Monday, July 7, 2008

Objects in mirror may be closer than they appear

So far this summer two writing and performance conferences where I was scheduled to present have been cancelled. The drag that gasoline prices have put on the economy added to the general malaise of a financial system bifurcating into hard-lined camps of haves and have-nots is hitting quite a few of the folks I know pretty hard. Add the subprime swindle waltz and the rising food price tango to this dance card and things are looking a bit bleak and unfortunately, I think it’ll be a few more years after this current crop of robber barons blow office before anything gets noticeably better. Not everyone is suffering though and silver lining like a few of the folks benefiting from this are not fat cat oil execs or bankers.

Bill, the owner of Blue Sky Bicycle on E185th Street here on the north coast told us business is booming. He’s selling 9-10 bikes a week and forgetting to close on Wednesdays as advertised. We biked over there yesterday, 26 miles round trip to talk about upgrading the wheels on my bike and to get some tuning done to Sara’s road bike (the latter actually squinted and winced when I brought it out into the sunlight from the garage where it had been hanging like a hibernating fruit bat– the bike not Sara, she has sunglasses.)

Bill’s a good guy – he takes time to talk with ya and he gives just as much attention to the person buying a new bike from him as to the kid whose water bottle bracket has fallen off the bike he bought at Wal-Mart. We discussed some option for new wheels for my road bike (god knows I can’t afford a new bike now) and had some adjustments made to Sara’s making it a bit more comfortable for her so maybe this one’ll get as much attention as her market bike now.

Speaking of attention.

It is amazing how stupid people driving cars can act when they encounter a bicyclist. Like some schoolyard bully held back three grades so they are bigger than everyone else on the playground - these Neanderthals wrapped in steel and glass act as if it is a personal affront that they have to share the road. So here are my top 5 examples of motorists acting like morons when coming upon a bicyclist:

1) Hooting, shouting, honking their horn in order to scare the feces out of the rider. What’s the point? You were able to frighten a person on a twenty five pound bicycle by making a loud noise from your two ton rolling pollution machine. Why not make a surprise appearance at a day care center dressed as a zombie?

2) Tailing a rider refusing to pass even though you have had a dozen opportunities. This one pisses me off big time. When being passed by a car I will hug the side of the road, muscles tense waiting waiting waiting - for the automobile to overtake me. I am existing in a proverbial second shoe to drop moment of suspense. Prolonging the passing just allows more time for something to go wrong – as soon as it’s safe, go around idiot.

3) And when you pass – give a little room. A foot or two will do – you don’t have to get all the way over in the other lane, that’s a bit insulting – like you expect me to topple over and slide with the speed of an air hockey puck in front of you. Even so, I guess taking the overly exaggerated swerve to avoid me is better than clipping me with your passenger side door mirror “Miss Sears Driving School Student Driver”. Likewise – if you pass a cyclist and are making a right hand turn – check that the cyclist is not right behind you. I’ve been run off the road a half dozen times by folks making right hand turns. I guess I could suggest that people use their turn signals then again I could also suggest that bush babies fly out my butt.

4) Any good cyclist will obey traffic signals (most of the time). I stop at traffic signals and can make rights on red too so leave a bit of room over there when you come to a stoplight when I am coming up behind you. I’ve seen many drivers pull as far over to the right as they can at traffic lights in order to keep that damn spandex wearing monkey from pulling even with them instead of taking his rightful position stuck directly behind a noxious exhaust pipe. I think you’re gonna beat me off the line Earnhardt, lighten up a bit. You may not know it but a lot of us riders out here are wearing shoes that actually attach to the pedals with spring loaded latches – this makes it a bit of a process for me to free my feet. That sudden swerve you just made to keep me from pulling up beside you could very well send me into a ditch.

5) Finally, relax. Share the road a bit. The thirty seconds added to your trip because of me out on my bike isn’t gonna make any difference. Hell the fact that I’m going to the store on my bike is having a positive effect supply and demand wise on the gas you’re pouring into your Hummer. Like Jackie Gleason said in The Hustler – “You owe me money!”

If the pickup in business over at Bill’s bike shop there on 185th is any indication – chances are you are going to be seeing a few more bikes on the road these coming months. Subsequently, a lot of these riders are going to be new – give ‘em a chance willya?

Oh yeah, don’t be surprised when, after she shouts from your open window trying to scare me as you pass, I catch up with you at the next light and squirt the rest of the contents of my sticky sports drink filled bottle all over your black lipsticked Goth wanna-be tart in the passenger seat of your Kia Rio.


Kelly W. said...

Laughing hard at this post. I loved the bat analogy.

Oh! And when Bush took office gas was $1.46 a gallon. I'm sure you knew this. But I feel the need to post it wherever I go...

michael salinger said...

Yeah, folks like say that Bush doesn't have anything to do with the price of oil. Well, his family's money is all tied to oil - but let's say his family owned a whole lot of chicken farms, had friends who owned a whole lot of KFC franchises and he was the godfather of the CEO of Tysons chicken and the price of chicken tripled while he was in office...