Friday, July 20, 2012

mind your manners

Conveniently located across from the over-priced Stanford Mall is a (also over-priced) retirement-senior living complex called Vi.  [Ob.joke: Emacs is up the street and it's more feature rich but will set you back additional memory.] I've had my hassles with the elderly folks of Vi.  Some of them bicycle but way more of them drive behemoth cars and stop for no person and bicycle lanes?  Those skinny little things?  Clearly it's the part of the road designated for over-sized loads, right?  So yes.  I get it.  Old people can be annoying. 

Yet even so most of us agree that certain proprieties should always be observed, and one of these is that it is not okay to threaten to run over Grandma when she doesn't move out of your way fast enough.

The Contraption Captain and I were at a red light.  Grandma, a skinny bent little old lady with a poof of white hair was positioned on the far side of the intersection from us.  Grandma begins to make her slow somewhat tremulous way across the street.  She is about halfway across when she encounters a problem that plagues California bicyclists at a variety of triggered lights, specifically, the light had not been timed for her speed and so it turns green before she has completed traversing the road.  Welcome to our world, Grandma!

Traditionally people wait for grandmas to complete crossing the intersection in these circumstances but the car to our left must have been in a hurry because her car jumped forward the moment the light turned.  Grandma, no fool, tried to hustle.  Watching a bent 80-year-old lady try to run is not a very happy sight in my humble crabby opinion.  I know you'll be excited to hear that the sedan decided not to run her over.  Speaking for myself and the Contraption Captain, we don't like starting our day off with an ambulance and a police report. 

So after this is over and Grandma heads home for a scotch-whiskey Contraption Captain and I start pedalling up the street and I say, "Wow, did you see that guy nearly take out that grandma??"
Contraption shakes his head.  "That wasn't a guy, that was another old lady.  It was one old lady nearly taking out another old lady."
I think he's wrong, I'm sure it was a younger guy with stubble and I say so.  Fortunately, there is a second red light half the way up the next block and Mr or Mrs "I am in such a hurry to get to the next red light that I'd kill grandma to do it" is waiting there.  "Good news, Captain!  We can check."

We pull up and peer into the open window of the car.  I start laughing.  "Well, it's not a guy."
Contraption Captain is smug.  "It's an old woman."
I shake my head, "That woman is not old.  She's middle-aged."

By this time we have attracted the attention of the driver of the sedan.  She listens to us debate whether she looks more like a man or more like an old woman and then rolls up her window.  I consider her face.  I decide that with a scowl like that you really do end up looking like an angry old guy wearing a dress.

The moral of the story:  In a town with a lot of bicyclists and a lot of traffic lights, there is a high degree of confidence that one of us will notice if you drive like an asshat.  Unless you want to be mocked and discussed through the next three intersections, cool your jets and let Grandma cross in front of you in peace.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

omfg! so digusting! almost died!

Do you know how, when you are on a bicycle and riding in traffic you pay a lot of attention to noise and movement around you as you try and predict if someone is about to run you over?  Yeah, that.  So yesterday I am riding home and I hear this loud honking noise and I look to my left and see:

A Guy in a shoddy red 4-door sedan with driver side window rolled down has blown his nose into his hand and before I can tear my bleeding eyeballs away I see him proceed to lick the results of this nose-blowing off his hand. 


PLEASE people, have a little consideration?  I was so grossed out that I pedalled the rest of the way up Charleston (not the safest road under the best of circumstances) with the dry heaves.  I didn't barf but it was a near thing. 

And, I decided, once my stomach had stopped turning over, that's it.  I quit.  The cars win.  I'm going to throw in this whole bicycling thing.  I'm going to purchase the biggest Hummer I can find and paint all the windows black.  Then I'm going to drive navigating purely by GPS.  Sure I figure I'll go over a few people but if it saves me from ever having to see someone blow their nose into their hand and lick up the snot afterwards I think it is totally worth it. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

meanwhile, back at the ranch

I am mid-way through my annual trip back to the summering locale of my youth, aka Massachusetts specifically Cape Cod.  As is part of my tradition I have already fallen on the ground and offered up my right arm if I can be reminded not to do this again next year.  Then I force myself to consider the Afghan woman who was just murdered by a bunch of jeering Afghan men and I tell myself "dial 1-800 people have real problems.  That Afghan woman would switch places in a heartbeat."  This results in my being insect-molested, hot, homesick and now also feeling guilty. 

