Thursday, April 4, 2013

guess who we (kindof sorta) saw on the way in to work|school today. no really, guess. did you guess President Barack Obama?

It was raining this morning, a soft misty rain that might have been a feathery snowfall but everything outside was green and it never snows in our part of the bay area.  At the ordained time Contraption Captain, Rapunzel, and I rolled out down the driveway, turned right onto our street and then left onto the main drag that takes us to her school.

We could see something going on up ahead, a big array of police cars with whirling lights, some fire engines, and a group of people.  We got closer and could see that the people were shaking signs up and down.  Someone yelled "better hurry up or you'll miss it" but we rolled on at our usual pace until our progress was stopped by a police barricade.

As we waited a long row of giant black SUVs with lit headlights and black tinted windows rolled through the intersection escorted by police on motorcycles and in cars.  It was President Obama on his way to a fundraiser being held in the uber-wealthy town of Atherton.  The signs were anti Keystone XL pipeline and the people chanted "Hey, Barack, you talked the talk now walk the walk."

I think they also said that the oil should stay in the ground.  I felt the faint embarrassment that an introvert experiences when a group of people do a lot of shouting.  It was early morning and I wondered what it would be like to go to a boring fundraiser event and be screamed at from street corners.   By everyone everywhere all the time.  That's a lot of screaming, I guess it comes with the presidential territory.

I asked the Contraption Captain, of the protesters, "how did they get here?"  He wasn't sure what I meant so I clarified.  "Did they bike here?"  I don't think they rode their bicycles out this morning with their signs.  I think some walked maybe and some biked but most drove their cars.  Why it matters.  If we do not want pipelines in our backyards, we have to look attentively at why the demand for the pipeline is there at all.  It's there because this country has an incredible appetite for petroleum products and a sad reluctance to slow down conveniences.

We were the only three bicyclists waiting in the soft rain for the President to pass so we could continue on to work and school.  We didn't say anything at all, we just stood there, but I found myself recalling the sign that Ellen Fletcher had mounted to her bicycle:  Bicycling.  A Quiet Statement Against Oil Wars.

I'm not smug and I don't have a high horse to get on, I drive to way too many sports events to start copping an attitude.  But I also don't think it's enough to shake a sign and then get in your car and drive away.


  1. FYI - I know a couple of people who were planning on being part of this - and they planned on taking the train...

    1. that's good to hear. I like trains. would be a not inconsiderable walk from caltrain to that corner.

  2. Chafe,

    I've been spending the last few days looking at trains carrying crude oil for a piece I'm writing. I could have assured the protesters that, in the absence of a pipeline, North American-produced crude oil is still moving about, by means that are (possibly) more polluting than a pipeline.

    All the best,


    1. We have got to go on a petroleum diet, in my opinion. Must must must.
      I didn't know about the trains, but it makes sense. I look forward to the article.