Thursday, September 23, 2010


During my long haul yesterday, I got thinking about a trend.  Spending much time alone in the saddle gives one time to do that...just think about assorted subjects.  This one came to the fore when the guy in his tan-colored sedan pulled out of a side road and right through a stop sign with nary a glance.  I don't think he touched the brakes or turned his head one bit.  Lucky for him I wasn't a semi or he'd have needed a new car and an ambulance.  As it was, he nearly wound up with Trek and rider embedded in his left front fender.   This time, fortune smiled and I happened to be looking right at him when he blew the sign so at least I saw it coming and was able to brake and swerve enough to miss him.  He was completely oblivious and apparently unimpressed by an extended version of "WTF" screamed in his direction.  How do people like this function?  Is the populace in general that unconscious and unconcerned or just a select few that Darwin hasn't gotten around to yet?

I remembered the clueless sod from another ride who passed three cars in one shot at very high velocity.  All while talking on his cell, drifting over the line into the oncoming lane's shoulder and forcing me to nearly dive for the ditch to get out of his way.  I'm certain he never even saw me on my side of the road, tooling along in broad daylight on a straight stretch that ran for over a mile.  Even with my day-glo yellow jersey and upright middle finger, he never saw the guy he was about to run over.

This stuff happens all the time and I can't help but wonder...

I thought about the parade of people who insist on hanging around a railroad bridge I cross every trip.  Mostly they're young and possessed of all the vast wisdom of youth but still, why would you walk out on a skinny little bridge with a train coming and expect good things to happen?  I've stopped (or tried to anyway) on several occasions and the response is always the same..."I didn't know I wasn't supposed to walk here."  Hey, nobody ever actually told me not to play and party where large, moving objects that can kill you operate but it seemed fairly obvious even when I was pretty young.  My reward for slowing down for one group of trespassing idiots was a shattered window on a trailing unit from a large rock pitched at us in gratitude.  Who raised these geniuses and how did they live long enough to make it out of grade school?

Another very common lunacy is the race for the gate when a train is approaching.  I see this everywhere but most prominently every day in a little burg called Sunbury PA.  Sunbury has multiple crossings, all with lights and bells but no gates.  A long train effectively cuts the town in half for several minutes as the speed limit is only 20 mph.  In addition, we're frequently pulling out of a restriction which lowers the rate even more.  This is an invitation for foolishness and a pretty good percentage of the population just can't pass it up.  The locals who know what's about to happen ignore the warnings and scoot for the other side regardless of what's bearing down on them.  It's almost fascinating to watch everything from pedestrians to tour buses look directly at the train, decide they'll risk it, then just roll the dice and go.  I guess they don't realize that I can see them and know exactly what they're going to do but can't do a thing about it.  I'm afraid someday I'll be looking one of them right in the eyes when they go out of sight under the nose and under the wheels.

The point did so many people get to be so unthinking and uncaring?  How do they expect to climb on moving trains without a chance of getting cut in half or run in front of one without a chance of getting hit?  How do they figure that everybody and everything will get out of the way of their poor driving habits?  How many times do they get to be stupid before it kills them or someone else?  The lack of skill and judgement seems to be on the upswing lately and I can't explain it.

...Then there's the people who aren't just oblivious, they're nasty.  Case in point...A certain individual around town has a taste for roaring up behind my son when he's out on his bike, jamming on the brakes to squeal the tires, blowing the horn and generally scaring the daylights out of him.  There's a real adult for with a full sized truck, complete with a manly Monster sticker on the back window who shows his daring and bravery by terrorizing a kid on a bicycle.  I'm impressed, really I am but it might not be nearly as sporting for him if I come across that truck one of these days and he finds that not everyone in the world is quite so easily frightened.  Where do these guys come from?

I get it all the time from drivers who don't figure anyone has anywhere to go or anything to do that's as important as the mission they're on at the moment.  Bikes are a terrific inconvenience because they might force someone to steer around one or (gasp!) slow down a little.  Same with trains...heaven forbid that anything cause said motorist to wait, even if it outweighs them by a factor of thousands and has a really hard time stopping in short distances.  That's not important.  What matters is that not a second of any one's day be wasted by anyone else.  I've pulled out of my driveway taking the kids to school and had irate commuters climb on the back hatch, blast the horn and ride 6 inches off my bumper all the way to the drop-off loop.  Classy...not too effective at making me go faster but it does get my heart going a little with kids in the car.  And on it goes...the list is long and varied but you get the picture.

All I want to know is when did so many of us lose the patience to do things the right way?  When did it become OK to be a jerk to others so much of the time?  We all have our days when we're a lot less than perfect but is everybody on a roll on the same day?

I was just wondering...


sunsetcliff said...

The trains are too loud. That whistle roars at 2am. 3 am, 4 am.

Wayward Son said...

Thanks for the comment! It's a federal law that trains whistle for crossings no matter what time of day or night unless there's a "Quiet Zone" in effect. We have to make noise or risk being decertified. Whistle or no...the cars still run the gates so it probably won't change as long as cars and trains can 'meet at the crossing'.