Massachusetts is a very liberal state outside of it's propensity to serve up annoying governors who turn around and run for president.  But Cape Cod is not the liberal part which is how I found myself surrounded by teary eyed patriots on July 4th who were pledge allegiance-ing and singing the national anthem and running the flag up the flagpole while squadrons of mosquitoes dive-bombed the Californians. I had one minor moment during the event and that came when the little kids had all grouped themselves with their tricycles and flags for a neighborhood parade.  A car turned onto this dead end road and the parents hustled the little kids to the sides of the lane so that the car could pass.  I heard Martin Luther King Jr in my head (I know, wrong holiday) and MLK was saying in that commanding voice he had "I have a dream, that one day, the cars will give way for the little children instead of the little children giving way to the cars."

Traditionally I have returned from Massachusetts and kissed the bicycle lanes of Palo Alto but...  and I hope saying this won't result in me being hit tomorrow but...  bicycling seems a little better this year than other years.  Maybe even more than a little.  It is verging on okay, in fact.  What's up with this?  Not that I'm complaining but, what's new?

What is not new is that there are still no bicycle lanes.  The roads are very narrow and it would be non-trivial to add them because no one has gone along with my suggestion whose name is:  There would be plenty of room for bicycle lanes if we got rid of the fat ugly cars.  But even without bicycle lanes an informal survey says:

Way.  The fuck.  More.  Bicyclists.

I've seen small pelotons of roadies, a first. 
I've seen kids, not a first.
I've seen mothers out riding, definitely new.
I've seen tubby dads and greying seniors.
The Cape Codders, bastions of Lincoln cars and conservatism are venturing out on bicycles or being take over by aliens.

The result (in my un-scientific opinion) of this larger number of bicycles on the road is an increased expectation on the part of the automobiles that they might be slowed by the presence of a bicycle.  We've been out riding to our errands almost every day and many of the cars have slowed when they went around us.  Take a minute to consider how little I am asking of these people.  1.  Please slow down when you go around us when we are on our bicycles.  2.  Refer to 1. 

What am I riding?

There is much that is within bicycle range of me here, ice creams, post office, hardware store, liquor store, sailing camp, muffins and I was damned if I was going to drive my father's Tacoma truck (yes, really) to all these destinations.  So I took the truck to the nearest rental place and rented four bicycles at ungodly cost.  For the money I thought I would have something wonderful. 

I was wrong.  I will never ever understand people who enjoy riding bicycles with that upright behavior.  It's killing my forearms.  About the only good bit is that I have been strongly encouraged to improve my riding with no hands skills.  The kids seem fine, even happy proving that the apple can indeed fall far from the complaining tree.  Contraption Captain is just grateful to be out of the Tacoma truck.  He takes this clunky rental bike and bunny-hops up the road regaling us with periodic wheelies.  Riding anywhere with him is like being accompanied by a wallaby on speed. 

Today was the first day of the little sailing camp the kids thought they would test out.  We got on our bicycles and pedaled (except for Captain who jumped and skidded and wheelied) up the road and over a hill.  There was a place to lock up.  As we left to go back to the house a mother came over and said "Was that you bicycling in?"  I admitted it.  She said "I brought all our bicycles but wanted to check it out today and now I think it's too much!"  I asked if she was very far away.  She said no, about two miles, "but the hills!  So many hills"  I thought it over.  Then I said "Try tomorrow with the bicycles.  I think you can do it."  I think she can.  Fingers are crossed.  The car scene is better and the hills are not bad.  I did not mention the risk of being carried away by a team of greenheads, mosquitoes, and midges working together.