Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nothin' but time to sit and m-f-in think

I woke up to a nice thunderstorm yesterday morning, so I got dressed in my work clothes, hopped in the car and drove. I need a drying rack in my cubicle for my rain pants and jacket before I ride in a torrent like that.

On a good day, I can commute to work in about 20 minutes by bicycle. It feels like 5 minutes.

It took me 27 minutes to drive that morning, and it felt like an hour.

I put in the Friday Soundtrack and tried to drown my "ugh" feeling with the Isley Brothers's "Tryin' to See Another day". It didn't work.

One couplet from another song on that disc puts things into perspective:

I had my ass in the tank, with nothin but time to sit and mother-f-kin think. ("Blast if I Have To", E-A-Ski)

Fittingly, he's talking about being jailed.

So what do I think about?

Modern cars are designed to isolate the occupants from the outside world and can be operated with minimal input from the driver. It is designed to get people from point A to point B with as little stress as possible. When you're done driving a modern car, you feel like you've been sitting on the couch all day. They're very forgiving compared to cars made even 15 years ago.

The "nicer" modern cars have a multitude of cupholders in convenient locations. My wife's parents and the four of us rented a Toyota Sienna for a family trip a couple years ago. Maybe it's an extreme example, but we counted 18 cupholders. The minivan is designed for eight passengers.

It would seem that vehicles where cupholders are an afterthought (like my Cavalier) are "piles of junk", despite having the same rattles and quirks any other 11 year old car would have.

The resale value of a Cavalier is significantly less than a comparably worn out Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. The cup holders in those cars are designed around two medium sodas from most fast-food drive-throughs. How convenient!

The Cavalier's lone cupholder was designed around a 12oz soda can. What a pile of junk!

The entertainment options on vehicles produced even 10 years ago were an AM/FM radio, cassette and CD. Nowadays you can plug in an iPod into many cars and have every song that ever touched the Billboard Hot 100 at your fingertips. Heck, some are even voice-activated so you don't have to lift a finger to change music.

And then there's the automatic climate controls that ensure it is always 72 degrees in the car, regardless of the conditions outside. Set it and forget it.

All of this helps to further isolate the occupants of a modern car from their surroundings. Everyone wants to be comfortably numb.

And then the occupants of a modern car take vacations: Ski trips. Tubing trips down a river. Camping. All of these diversions from their numb existances to "get back to nature" or "add what's been missing" or even "to feel alive again".

Case in point: I saw a commercial for taking a "South Dakota Adventure" vacation, starting at $122 per night, including bike rental. What's wrong with just getting on the bike and going somewhere?

(Note: I'm not dogging the concept of a bike vacation. I'm just pointing out the inference that cycling is something you do on vacation, not every day in your own neighborhood or town. I would totally take a South Dakota Adventure vacation by bicycle again. I've ridden the roads around Mt. Rushmore, Custer State Park and the Needles when I was a teenager and recommend it to anyone looking for an inexpensive and easy vacation. Find a place to camp or rent a cabin and just ride. Don't forget to bring your "climbing lungs".)

And my favorite thing to think about: the insanity of getting in a car, driving to a gym and running/climbing/pedaling nowhere for an hour and then driving back home. (Okay, I laugh to myself about this while I ride my bike, too.)

This leads me to one conclusion: the occupants of a modern car do not care about the journey, they only care about the destination.

People who ride bikes are all about the journey. People who ride bikes hear birds chirp. People who ride bikes feel the wind. People who ride bikes observe the trailside mulberry bush go from flower to fruit as the days pass by. People who ride bikes get some free Vitamin D from the giant unlicensed fusion reactor in the sky. People who ride bikes make eye-contact with other human beings, even those who aren't handing them food and beverages through a drive-up window. People who ride bikes get 30+ minutes of aerobic exercise each day.

Most importantly, people who ride bikes desensitize themselves to the dangers of the outside world so they can enjoy the outside world.

Modern cars are sensory deprivation chambers that can drive a person who rides a bike insane with their thoughts.

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