Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dear Motorist,

This post was inspired by a nice video of the same name. Whereas I find the content of the video appropriate, I don't feel that it sends the right message. This is the message I would like to share.

(You can find a link to that video at the end of the post, since I don't want to detract from my content too much).

Dear Motorist,

I, on behalf of myself and the rest of the people who walk, run, cycle, skate, or whatever else we're doing on the road but not in a car, want to thank you. From the whole of my heart and the very essence of my being, you are awesome and your behaviors need to be shared.

There are many examples in the media citing the imaginary war between the people who recreate on the streets versus the people who drive on the road. There are some of your brethren who behave poorly. They throw things out of their cars; objects or words. But not you, Dear Motorist. You are polite and respectful. You go about your daily business taking no insult in our presence.

There are other motorists who will purposefully point their vehicles at others on the road. We, the victims of this behavior, call this 'buzzing' or 'near misses'. But not you, Dear Motorist. You will see us in the distance and take action to avoid getting close to us. I've seen you do this thousands of time. Whether it be steering your car over the double yellow line to grant us more space or slowing your speed to make life a little less stressful for us both, I've seen it. I've even seen you increase your speed so that you could cross the lines, give us a safe distance, and resume your normal driving before on-coming traffic arrives. Even though few recognize this, I think you are amazing for a simple gesture that, at its worst, eases our piece of mind and, at its best, saves lives. You and I know that we don't own anything in that public arena but our actions and you, Dear Motorist, show that you know exactly what it means to share the road.

I've seen some of the other motorists who are not paying attention to their motoring responsibilities. A few drivers feel the need to talk on the phone, text, or drive shortly after drinking. Some, through only the fault of inattentiveness, don't even see the other people on the road. But not you, Dear Motorist. You know that your number 1 job is driving and you do it well. Your eyes are focused. You scan the traffic and the lanes for any possible obstacle. You see danger long before it happens and take steps to prevent disaster. You recognize that the conversation or the intoxicant can wait until a more appropriate time when you are not going to be behind the wheel.

You are the type of motorist that I like, Dear Motorist. You are the driver who sees me in the distance when it is dark and turns off your high beams so that I can see better. You are the driver who doesn't feel the need to speed up to get in front of me just to turn the corner, AKA the left or right hook. You are the person who will sit and wait a little longer than expected at a stop sign and wave me on just so I can safely cross in front of your vehicle.

I give you my promise, Dear Motorist, that I will do my part ensure both your and my safety as well. I will make sure that I am visible. I will make sure that I am on the side of the road as much as possible. I, like a majority of the others, don't feel the need to 'blow through stop signs or stop lights'. I have no plans to dart out in front of you. I will look both ways before crossing. I know the rules of the road just as well as you and will do my very best to follow them. Please forgive me for some of my errors just as I forgive yours. I recognize that I am an unexpected nuisance at times. However, you are a great person who knows that a few seconds of patience is far better than risking someone's life.

I understand, Dear Motorist, that you are in the majority. There are so many great and wonderful Dear Motorists that are just as amazing as you. It's a shame that the people who make the headlines in this culture are the ones who mess it up. Their transgressions are aired in multi-media platforms lighting the bitter fire for others to see. Isn't that the way of the world, though, sad as it seems? You, personally, do a hundred heroic acts a day, put no one at risk, and get glanced over for fame and fortune. You don't hurt anyone with your vehicle. Never have, never will. You, like more than 99% of the other drivers on the road, are the ones who deserve the attention. Well, Dear Motorist, you have mine. Each and every time we cross paths and you show your awesomeness, I'm there with a friendly smile on my face and/ or a wave of my hand. I know it isn't much but it's all I have. It's my way of thanking you for you excellence in this mostly great society of ours.

So, Dear Motorist, please continue your magnificence. Continue to set the example even when you think no one is looking. Trust me, you are a leader on the roads. Your behaviors are stunning and contagious. Other motorists see your movements and mimic them, simply because they know truth when they see it. And, I see it. I notice. I celebrate. We are brothers and sisters on the road and I am proud to be linked to the likes of you.


The Banter

(As promised, here's the link to the video that got me thinking about this post.)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Winter Hoot and Holler

Just in case you happen to be living somewhere outside of the continental United States, I've got some shocking news for you. It's been cold pretty much everywhere not called Florida, Hawaii, or Alaska. Mother Nature has taken vengeance on our misunderstanding of climate change and decided to punch us in the gut with steal-your-breath away cold temperatures. Still I run (or do my version of what other people call running). This winter, I set a personal low for temps, as seen on the right. This run was exceptionally fast for me. I give credit to the fact that, had I gone any slower, I might have frozen to the ground.

