Words sort of matter

November 29, 2015 § 34 Comments

One of my favorite words when describing stupid people in their underwear getting run over by even stupider-er cagers has always been “accident.” It rolls off the tongue, and it fits our existence in the cosmos.

Like it or not, the sperm that hooked up with your mother’s egg was an accident. It could have been the tadpole vigorously swimming next to him, but it wasn’t.

“Accident” also perfectly describes the universe: There is no dog, only random chance. The gas cloud that swirled and eventually became the Milky Way, which has 68 different stars, and which eventually calved off Earth and the glaciers which are themselves calving off … all accidents.

Things don’t happen for a reason, they happen at random. For example, my broken hip and dislodged pancreas. There was no reason that I decided to take the hairpin full bore, it was a spur of the moment thing: Hugely beautiful weather, no cars, great legs, and a happy desire to get to the start of the Donut Ride and try to drop the shit out of all my friends.

It was random that I hit on my incus bone instead of my hyoid bone, and it was random that even though I was PRAYING TO DOG that traffic would be coming in the other direction so they could see me hit the apex of the curve like the Master of the Universe™, bent so low and leaned so far that I could lick the asphalt with my tongue, in fact there were no cars in the opposite direction which prevented me from getting run over and crushed to death when I slid out into the other lane, licking the asphalt but not being all that happy about it.

Everything is random. It was random that G3 came by as I sat shuddering on the curb and gave me a quick neural check that the EMT’s hadn’t bothered with. “No neurons here, guys,” he confirmed.

Of course “accident” leads naturally from “random” because like “random,” “accident” is cause-neutral. Shit just happened. Bonehead came out of nowhere. I never saw anything, Ossifer.

The problem is that even though everything happens at random, thereby eliminating dog and the search for an ultimate cause, random events nonetheless act according to set laws of physics, and they are the result of specific choices.

So I’ve got this troll. Okay, he’s not a troll, he’s a pretty awesome guy, but he acts like a troll, and here’s how he does it. Every time I use the word “accident” in my blog, he sends me an email and often posts a comment that reminds me “There are are no accidents in cycling. You described a crash or a collision, but not an accident.”

You can easily see his point. “Oops. It appears that I just killed your husband, child, and dog due to this important picture of my dick I was sending to a teenager while driving. Sorry. I feel terrible about this tragic accident.” The word accident robs the victim of justice and allows the dick-picker to evade responsibility.

Nor is this just one of my trolls getting on his high horse. The oldest peer-reviewed medical journal in the galaxy has retired the word “accident” for much the same reasons.

The Washington Post, hardly a mouthpiece for foamy-mouthed bicycle advocates, has also seen the light, albeit dimly. And of course well over a year ago Bike Snot NYC took the word “accident” out behind his garage and shot it. And it wasn’t an accidental shooting, either.

But there’s more. The most boring, orthodox, gear-pimping, unreadable publication ever printed, Bicycle Magazine, even wrote a primer for newspapers about how to rephrase headlines. And then the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency, which is responsible for keeping bicycles off the streets and making the roads safe for cages and the cagers who inhabit them, got on the “crashes are not accidents” bandwagon way back in 1997, although admittedly it was for the benefit of cagers, not underwear pedalers.

The reason for discarding “accident” is simple. Vehicle crashes and injuries are predictable, preventable events. Continued use of the word “accident” promotes the concept that these events are outside of human influence or control when in fact they are predictable results of specific actions. Since we can identify the causes of crashes, we can take action to alter the effect, and avoid collisions. These events are not acts of dog but predictable results of the unpredictable combination of stupid choices and the rather impersonal laws of physics.

Of course the problem is that there is no perfect substitute for “accident.” Crash, collision, and incident seem good on the surface, and they are an improvement over “Shit, I killed him on accident,” but they don’t fit the basic problem of bicycles, which is that you are a functional fool for riding around in your underwear at high speeds in order to take deadly hairpin curves while praying for witnesses as you skid out on your incus bone.

Nor do these words cover the inherent motivation behind caging, which is that you are a lazy, careless slob who thinks that because you can point 4,000 pounds of metal and mash down on a pedal that you are somehow a good driver. We need a lexicon that will alert people to the fact that two inherently stupid people are about to meet in a mashup of gore and broken parts, with all of the gore and breakage happening to the underwear-wearer, and the spilled latte happening to the scrap-metal-pointer.

