I saw a VW Eurovan this morning. I'm a fan. If VWs weren't so fickle and unfair to me I'd own another maybe. Believe me, I tried. Ask Brother Houts. My '72 Westfalia was my pride and joy. It succeeded a long and tumultuous relationship with a '70 Bug. I drove the Westy intermittently when I wasn't busy growing my hair or it wasn't busy catching on fire or throwing valves. Bummer. Beautiful it was. Parked in my driveway, as it was mostly wont to do. I traded the bus to Herr Houts for a bike. I think I got the better deal.
So I saw a Eurovan this morning glide by me on Xerxes headed south. I like to notice bumper stickers and this van had two. One read: "Do No Harm." Now, isn't that a little funny? C'mon, you don't have to be a car-hater to get the flawed logic. Driving a car causes harm -- a lot of harm. There's the environment, oil wars, psychological malaise, aggression toward other travelers, etc. I'm not ripping this unknown person a new asshole. For all I know that was the first time that van's moved all week, all month or all year. All I'm saying is that piloting a machine that personifies harm-on-four-wheels and then adorning it with a sticker that implores folks to do no harm is a wee bit bass-ackwards. (Incidentally, I've got "Wage Peace" engraved on my AK-47. It makes me sleep better at night. Really, it does.)
The other sticker read: "Wake Up." I can appreciate that sentiment, but I have to fall back on my first observation. The driver obviously needs to drink a stronger morning brew him/herself.
Pedaling on I entered the enlightened suburb of Richfield, a land where people begin to live on streets that end suddenly and go nowhere in a straight line, a land where sidewalks fade away and most 4-way intersections have only two stop signs or none at all. I approached one of the rare ones that has four stop signs. A van pulled up before me across the intersection to my left. The driver actually came to a complete stop. I don't blow intersections if there are drivers ahead of me, so I pulled up, stopped and did a trackstand expecting he (having been sitting there a full 4-5 seconds) would pull away as he had the right-of-way. I held my trackstand. He didn't move. I rocked the other way with my front wheel. He lurched, then stopped, then lurched again and sped off giving me the stink-eye. What the hell? Traffic laws. Just following them. Sorry if that offends you.
That encounter sparked a memory of my ride home last night. At that same intersection I did a quick stop and proceeded through with the right-of-way. A driver from my right did the California stop and rolled right through her stop sign in front of me. I calmly squeezed my brakes and continued toward the driver's side door. As I was inches from T-boning the car, the woman saw me. I'm sure I loomed large -- standing on the pedals of a long bike with my 5 white LEDs blinking dead in her face through the window. She actually jumped and took her hands off the wheel. I had the whole thing under control. I'm glad someone had it under control. She swerved to the right (away from me) and kept going. I slid past the trunk and kept pedaling with nary a word or gesture.
I could tell the incident really shook her up. Good. It's healthy to be scared from time to time. It teaches us to pay attention. When I shit my pants I usually have a corresponding moment of supreme awakeness and clarity. I hope others have the good sense to realize behaviors that malfunction and recognize moments that command greater attention.
Maybe that's what the "Wake Up" Eurovan driver was trying to tell everyone? I doubt it. But I wish them luck in driving their way to doing no harm.