In the summer time, life on the road is much different. For example, I've got a larger section of road on which to run. In the winter time, much of the running lane is covered in ice and snow, forcing me and the dog out into the brine covered sections of black. We get to mingle with traffic, deer, potholes, the mail truck, the trashman, and, new to last week, a combine tractor finally harvesting corn. (And I thought I was a procrastinator.)

Summer running is louder. No, not me. I'm talking about the rest of the citizens. There are more decibel producers cruising the strip. Motorcycles that believe mufflers are unnecessary. Teenagers who believe that subwoofers in the trunk with the bass turned all the way up is da bomb. Canadian geese returning from where ever they decided to winter and honk incessantly. It can be ear piercing at times.

In the winter, everything is muffled. Kids are in the house. Motorcycles are in the garage. Geese are, um, elsewhere. All but one of the combines are in the barn. Plus, I've got my ears covered. It's a much quieter run. Peace. Serenity. Calm. Only me and the voices in my head (don't worry, I don't listen to them...much).

I have been missing something rather special lately. (Yes, I'm missing on pleasant temperatures, but I covered that already). I'm missing out on the Hoot and Hollers of summer time. See, when it's nice outside, people drive with their windows down. They sit outside of their houses. They go for walks. They ride their bikes. During this season, I share the road with many recreants. They see me coming on my bike or on my run and calculate that they have only a matter of seconds to interact. Why exactly they want to interact is a mystery to me (I've never been much of a social creature). Their version of interaction is commonly called a Hoot and/ or a Holler. I like getting yelled at while exercising. I've been known, on occasion, to deliver my own version of a H&H. Mostly, I stay silent save for my raspy chug of breathing.

Lately, I've been paying more attention to people on my sessions and I think I'm wrong. I get lots of Hoots and Hollers, only I've been too stupid to recognize them.

Take, for example, the above pictured -2º tempo run. If it weren't for the chill that day, it would have been a beautiful day for a run. The sun was, for once, shining bright. The streets were semi-adequately plowed. There was next to no traffic. I do remember this one guy though. I was running to the east while he was driving to the east. Meaning, we were not in the same lane. There was no needed action to be taken on his part to avoid the likes of me running. He, in his cozy white pick-up, heater blazing, steaming coffee cup move to and fro his lips. Me gingerly plodding through the soon-to-be permafrost of what was once a temperate climate. He could have just driven on by. Nope. He slowed down, made eye-contact, and raised his mug of Joe in a salute to my effort with a smile on his face. Then, of course, he just drove off never to be seen again.

Or, take for example, the garbage truck. Trash collection for most is on Tuesdays in my area. But, we have the freedom of trash choice in the neighborhood and a minority of people opt for a different company. I think it's because the other company has purple cans and not green. Well, the purple trash eater drives his route on Wednesday. As it happened on one particular Wednesday, I was out for a morning run with the PRP. He's a lot cuter than me and is, therefore, subjected to a lot more H&H's than I (I still pretend that they're mind- he doesn't argue the point- so it's all good). At this point in the tale, said purple truck was about a third of a mile in my future but closing the gap. Due to the Doppler Effect in both light and sound, I was able to recognize that the truck's speed was also slowing. As we neared eminent collision, the truck stopped and the trashman jumped out. His singular goal was to pet the dog. The dog was alright with this, as is his nature. This is not the H&H. The Winter H&H happened moments later. See, this was a narrow, residential style road and not much room for traffic. The large purple refuse collector was blocking a good portion of the drive-able space and a short line of cars were witness to the pettings while their forward momentum dissipated. After we started moving again, the 2 cars immediately behind the stench smiled and waved. That's the H&H.

One last example- I was riding my bike. It was cold outside and I was in the garage as usual. See, I'm becoming more and more selectively pansy. Whereas I'll run in just about any temperature, my bike won't see asphalt until it's at least 45º, probably closer to 50 (and that still depends on the rain and wind). Since Canada feels the need to keep sending her worst, it's into my partially finished workout space. I don't mind. The rest of the non-biking space is wide open or shelved off for storage. There's enough room for the bike, treadmill, and a small marching band. That's a good thing too since, on one Saturday afternoon, I was spinning away. Suddenly, my workout room door exploded open and the USC Marching Band filed in with Fleetwood Mac playing Tusk. It worked and I had one of my best trainer sessions of the winter! Later on, Lindsey admitted to me that he wrote the song about me because he missed hanging out when I was exercising instead.

Okay, that last one may or may not have actually happened in real life. But the other 2 definitely did. Regardless, the Winter H&H is a thing of beauty. You and I must train ourselves to recognize external inspiration when it happens. Even if it's only in our heads, the H&H can be a useful tool to gain an edge over our demons.