I’d suggest the following:

  1. Did the underwear pedaler fall off unassisted, for example by speeding around a hairpin while recklessly hoping people would witness his awesomeness only to be scrubbed across the asphalt like the idiot he is? These and similar occurrences should be referred to as “bicycle falling off incidents.”
  2. Did the underwear pedaler get killed by an impaired cager? These occurrences should be called “Murder” and treated accordingly.
  3. Did the underwear pedaler take out another underwear pedaler under the auspices of an organizing body? This has been written about extensively and to great effect, and although not accepted in most Baptist churches, we will call this “natural selection.”
  4. Did the underwear pedaler get creamed by a cager? We will call this “Seth Davidson, Injured Bicyle Injury Lawyer Referral” and call (424) 241-8118 ASAP.

Now … go ride your bike!



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§ 34 Responses to Words sort of matter

  • BigBug says:

    Oh Jeevis. Is this the new “go to the front, wanker” ?

  • Phil H says:

    Broken hip??!

  • Liz says:

    Did you really break your hip?

  • Tamar T. says:

    +1 for really? Broken hip?????

  • dangerstu says:

    Dare I say it, your enforced layup appears to be a good thing for writing.

    Personally I feel the summation was as fine a piece of writing as I remember you having written before.

    Hopefully you heel up quick enough to start gathering new things to write about.

    I hope you continue to have a speedy recovery.

    • fsethd says:


    • fsethd says:

      I’ve taken a straw poll from various people, as this is the best way to evaluate an injury, and 78% agree that I’ll be off the bike for two months, longer if I hop back on before I’m healed. 21% of the respondents say that I’ll never walk again, and Smasher says I should have gotten back on last Tuesday. Science! It’s what’s for dinner.

      • A-Trav says:

        If you know the difference between “discomfort” and “pain”, you can start riding your bike as soon as you can stand the discomfort. But do not ride to the point of pain.

  • Liz says:

    How can you strain that? I thought they were squishy, like jello or something and couldn’t really be strained. I’m confused.

  • Bob says:

    Kind of sad living life as if everything is an accident. No meaning, truth, love? Sad.

    Hope you heal fast. Sounds painful.

    • fsethd says:

      Thanks! I see no evidence for anything but randomness. Let me know if you find any. And sadness is in the eye of the beholder. I’d simply call it a neutral fact.

  • debster822 says:

    Interesting read. I can see that many people won’t share your existentialist ideas; however, since I do, I like what you’ve said here. There are no accidents. There are actions people take that have consequences and reactions. Sorry you got tangled up in that, and whatever your injuries are, I hope you have a speedy recovery.

  • darelldd says:

    Seth wrote: “There are are no accidents in cycling.”
    Troll responded: Apparently, there are are only accidents in writing.

    • fsethd says:

      And unfortunately, most of them are mine. I did a word search for “accident” on my blog and although I’m trying to go back and edit them out, it’s a seemingly endless process. Still, going forward it’s a great point and one I’m very, very appreciative that you’ve taken the time make. Repeatedly! Troll on!

      • darelldd says:

        Now I have to wonder: Did you… like I just did TWICE… miss the repeated “are” in both sentences of my comment? I just caught your double, and made fun of you…. then totally missed it on my re-read, as I think you did!

        Wow! Going back to edit past blogs? That’s WAY beyond the call of duty. Awesome!

  • Paul Thober says:

    “The problem is that even though everything happens at random, thereby eliminating dog and the search for an ultimate cause, random events nonetheless act according to set laws of physics, and they are the result of specific choices.”

    I realize that this is not Philosophizing in the South Bay; however, I cannot wrap my admittedly limited intellect around how everything can happen at random yet there can be laws of physics which define how things will happen. Please help me.

    • darelldd says:

      Guessing: When they happen vs the mechanics of *how* they happen?

    • fsethd says:

      I don’t have an answer to the how, only to the what. There is ample evidence for randomness, and it can be observed everywhere. But I don’t see any evidence for overarching causes, only that things exist. Many people take the existence of reality as proof of a greater causative agent or as refutation of randomness. But it’s like driving into a parking lot and saying, “Oh my dog, I can’t believe I just saw a car with the license plate number 7CCY928! What are the chances of THAT?”

      The answer seems to be that the chances are very small, but that doesn’t mean an overarching plan existed to ensure that you ran into that particular license plate. Same for grains of sand on a beach, or flakes in a storm. “I can’t believe that THIS snowflake fell into my hand at THIS moment! There must be a dog!”

      Evidence aplenty for existence, but none that it’s according to a plan or design or greater power … that I can see, anyway.

  • pvannuys says:

    Ahole rolled through a Yield at me yesterday as I was bombing downhill toward the intersection. Only 53 years of riding saved my ass, and I renewed my appreciation for life after screaming at his clueless face through the glass. No way that would’ve been an “accident.”
    You’re one of the clearest voices for sanity in cycling, Seth.

  • leo_d says:

    We’ll always have ‘mishap’

  • Doug J. says:

    The phrase “You can’t fix stupid” comes to mind……..every time I get on my bike.

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