibility of how we react sits squarely on our own shoulders.
Maybe I'm just overly sensitized. As a man who feels deeply moved to help others learn to take care of themselves, the callous disregard for the well being of others shown by drivers really gets to me.
Is there a takeaway from this post? This time I'd have to answer in the negative. Maybe I just needed to vent a little. At the same time, I'm pretty sure most of you can see yourselves here with me.
What coping mechanisms do you all use? That's a turnaround, isn't it? Instead of me passing along helpful riding advice, I'm asking you all for input. Goes to show you that we all need each other.
Miles and smiles, ( even if the smile is painted on, sometimes )