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Beware of idiots
Wednesday, as the sky was falling, I was driving my 8-year-old son to an appointment and casually asked him if I should ride my bike to work later.
It’s a game I frequently play with my kids. If the weather is bad or threatening, I’ll ask their advice. If they advise well, I dismiss their contribution and take all the credit myself. If they advise poorly — if the storm never materializes, or the rain starts well after I would have returned home — I berate them mercilessly and engage in the kind of psychological torture that’s sure to earn them plenty of shrink couch time later in life.
It’s win-win, really.
Anyway, my son wiped away the condensation on his window, took one look at the carnage and shook his head.
“You should drive,” he said. “Too dangerous.”
“What if you can’t stop? You might run into someone.”
I assured him I wasn’t worried about running into someone on my bike so much as someone running into me.
“Oh, then, yeah, you should ride,” he said before retreating somewhere in the recesses of his mind only an 8-year-old boy could enjoy and no adult would dare follow.
I really was going to ride, but the appointment went long, so to save time, I decided to drive. I regretted the decision it almost immediately and made sure to take it out on my kids that night.
A day later, I again drove to work, and a series of events made me wonder if my son’s knee-jerk response — “too dangerous” — was more accurate than he knew.
First, I got stuck behind a slow-moving import that I thought was having trouble with traction. The driver slipped left, overcorrected right, swerved back left, re-overcorrected right, plowed into a snowdrift and narrowly missed a curb. Fortunately, the driver somehow managed nearly to cause a couple of accidents without having to remove the cell phone from her ear.
A couple of blocks later, a car got squirrelly on a side street, then got completely sideways as it turned onto Sixth Street, barely missing a line of cars waiting to turn left. Within two blocks, the mental giant behind the wheel had passed a car on the right and cut that driver off to get back into the left-turn lane, where he slammed on the brakes and slid past his turn, before slamming it in reverse. I watched in my rear-view mirror as he backed up, his car half-way in the turn lane, half-way in the straight lane, forcing two cars to swerve out of his way.
A half mile or so down the road, I nearly T-boned a guy pulling out of a fast-food joint. Even on a dry road he wouldn’t have had time to turn left in front of me cleanly; in the snow, he spun his wheels as I jumped on the hooks, triggering the antilock brakes. It was oh-so-close, but the guy didn’t seem concerned enough to put down the Whopper he was shoving into his face all the while.
Then on the way home, the driver of a tiny speck of a car thought she should tailgate me down Sixth. At one intersection, she slid to a stop that had to have ended just inches from my rear bumper. I have to admit, though, it was kind of funny to see her and her passenger almost bump their faces on the windshield — seat belts anyone? — as the car came to an abrupt halt on a rare patch of clear asphalt.
Then I thought about my most recent bike ride to work. I spent so much time trying to stay upright, I didn’t have much time to worry about the folks around me.
As vulnerable as I felt in my car a couple of days later, I’m glad, for once, I didn’t try to dodge the idiots on my bike.