Thursday, November 1, 2012

Part 2. There is probably some truth to that "it's not if, it's when" stuff

First off I had no intention of leaving a cliffhanger.  Two things happened:  one was that I was so totally demoralized I couldn't really write.  The other is that I re-read my previous post and all the typoes made me wonder if a nine year old had taken possession of my hands.  I hope not because a nine year old running my hands would have serious repercussions for my work performance.

It's true about how bad news travels fast and that's how one day you find yourself getting a message from one co-worker that there has been an accident and another co-worker, who happens to be an avid motorcyclist, has been hurt.

I get this bad news and I'm really really upset.  I've known this co-worker since before moving to California and he's a good guy with a family and now I am sitting there worrying that he is out on the road or at an ER maimed or paralyzed or worse and despite my having a supremely bad attitude about anything motorized I actually can't stand to see anyone suffer an injury greater than a little humiliation at the hands of an angry middle-aged bicyclist.

But I am more than just upset that someone has been hurt and to get why you have to understand that this co-worker takes motorcycle safety to the nth degree.  He wears state of the art protective gear.  He trains on a track with a coach.  He's been riding for something like twenty years without incident.  He really really loves to ride his motorcycle and at the same time he comes across as rock solid clear on the dangers of it and so he hedges his bets as best he can with good practices and good gear and training.  What he does to protect himself, those are his walls.

I have my walls against death and dismemberment as well.  My bicycle walls against the world are careful practices, good lights, a safe-ish route, a helmet, a reflective jacket, a loud voice, an understanding of car behavior (maybe) and an absence of headphones.  

Back to my co-worker.  We find out that his head and back are okay.  We find out that his hand and foot are quite injured.  One toe will be amputated.  Several fingers will be wired back into place.  He's at the ER, surgery will follow.

My response to this is relief (he's not dead) and then a creepy progression towards minimizing.  One toe?  Well, there are still nine others, right?  One toe doesn't sound all that grievous.  I manage to hold on to this very comforting position up until I am treated to a picture of his foot sans big toe and needing a skin graft.  Hint:  it looks like it hurts.  A lot.

It's been weeks now and I haven't been able to write about this and as an aside he has not been able to return to work much either.  I wanted to write about how my co-worker loves to ride his motorcycle, as I love to bicycle, and he tried to keep back the wall of larger vehicles but ultimately one got through.  He was hit by a car in an intersection; he was going straight, they turned into him.  It's a classic bicycle accident, the hook, I can't help but notice.

So I am thinking about what I want to say, about bicycling and tricking ourselves into thinking we'll be ok and cars and I am in a bicycle lane and I see a squirrel dart into the street and I just have time to yell when the next car hits it and I see it's body half crushed and as I bicycle by it's shuddering in this sickening death twitch.  I stop my bicycle and then continue on and although I hate being this way I cry because I feel so awful about this squirrel and I think about the blank expression on the driver's face as she rolled over an animal and went on without hesitation.   The Contraption Captain is always very nice when I unhinge in this manner so at the next traffic light I cry and he pats my back and I slowly stop seeing that awful moment of impact.

A shiny Mercedes pulls up.  A window rolls down.  Really.  Because when I'm upset there is nothing I enjoy more than a driver telling me that I'm doing it wrong.  An over-coiffed man informs me in what he thinks is a nice way that he's a doctor and perhaps he can help because obviously I am on a bicycle and having a nervous breakdown and he has his MD and is in a shiny car.

I collect myself and say in a reasonable voice that I saw a squirrel get run over and I'm upset.  The MD says in what he thinks is a helpful way that when the squirrel gets hit it cannot process what has happened to it, the vastness of the trauma.

I don't know what to say to this.  The Contraption Captain uses the word "fuck" which is totally unlike him.  I don't say that it is my understanding that when massive trauma gets inflicted on a human shock gives them some protection from what is happening.  It doesn't provide me any comfort at all that if I get squished into the grill of a Toyota Tundra I won't fully be able to appreciate the extent of my injuries.

So here's the deal.  When they came for the squirrels no one said anything because hey, squirrels, who cares, right?  When they came for the opossums and the raccoons no one said anything then either because who cares.  Then they came for our cats and our dogs and we were kindof bummed out.  And they've come for our children and they say "we didn't see him|her" and we go along with that for some misbegotten reason.  They have come for the motorcyclists.  They've come for the bicyclists, they have definitely come for the bicyclists and they say that we ran that light or we were not wearing a helmet or we had it coming or we "took our chances."

They are the cars on the road and at this point, they've come for everyone.  For each other even.  I don't have a plan here other than if they come for me and you find out?  Don't paint a bicycle white.  Don't send flowers.  Rise up.  Take back your roads.  Slash tires and set fires.  Tear down signs and stop traffic.  Blockade highways.  Because some day, some where, we must end the way they come for us and kill us and continue on up the road.  


  1. Yeah it sucks! Thanks for posting this Chafed. I've been waiting and wondering. As a moto-rider myself I think of the danger constantly. It drives me nuts but I couldn't give up something I love like riding based on the risk. I've seen many friends and family injured while riding motorcycles, even lost some.

    Personally I don't feel there is much distinction between the two modes -bicycle or moto. We're both in the same boat really looking out for the same threats. As your post points out. Of course one burns the smelly stuff but thats the only real difference I think.

    It's whitetail deer mating season soon here in Ohio. You wouldn't like it at all. The bucks go crazy chasing the does around and inevitably they run across the highways. Big graceful 100+ pound animals. The scenes are horrible and it seems like it takes ODOT forever to clean it up if at all. Such a waste.

    Anyway I feel your pain. Carry on and best wishes to your co-worker. I hope he recovers soon.


    1. The other night I held my breath (literally) as I saw a doe run delicately in front of a car and weave through fast moving traffic. She made it. A mountain lion eating a deer? I get that. A deer crushed and thrown away to one side just does something to me though, it feels wrong.

      I'm pretty tired of feeling bullied but if I have to be bullied to be a bicyclist, I'll keep on. I remember always what an area roadie (and mother) said to me about why she kept bicycling after being nearly killed by a drunk driver. "How can I let one person take away something from me that I love so much."

      Thanks for your reply btw. I read it several times.

  2. I really do not envy motorcyclists. As a bicyclist, I feel like we have many more opportunities to avoid an accident. For example, since we're going more slowly at intersections, it's often possible to avoid the left and right hooks since we can stop or change direction very quickly. Motorcycles travel faster and if someone turns in front of one there's not a whole lot the rider can do. As a fellow two-wheeled traveler, I can definitely sympathize with being so vulnerable to the more protected 4+ wheel drivers!

  3. It is so discouraging that our culture refuses to encourage kindness and gentleness. The relentless selfish pursuit of speed and comfort seem to lead inexorably to cruelty and disdain for those who are "weaker/slower/lesser". It doesn't have to be that way. But it sure is going to take a lot of us living by generous example to change the way things are going. Bless you for sharing the tender spark of love that is in your sounds like you have at least two people near you who can help to nurture it!

    1. My kindness / gentleness skills when applied to humans could use a little work. Each day I go out determined to be more patient but many days I just totally lose it when a car does something scary or angry. I'm frustrated with myself but also frustrated with the behaviours I see around me.