We’re all pretty fragile

November 11, 2013 § 17 Comments

I was eating a hangover burrito and slurping down my second cup of lard-infested coffee when I saw the dreadful Facebook news: The glorious Sunday Kettle Ride had been pulled over and ticketed for riding in the lane. The person who got pounded with the ticket was, of course, G$, the guy who always steps up as the leader.

The sheriff’s deputy had these words of wisdom: “Every accident I’ve been to where a cyclist was hit, it was their fault for riding in the middle of the lane.” He was uninterested in the actual California Vehicle Code which permits the type of riding that the bikers were engaged in.

This came the morning after a super twisted opinion piece in the New York Times, in which the writer opined that the laws in this country essentially allow motorists to kill cyclists with little to no penalty, while at the same time the cyclist/author confessed to being afraid to ride anywhere except … in his basement. The message was apparently that although it’s wrong to kill cyclists, it’s even wronger to stand up for your rights by riding on the road.

As I was struggling up Via del Monte yesterday, my good friend Surfer Dan looked over at me and said, “You know, we’re all pretty fragile.”

On cue, I pulled over and lay down in the grass, caught in that half-contraction between swallowing and vomiting. The sun beat down. Dan looked on, mildly amused. We had finished the Donut Ride several hours ago, and decided to consummate our healthy bicycling activity with a massive cheeseburger, fries, and copious amounts of beer.

Dan, who doesn’t drink but who compensates for his abstinence with the ability to clear off the largest plate of food in a matter of minutes, had been sitting around the table while I and a handful of others enjoyed the Bike Bomb Effect. This is the smash-to-the-brain that you get after a long, hard, hilly ride in the sun that leaves you completely famished and dehydrated, and then follow up the ride with several 23-oz. glasses of Thunderhead IPA.

The others staggered home, and Surfer Dan nursed me back through the beach cities and up the endless steeps of Via del Monte. When you are suffering from the Bike Bomb Effect and going uphill, it feels like you weigh about 800 pounds.

“You should probably get up before they call the police,” Dan advised.

He had a point, but things were still too foggy for me figure out what it was. “Why would they do that?”

“Because it’s unusual for people to be lying in the front yard of these multi-million dollar estates.”

I pondered it for a while. The sun felt very good, and the road was so very steep. The grass felt like it had when I was a child, fresh and green and bendy, and scratchy in a good way, cushiony, and despite the sun it was cool out, and if I rolled over to my side just a bit the sun stopped hitting my eyes and it was better than a bed or a hammock.

“Come on, man,” Dan said, nudging me in the gut with his shoe.

The sharp prod of the shoe spoke with a kind of harsh logic that his words hadn’t, so I got up and got on my bike, except not really, because it kept falling over. Finally I started pushing it. “Does it get flatter up here?” I asked.

Dan was laughing. “Yeah, it does.” And it did.

For the remaining mile, which took forever, we spoke of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings, of why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings. We concluded that whether it’s our own inner turmoil, or some asshole cop giving you a ticket for something you didn’t do, or some fool behind the wheel of a car who kills you because he “didn’t see you,” we’re all pretty fragile.

So it would be good, then, to handle with care.

§ 17 Responses to We’re all pretty fragile

  • New Girl says:

    Will do. Thank you Seth. Another beautiful piece. “The grass felt like it had when I was a child, fresh and green and bendy, and scratchy in a good way, cushiony”

  • Edmund Dantes says:

    Beautiful piece. I’m not sure I can even count the number of stories you have managed to effortlessly entwine in just these few paragraphs. But my favorite is the one there between the lines; the one that says cyclists have no home in the world, except with each other.

  • marc Caruso says:

    Seth When you say deputy doofus do you mean Garcia and his cronie Commissioner jones. Make sure your friend that got pulled over doesn’t get commisioner jones if he does he is screwed.

  • Dandy says:

    Thanks for that, Seth.

  • Gary Cziko says:

    Antifragile is the goal:

    “We bicyclists can’t make ourselves totally antifragile, to the extent that we can benefit from the volatility of traffic, but we can significantly reduce our fragility and become somewhat antifragile by learning to respond effectively to the many small violations we experience. These small violations are often indicators of the actual crash we’re trying to avoid. The close pass indicates the risk for the sideswipe. The right hook close call indicates the potential for a right hook collision. And so on. We cannot and will not become less fragile or more antifragile by putting most of the responsibility for our safety on government or motorists. The best way to achieve it is by changing our own behavior.””

    See China Cups and Butterflies by Mighk Wilson:

    • fsethd says:

      This post didn’t really have anything to do with bicycling, but thanks.

      • R.C. White says:

        Yes, but it is about what cycling brings out in all of us. The better moments at least; the wonderful suspended-reality endorphin-loaded post-ride state of mind.

  • Sausage says:

    Surfer Dan is a man of many casual wisdoms.

  • jprummer@charter.net says:

    Very nice. I was thinking about how fragile we all are today while on a solo ride. I decided for me it wouldn’t be that bad to die on a bike. I lost a lot of friends at work this year and I don’t want to be remembered for dying on a fire.

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