Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Random Encounters

My Lovely Lovely and our daughter and I were out shopping for back to school supplies (I can still hear my daughter screaming at the thought that school is once again immanent) when, in the parking lot, I noticed a car with a “share the road” bumper sticker. It also said, “Same road. Same rules. Same rights.” I liked it. To top it off, the car had a bike rack on the roof. (I should probably apologize for that one, but I won't.) “Ah…” I thought, “A fellow cyclist.”

Well, no. Actually what I thought was, “That’s a cool bumper sticker. I want it.”

At that moment the car’s owner, an older gentleman, walked up. “I like your bumper sticker,” I told him. I’m not normally one to strike up conversations with strangers, but I really liked that bumper sticker. I’ve seen several versions of it here and there, but none qute as snazzy as that one.

Yes, I did just use the word snazzy.

Alas. I have bumper sticker envy.

He nodded at me. “Are you a cyclist?”

“Yes.” (Hey, even though I haven’t been on the bike in a while, I finally managed to go for a ride the other day, so I’m a cyclist. I can still say that.)

“I just moved here. Is there a club in town?”

“Why, yes there is.”

I got his e-mail address and then e-mailed him a link to the club’s website and sent an e-mail to President Dave to get him put on the club’s e-mail list. We pride ourselves on snappy service.

Later that evening, I was talking to the guy who lives across the street from me, and, apropos of nothing, he said, “You’re a brave man.”

I blinked at him. I couldn’t really think of anything to say in response to that. I mean, what do you say to that, especially when you have absolutely no idea what the other person is talking about?

“Because,” he explained, “You ride on that road out there. I’ve driven past you and thought, uh-uh. I wouldn’t do that.

Well, it’s either ride that road or don’t ride, since that’s the only way out of the subdivision I live in, and I’m not going to toss my bike into the belly of the two thousand pound beast and drive somewhere in order to ride. Also, contrary to the opinion of my neighbor (and my Lovely Lovely and my mother and several random friends…hmm…I’m a bit outnumbered here, but that doesn’t make me wrong) the road isn’t that bad. Well, most of the time. Just stay away from it during the morning drive to work and the evening drive home (unless of course you’re bike commuting, in which case you just have to be visible and predictable and careful, right?).

He then proceeded to tell me some random stories of crazy drivers, apparently in order to show me just how brave I am. I did not enjoy this. I don’t really want to hear stories of crazy drivers on the road. I know they’re out there. I just don’t want to dwell on it.

The fact is, Sir Isaac Newton has explained to us in detail how bad things can happen to us out on the roads. (That wasn’t precisely his focus while he was formulating the laws of motion, but it works out to be the same thing.) Physics is not your friend when you are on a bicycle and have an encounter with someone in a car. We all know that, but how many of us really think about it?

I don’t.

I don’t intend to stop riding, so I think about the risks enough to wear my helmet and my RoadID and carry a cell phone and be conscious of what’s going on around me, but I don't obsess about it.

My Lovely Lovely, who doesn’t ride (yet) gives it a bit more thought where I am concerned, and we sometimes have to discuss it. She comes up with all kinds of reasons about why I’m not to commute on any given day – it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too dark, it might rain, it’s too windy…but the last one is always it’s too dangerous. If I deflect all of the other objections, that's the one she brings up in the end.

The fact it, I’m a better, healthier, happier and probably nicer person when I get a chance to ride. Riding is my anti-depressant, and all the side effects are good.

All the non-car related ones, anyway.

So I still ride.

See you on the road.

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