Feb 25, 2011

Multitasking Motorcycles

I have often been accused of being incapable of "really enjoying" a ride. I admit I'm not one of those folks who are primary making a trip for the sake of the trip. I go places on a motorcycle because I get to go more places by motorcycle than I would via other transportation systems. You can't get there from here if "there" is a ghost town in some isolated western state or if "there" is any place the average person might discount as "uninteresting." If I could get to the places I want to go by train or bus, I'd probably take a lot more trips by train or bus. Airports bore the crap out of me, so I'd probably pass on airplanes even if they weren't destination-bound to high traffic tourist and business locations. I really hate cars and freeways, so if that were my only option I'd probably travel a lot less.

However, when I do travel by motorcycle I tend to try to get from Point A to Point B fairly efficiently. I don't stop and smell flowers, hang out in bars or restaurants, shop, or wander around cities and towns not on my my itinerary. While I'm on the road, I pay attention to the road. I'm pretty focused about riding and paying attention to my motorcycle and all those other highway hazards. Yeah, I'm talking about you folks in your cages. I don't wear headphones and listen to music or recorded books while I ride. I have been known to mess with a camera while rolling, but I don't do that much. Now that I have a helmet-cam, I am pretty much hands-on-the-bars all the time.

Boring, right? Probably.

Since I canned my manufacturing engineering career, I don't multitask at anything. If I'm doing anything interesting or complicated, I don't answer the phone, look at my email, watch television, listen to music, or even talk when someone else is in the room. In fact, I've never believed in multitasking, but you can't be a manufacturing or quality engineer or manager without pretending to do seven things at once. It's just not possible to do two tasks at the same time and do either of them well.

A lot of people think they can multitask, but that's true only if you suck at everything you do. I'm no rocket scientist, great motorcycle rider, no brilliant writer, no amazing engineer, but I want to be the best I can be with the skills I have. Can't do that and do other stuff at the same time.

In manufacturing, we used to have a rule we presented to management, "Quality, Price, or Delivery. Pick two." The fact is, you have to pick one primary goal and one secondary goal. You can't even have two of the three without substantial compromise in both. The same applies to the human brain. The more distractions you allow, the worse your performance becomes.

The only way to keep that shiny side up is to concentrate on your riding. If you want to look at the flowers, stop and get off and look at the damn things till you're tired of them. Meditate on those posies until you're ready to think about riding again. If you want to wonder at the majesty of the mountains, take a hike. If the birds and the bees are your thing, rest a while and watch them fly about. If you want to ride a motorcycle, get real. Motorcycling isn't something for the attention deficit disordered. It isn't a casual activity; like golf or voting. This is life-threatening business and if you don't recognize that you're going to find out about it the hard way.

I realize there are people far more talented at anything than me. Maybe they can multitask safely. Maybe. I'm not them and I'm not interested in testing those kinds of limits. I'm old, fragile, slow to heal, and want to preserve whatever life I have left for activities I enjoy. Almost everything I enjoy requires me to be mobile and relatively pain-free.

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