Friday, October 15, 2010


*Image by Pete Millar

Efforts to substitute driving with bike riding came to a halt this summer when my neck started complaining. Ignoring it didn't solve the problem. My back started to hurt, then my arm; and when my index finger and thumb went numb, it was time for a visit to the doctor. Oops. Degeneration of the spine, and a disc problem, not an uncommon complaint for people in my age bracket. After a few sessions of physical therapy and diligent practice of bi-hourly prescribed exercises that looked very strange, things are feeling great again; but, the one activity the therapist advises against is bicycling.

Whether this is a life sentence remains to be seen, but in the meantime, it is all too easy to slip right back into the car, kind of like reuniting after a divorce. And, like in a renewed relationship, it is also all too easy to slip back into old habits that are so ingrained they feel like second nature.

For instance: it's a gorgeous late-autumn day, offering no reason in the world to hurry or be uptight. Red-gold leaves swirl like dancers in the street as I stop for a red light. I'm in a great mood. A large and shiny SUV is behind me. Judging from the proximity to my rear bumper, the driver is obviously anxious to go fast, so it isn't a surprise when he zips into the next lane, which happens to be a lane that merges into mine in another few yards; and then the driver ever so subtly, revs the engine.

It was like someone sticking out their tongue and saying: I'm going to beat you.

On the side of the truck is a campaign poster advertising a candidate I do not like, and since the car is bigger than mine, the sign is right at eye level. The light changes, and sure enough, the driver guns it, but here's the great part: so do I. He vrooms forward with his 17 million+ hp engine, and I floor it, my mini-motor sounding like one of those remote controlled little airplanes that kids sometimes fly in the park. The miles-per-gallon meter plummets: 47.7, 47.6, 47., 33 ....

Of course, he beats me to it, but my adrenaline-engorged heart eggs me on. When we slow down, I switch lanes, and glide next to him. Ha! See where that got you!


This was a race against--? Who knows? And yet, it felt as real as the sun in my eyes. I win I win I win I win!

Where does this stuff come from? Who cares who gets into the lane first? If the guy pulled out a gun, would I shoot back? Assuming I had a gun, which of course, I don't. All that conscientious do-gooding, out the window with one wag of a tail pipe and one tea party candidate's sign.

So, my body isn't up to commuting by bicycle, and my mind works like a fighting rooster's. This does not bode well for anyone claiming to promote Transportation by Muscle. Sounds more like Transportation for the muscle-bound. Where is the Marriage Counselor for this dysfunctional relationship between the driver and the driven?

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