Dec 5, 2010

You Didn't See Me

All Rights Reserved © 2010 Thomas W. Day

Last winter, in the span of two days, I had a pair of "you didn't see me" events. The first was heading east on Rice Street across from the capitol building. Traffic was heavy, it was snowing, the road was covered in ice, and as I approached an intersection a pedestrian dressed in a gray business suit and overcoat stepped into the crosswalk in front of traffic. He was well within his rights to expect traffic to stop, in fact he dramatically pointed to the iced over crosswalk-way in an attempt to illustrate his rights, but most of the traffic sailed by him without even slowing because stopping at that point would have caused a multi-car pileup. The first car that stopped for him received a jolt from the rear as a reminder that there are more pressing issues in that situation than a pedestrian's rights. Of course, the pedestrian could have pushed the "walk" button to make his passage easier. He could have worn clothing that provided some contrast from the road surface. He didn't because he was convinced that drivers were obligated to see him. Another American who believes that physics and nature should give a flying damn about man-made laws. Reminds me of Kansas ruling that pi should be a nice, clean three-point-oh.
A day later, I was leaving work late at night, exiting from a downtown parking garage. It was pitch black outside and raining. As I approached the street, a young guy--wearing a knee-length black fur coat, black sneakers, and a black fur cap--stepped in front of my car and glared at me as he passed a few feet in front of my car. He was clearly pissed that I hadn't seen him until we were both startled. I was amazed that I had seen him at all. 
Now there is a motorcycle safety ad running on YouTube called "You Didn't See Me." Not one of the YDSM characters depicted in the ad appears to know anything about motorcycle gear. A safe bet would be that none of them every wear a helmet, own a single piece of retro-reflective clothing, know that armor is available in leather jackets, or would consider doing anything other than blasting really loud "brub brrub brrrub" noises at the vehicles behind them as a safety measure.
Not being seen is a big deal to folks who either have difficulty watching out for themselves (and for folks who dress for some kind of success and need to be seen to make that triumph occur). Personally, I think being inconspicuous is overrated.
The examples provided in the YDSM video are cases in point. "You didn't see me squeeze my wife's leg as she told me to take the next turn." "I saw you stare at my long hair, but you didn't see me and my friends . . . " "I saw you complain about how noisy our bikes can be, but you didn't see me when you were checkin' CDs and drifted into my lane." All of these guys were doing something other than watching out for themselves. If I see someone screwing around with anything other than the steering wheel (that means you cell phone morons), I assume they will be drifting, lane changing, and crashing without a clue to their environment. I don't have time to worry about their opinions of my hair, exhaust noise, or lifestyle or for leg squeezing social moments. This is motorcycling dude. Pay attention to your business because nobody else will do it for you. Of the bunch of YDSM whines, the worse one was, "I saw you run a yellow light just to save a few minutes in time, but you didn't see me tryin' to make a right turn." How many things are wrong with this whine? You "run" red lights and if someone whacked a bike turning right at an intersection on yellow, that means the bike ran a red light or the bike was turning right from the left lane and was doing something less legal than the cager he's criticizing.
Finally, "I saw you waiting impatiently for my friends to pass . . . " about does it for me. I have exactly as much sympathy for parades of noise and air polluting tractors as the average cager. Packs of bar-hopping gangbangers only elicit empathy from bar-hopping gangbangers. Spend some time in a Hudson Highway 30 front yard on a Saturday afternoon and imagine yourself cursed with that sort of idiocy all summer long. It would make me want to run for city council just to be able to hire a real police department instead of the useless sort that small towns usually get.
There is a lot about the "right of way" motorcycle movement that pisses me off. The idea that motorcycles are a protected class because of our lack of protection, embarrassing skills, and minimal common sense is pretty high on the list. Any motorcyclist with reasonable intelligence has a lot more going for him than the average bicyclist or pedestrian. We throw around more weight. We have no good excuse for not wearing modern armor. We have better technology--accelerate faster, stop faster, have more escape routes, and have better visibility--than cages. More often than not, we get killed because we are ignoring those advantages or because we're being idiots. (Maybe that's just one problem said two ways?) If being mostly white, male, middle-class and having had access to public education (regardless of how that privilege was squandered) and state-provided training and regulation isn't enough of an advantage, motorcyclists want special laws to punish other road users who disrespect those rights.
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for restricting driving rights to those who are competent drivers. If it were up to me, getting a driver's license for a cage would be fifty-times more difficult and getting a motorcycle license would require evidence of extraordinary intelligence, on-and-off -road racing experience, and exceptionally uncommon sense. I absolutely believe that when someone is caught making a right turn from a left lane their existence should be aborted immediately and on the spot. If your cell phone is on and you are moving at more than 20mph, the closest cell tower should terminate you with expedience. And the list of my favorite population-reduction solutions goes on for miles and days. However, none of that will happen on this plane of existence, so we just have to assume no one sees us and look out for ourselves as best we can. Yeah, you didn't see me, but I saw you, assumed you were a moron, and did my best to stay as far away as possible. If I succeed, I live another day.


  1. Classic geezer material! Great post. I nearly choked on my breakfast laughing at your population control measures.

    and seriously, if you wear all black at night, don't get mad if no one can see you. Burglars wear that outfit for a reason.

  2. I always think it's interesting that highway workers haven't seized upon the "loud pipes save lives" idea by stationing a Harley engine on a trailer at every construction site. Then they could throw away all that hi-vis clothing that is such a hassle to wear. Seems to work for cruiser riders...

  3. I think the highway workers ought to hire some hookers to attract attention. I'd notice a hi-viz thong.


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