Monday, January 27, 2014

Musing: You can wait. A few extra minutes waiting to accomodate others won't ruin your life...

... And if it does, well, what does that really say about the life you are living?

When I got to college back in the late 1990's the internet was still just a few years from its birth and yours truly still spent most of my study time researching stuff using library index cards and checking out thick textbooks. It took hours to gather enough information to write a decent A-worthy paper.

Do you remember what a real book looks like? Me, too!
I still remember the first time I used the library computer to look up something from the NCBI database. There was no WiFi then, and the connection was slow. You'd click on a link and count off (sometimes more than) a few seconds before the new page would load. But it was still so much faster than sifting through the pile of library index cards to find the right books and then going to fetch the books and combing through them to the pages with the info you wanted. I didn't mind that the pages were taking a while to load. I was just happy that it took me minutes instead of hours to get the info I wanted.

I also used to drive... a lot. I bought my first car in the winter of 1993, and, because of my then job, I drove that thing 30,000 or so miles a year until I went back to college and became half-way normal, so to speak. It was great being able to get somewhere more than 15 miles away and back in hardly any time at all and without breaking a sweat. Before I bought a car I spent two years at a school in Southern California and lived on campus. I was too young to have a car then, so I got everywhere by bicycle.
Yes, it's narrow and steep, but Presidio Dr is still the mildest of all the other roads that lead from Mission Valley to the uptown Mesa. On some of the other roads, many of these guys won't be able to pedal up at all.
Two years of bike-commuting often in 95+ degree heat or in sub-40F cold and sometimes in thick wet fog or nasty stingy rain while hauling grocery and other types of load over rolling hills of varying degrees of steepness is an experience that stays with you a bit. It was relatively easy for me to chill and not get annoyed when I found myself 'stuck' behind a slow tractor (there were a few of them around out in the country) or a cyclist on narrow uphill bits of the many rural highways I drove on. A few extra minutes (if it takes that long... a lot of time you'll be presented with a break in traffic that would allow you to pass in matter of seconds) is a small inconvenience compared to what the tractor driver or the cyclist is going through. I remembered what it was like for a 12 miles commute to take a whole sweaty hour. It's easy to dismiss strangers' validity to justify being annoyed at them, but others' motive for doing something or being somewhere often is a lot less evil than you'd like to think it. Why are those slow cyclists riding up this narrow road and slowing me down? They should be banned from the street if they are too slow to keep up with cars! How selfish for the cyclist to be riding on this road! Even when they are doing the 25 mph speed limit, I could still be going faster if only they aren't in the way!

He's wearing lycra and riding a racing road bike, but he is also only commuting to and from work.
But what if bicycling is their only way of getting to places? And what if they are there because this narrow road is the least terribly steep way of getting up this particular hill, the top of which could be where the cyclist lives or where his workplace is? What if the cyclist can't afford to just up and move from his current house or apartment just to make his commute less hilly? Not everyone has the same choices that you are presented with. Not all cyclists are out on the road just for an exercise or for fun. And not every cyclist that ride in lycra are 'recreational' cyclist either (if you have ever ridden a bike 30+ miles in unpadded jeans, then you would understand why many would weigh down their backpack or paniers with additional clothes just so they can ride in lycra!). If you are willing to risk someone else's life and limbs just so you could get to where you want to go a minute or two faster (or not... if you then run into traffic lights), then who exactly is being selfish?

That someone else is somebody's kid or parent or brother or sister or friend, too. What if one of your daughter is out there riding her bike to get to work right now, what would you like the drivers that encounter her on the street to do? Real life isn't like the movies. If you hit someone, they get really hurt or die. And then what happens to the people that depend on them? All that just to get to drive a little faster? Is that really the kind of person you want to be? Just think about it a bit.

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Thanks for stopping by. Be safe on the roads!