Tag Archives: driving

One Less Car

This past Sunday, the Boston Globe ran an article titled, “What cyclists neglect” that, as a cyclist myself, caught my eye. The author takes the stance that cyclists, “want more respect on the road. They need to earn it” (as the tagline reads) — a position which, for the most part, I agree with. There is one thing that he neglects to consider, however:

Everybody hates a bicyclist.

Come on. Admit it. You’ve driven in a city/The City and gotten nervous/pissed because of the tiny two-wheeled asshole hugging the shoulder. And for no good reason. As anyone who commutes on a bike in an urban setting can attest, it’s scary as hell out there; you’re constantly on the defensive. If you’re in a car, well, you’ve got a 2 ton chunk of metal to keep you safe. On a bike? Not so much. You see, no one in a car has ever been killed by a bicycle.

Let’s take the first accident I was ever in (which was, by law, entirely her fault for switching lanes without looking): my pedal got stuck in the body of the car, and I managed to tear off her front bumper when I finally shook myself loose. She then proceeded to (1) roll her window down (2) flip me the bird (3) yell “Fucking asshole!” (4) drive off into the sun, leaving me lying on the ground under my bicycle in the middle of Harvard Square at rush hour. Sure, she had maybe $300 worth of autobody damage, which sucks, I understand. Me? I had to go to the emergency room, get a new bike, and then continue to see a chiropractor three times a week for a year and a half (paid for by me, because she hit and run). Good thing I was wearing a helmet, or I probably wouldn’t have lived to write this rant.

You’re probably about to blurt out something to yourself while you read this alone in your bedroom or at work like “Whatever! This one time, a bicyclist just tore through a red light, and I had to slam on my brakes! I almost got rear ended!” or “This stupid bicycle almost killed me when I was walking down the sidewalk the other day!” in which case my heart goes out to you for enduring such an awful tragedy and I hope that your therapy sessions cost less than my chiropractor. But you are correct; there are some lousy, ignorant, unsafe bicyclists out there. I see ’em. I hate ’em. Especially the ones who bike on the sidewalk down the Mass Ave bridge even though there’s a bike lane RIGHT FUCKING THERE. But just because those guys are jerks, doesn’t mean you have to take it out on me. I have a right to ride my bike, and the law requires me to be on the road, so deal with it. I’m not trying to make your life difficult; I’m trying to survive. It’s tough when you’re constantly on the defensive, constantly risking your life, but if you look out for me, I’ll look out for you. Cool? Cool.

(Similarly, I implore you to stop walking on the Southwest Corridor Bike Path. You have your own parallel sidewalk not 10 feet away! There are so few bike paths as is, so at least let us enjoy the ones we’ve got, and stop getting mad and yelling at me when I nearly crash into your stupid blob of children after yelling “EXCUSE ME!” at you for the last 2 blocks in a futile attempt to avoid this exact problem. Asshole.)

Summiting the crest

He drove north on the PCH, skipping from left lane to right and back again as appropriate in order to divert his magnificent ride from the lollygaggers and Sunday motorists, the slow-footed slackjaws with their right feet firmly held in mid-air just a centimeter above the brake, and the gentlemen and ladies – often ladies, often of the Asian persuasion – who simply didn’t see the need to drive any faster than ten miles below the speed limit when there are between 50 and 100 yards of space between themselves and the next closest car.  Drivers of minivans, old people – all of them he passed, zipping back and forth between lanes – never changing with acceleration, never cutting people off, never driving with untoward aggression or malice.  Simply driving as with as much focused, progressive intent as the conditions would allow, and always, of course, while using turn signals before changing lanes.

And, with those guidelines satisfied, speed limits be damned.  Or at least, gently adjusted upwards by fifteen to twenty degrees.

He passed the lush grounds of Pepperdine – the gorgeous Jesuit college on a hilltop, the only Christian school worth knowing, situated as it was with a majestic view of the Pacific Ocean and the beaches of Malibu – and pressed onward.  He knew beauty to be waiting just before him, just on the other side of the ridge.  And it was.

He crested the hilltop doing fifty, just as he did, his lower jaw slid down.  The road turned to the right, because the ocean jutted in; before him, as he turned lay the very sea.  He looked at it, because that was all he could do; his eyes were transfixed by the brown of the sand and the white of the surf, but more than anything else, the blues and greens, cyans and emeralds, of the water that spread just ahead.

His eyes barely registered the slew of leather-clad Harley riders who passed in the far left, heading in the opposite direction.  The surfers, he saw, but neither his eye nor his brain dallied long enough to register the notion of a surf competition – of not just a couple of surfers, but organized packs, seated on their fiberglass floaters in the middle of the ocean, waiting in heats for the waves that they would ride to glory before judges, peers, and fans.  No, he would see no wicked tricks.  Instead, he simply saw the water – lush, bright, and rich.

He sped on, for he had to – he was a driver, after all, and no driver worth his salt would ever slow down in the middle of the damn lane just to get a good look at what was going on.  That was for rubberneckers and highway accident causers.  No, he didn’t slow, not him.  But he did his best to take it all in – all being the ocean, and aside from minor framing details like the fact that there was road and the fact that there were mountains surrounding and the fact that it was not raining and a Sunday, nothing else.

And then he rode on.

Hot Rats – Frank Zappa

I woke up hungover. Saturday night spilled into Sunday morning with no sign of the snow that had been previously predicted. My apartment was so empty it echoed; boxes were still packed and I probably would have been lonely if it wasn’t for the security of youth and the constant inner dialogue. “It didn’t snow, weather said it won’t until tomorrow, I guess I have to drive to the island.” I usually try to make nights out of my trips–6 hours of visiting barely makes three hours of driving enticing–but it was my father’s birthday and I had already told him I wasn’t coming because of the weather. I woke up, showered and decided to head to Rhode Island.

I walked up to the front stairs and saw a familiar sight: my father sitting on the couch watching TV, tapping his fingers and occasionally taking a drag on his cigarette. After casual conversation my father got off the couch, walked into the dining room and returned with a worn crumpled paper bag. He pulled out a Portable CD player, a pair of large studio headphones and a Frank Zappa album, Hot Rats. We had a sound system, but he wanted me to listen to the guitar solo the way he did in the Army. No, not on drugs, but with headphones. We bought a microwave for my new apartment and ate cake to celebrate his birthday, but really we spent most of the day listening to music. I drove back to Boston right around the time it started snowing. I saw three accidents on the expressway and got drunk to celebrate the snowstorm that was going to allow me to sleep in Monday.

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The phone woke me up that morning. I shoveled through a foot of snow and followed plows like a funeral procession down Route 24.

A week later I was at a bar my parents frequented and one of the patrons walked up to me and said, “You know, the last time I saw your father he had a crumpled paper-bag full of music he was showing everyone”

I thought for a second, and said “Me too.”