Friday, March 9, 2012

If I am to Die in an Intersection, I Don't Want Alameda Involved

Yesterday, while riding my bicycle to work, I was nearly struck by cars in two adjacent intersections, which means I had two chances to die in front of the Denny's on Santa Fe and Alameda. I imagine many people have died in front of that particular Denny's, which is located--if you've never been there--in the part of Denver that is just beyond Thunderdome. There are complaints to be made about these irresponsible drivers who are simultaneously on Facebook, lighting cigarettes, and preparing Powerpoint presentations for the big meeting, but I won't make those complaints here. They've been made and made again by those better equipped than I to make them.

What I want to talk about instead is this weird impulse I have. It's one of the worst impulses a cyclist could have, and I've heard other cyclists mention it, too. There is often a moment that comes right before a traffic incident in which the cyclist sees the oncoming car and without slowing down thinks, 'Uh, he obviously sees me, here in my red jacket, covered head to toe in dorky reflective paraphernalia.' And yet the car advances, the driver involved with their Twitter account or the crack they're smoking or whatever. This kind of thing--a cyclist's knee-jerk tendency to expect motorists to be responsible and drive with care--gets riders into a lot of trouble, but this is also not what I want to talk about.

The weird impulse I'm talking about occurred (twice within a minute) when I saw the driver of the oncoming car on the phone, oblivious to the red light, and I rode into the intersection anyway. Perhaps this is what the body does when there is a Denny's in the vicinity; it through any means necessary will ensure it is not made to go inside and eat there.

I didn't decide to ride out in front of these cars. It was involuntary. A small part of me wanted the motorists to wait their turn and was willing to force the issue, and that part didn't mind putting in jeopardy all the other parts of me that preferred survival to making a point. 95% of me was being treated unfairly here by the same 5% that might shoot someone over a Pepsi when the zombie apocalypse occurs. Let's hope it's not delusional for me to estimate the size of that part of me at 5%.

Last evening I watched How to Die in Oregon, which is about the Death with Dignity Act. Touchy subject aside, the film forces the inevitability of death upon the viewer, who may have preferred the notion he began the movie with--that if the ice underfoot is cold then it's thick. When that viewer can see his own death as inevitable, it might lead him to see most of what he does day in and out as petty and vain, or at best futile. Also, should that viewer happen to have a particular impulse for riding in front of oncoming (albeit law-breaking, traffic) he might begin to wonder if he respects his own existence.

As unprepared as I am to address the tough questions raised by the Death with Dignity Act, I'm less prepared to confront the tough questions surrounding a life with dignity, but suddenly this seems as imperative as it seems impossible. Answers to such questions, however, tend to be the nasty kind of bologna with pimentos in it, so for now I will ride my bike, which is neither petty nor vain, and at least it will keep me from watching films that stimulate reflection.

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