Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Perhaps for the first time ever...

 On the ride home from Gilford yesterday, after dropping the car to get its spring service from the most skillful and trustworthy mechanic, I had a remarkable experience.

On the drive over, I had passed through a moderately long construction zone on Route 11 coming out of Alton Bay. Traffic was alternating through one lane while workers replaced sections of guard rail along the other one. I scanned the area to plan my strategy for the return trip when I would be on the bike, because cyclists usually get treated like we don't exist in situations like that. I stop for the traffic controller when everyone else is directed to. When we are released, if I get dropped by the motorists the traffic controller at the other end of the zone will invariably release his prisoners to come charging at me like the armored cavalry.

A short zone isn't too bad. I can usually sprint up to speed and catch a draft. A long zone is just too much unless I get really lucky and can draft a big truck. If I don't get the big truck I get the big fuck. I'm instantly transformed into the imbecile riding against traffic. So I eyeballed this zone to assess the shoulder width and spot places in which to pull off and hover until the tide turned in my favor again.

More than an hour had passed by the time I came back through on the bike. When I reached the traffic controller to enter the zone, he was rummaging in the back of his car. The traffic control sign was just leaning up against his vehicle. The big work zone signs were lying down. Maybe they had knocked off for lunch, or for the day. Maybe that bevy of cars and trucks I'd seen him release a hundred yards ahead of me was the last one. There were still cones down the center line, but no one was working on the other side of the road.

Despite my growing fatigue, I was cooking along pretty good through there. It's always a weirdly fast stretch. Around a slight curve I was able to see the other end of the zone. The traffic controller there had a line of stopped cars. I expected to see him flip the sign and let slip the multitude upon me. I was still cooking along, mind you. Get as far as you can while the getting is good.

Still nothing at that end. I felt twinges of embarrassment and a degree of fear at the resentment that must have been brewing in many of those drivers. I pushed the pace a bit. Technically, traffic control was doing exactly the right thing, but I'm still just a sweaty idiot who insists on going more slowly than everyone else. It's merely an annoyance until something like this happens, and woke traffic control people push their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion bullshit on hardworking motorists forced to accommodate this pencil-necked mental defective wobbling along on a child's toy.

Who the fuck do I think I am?!

 As I cleared the end of the zone itself I heard the radio chat between the controllers, acknowledging that I was safely through. I kept up my pace and looked straight ahead until I had passed the last of the prisoners of traffic control. The sooner they could forget me, the better.

Sure, out of the couple of dozen cars stuck in line, someone might have been a rider, and approved. Others might be kindly disposed, or at least neutral. I just didn't want to risk making eye contact with any of the ones who were extra pissed off to have to wait for a bicyclist.

I would always prefer to flow smoothly, noticeable enough to avoid collision, but not on stage long enough to attract hecklers. Road biking is show biz. Road biking is a political statement. Road biking is an act of rebellion against social norms. Like it or not, that's what accompanies your commute to work or school, your trips to the grocery store, your every appearance in the immersive theater of traveling exposed.

Mountain bikers are wussies. Ha ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaa!

The traffic controllers did what they should always do for a legitimate road user who happens to take longer than the motorized majority to clear the created hazard of a work zone. I was just astonished that they actually did it. Does it do more harm than good? Sometimes -- far too often, really -- a substantial move to undo a prejudice makes initial noticeable progress, but that progress only inspires a resurgent prejudice as the oblivious majority starts to have to deal with the realignment on a widespread basis. A step in the right direction always seems to attract a kick in the kneecaps and a forearm to the face in response.

Will social progress always be the tragic, violent cycle of revolution and counter revolution? I hate how both sides frame it as a fight. I understand the need to fire up sentiment in support of a point of view, but it creates a culture of constant conflict in which battles are won and lost, when in truth a peaceful and prosperous society requires more little acts of cooperation than grand and bloody clashes with a winner and a loser. Getting along takes work. It doesn't have to be grinding, exhausting work, either. It's just the maintenance of an adaptable series of routines that ease the passage of millions of humans for a few million more years. But the fighters may be right in their ultimately grim and hopeless assessment that it really is only a series of bloody clashes with one side or the other ascendant and the bodies piled high all around. Which way do you prefer?

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