On the way to church one morning …

December 6, 2022 Comments Off on On the way to church one morning …

It’s a commonplace that the worst drivers are people on the way to church, surpassed only by the angry people on the way back. How many times I’ve been riding and been buzzed, flipped off, cut off, or otherwise harassed by someone going to church I couldn’t count if I tried.It was always so puzzling. How could someone en route to goodwill and love for humanity try to kill you? And even harder to understand, how could someone who’d spent the morning reflecting on religious messages be completely indifferent to the life of, to say nothing of being wholly enraged by, a person riding a bicycle?As it so happens, I found out.There I was, riding my bike to an early morning AA meeting, which is very much like going to church. There’s a lot of talk about dog and spirituality, and the bulk of the meetings are built around the fellowship of people sharing mutual problems and providing support. I was thinking about the meeting and of course, on my bike riding along PCH during the morning traffic, I was in a hurry. For me, in a hurry always means paying zero attention to anything except cars except cars that might hit me, and in the process going as fast as I possibly can.Shooting up the gutter, splitting lanes, running lights as long as the coast is clear, anything to obviate having to brake, slow down, or pause for the other guy. As I shot across Torrance Blvd., an irate motorist honked and flipped me off. “Fuck you,” I thought smugly, acing the intersection and continuing without having to so much as ease off on the pedals.This behavior continued all the way to the meeting, where, arriving a few minutes early, I was able to compose myself and really focus on the upcoming event. That’s when it occurred to me: had I been doing anything different from all those drivers I’ve cursed so many Sundays past? Though my bike hadn’t really endangered anyone but myself, this behavior had infuriated, confused, startled, and perhaps even frightened a whole bunch of people. On a bike, the worst thing that can happen to the rider is getting hit, but for a lot of motorists, hitting someone can also be incredibly traumatic, and it’s safe to say that no one that morning had gotten up hoping to start the day with a cyclist on their hood.As I began to string together the countless instances in which I have outraged drivers and violated the traffic laws, it dawned on me how that morning my single-minded mission of reaching a place of sanctuary and healing somehow justified being a dick to everyone outside the sanctuary’s walls. How would I have felt if one of those drivers had been a fellow AA member? I’d have felt stinging remorse.This rumination led to another, which is that a lot of what passes for cycling is thinly disguised, poorly executed anger management. Dropping your “friends,” establishing a hierarchy, shelling people out of the lead group, combining with allies to frustrate your enemies, and a host of other actions are, at base, not much more than polite aggression, and not even all that polite. And when the fireworks result in someone falling and getting hurt, how many times have I seen the group ride away? How many times have I been in one of those groups? Many.Two units of knowledge that I’ve picked up in AA have helped me understand better what’s going on. One is this question: are you simply rebelling? I latched onto this bit of wisdom from a guy who described how he’d come home to find that the police had cordoned off his street due to a crime scene. Enraged at not being able to park in his own garage, he did the logical thing (for a madman) by crashing the police barrier and getting charged with a couple of felonies. In my case, the fuck-you shown to motorists as I sped to my meeting was just another way of setting myself apart from the herd, letting planet Earth know that I was so special I didn’t have to abide by their silly vehicle code.The second nugget I picked up is this: you need to get right-sized. A woman was talking about her anger and about how furious she was at some inconsequential thing, when a friend called to tell her about how the friend’s spouse had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. “That,” she said, “got me right-sized real quick.” As much as being rebellious simply to stick it to some Imaginary Man, holding myself out as too big to bicycle normally in traffic was a case of having seriously delusional ideas about my importance. Why was I more important than some guy who’d been sitting patiently at the light for several minutes? Why was my timeliness to get alcohol counseling more important than a nurse on her way to the hospital? Why was I so big, so outsized, so terribly awesome that several hundred people on the way to work had to get the fuck out of my way, lean on the brakes, get scared out of their skin?And the more I thought about it, the more I thought that laying down rebel arms and shrinking the ego isn’t the worst thing that could happen. Especially on the way to church.


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