Sunday, May 2, 2010

Driver who almost took me out at the four-way stop on Friday: I love you


"
Philia (φιλία philía) means friendship in modern Greek. It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. It includes loyalty to friends, family, and community, and requires virtue, equality and familiarity. In ancient texts, philos denoted a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers." (from Wikipedia)

I rolled up to a four-way stop on Friday morning. The street wasn't unusually busy, and everything felt routine. One car was already stopped across from me, another car was approaching about ten seconds out on the right when I stopped. I was clearly second in sequence. I stopped completely, in the lane, put down my foot, watched as first-in-line went through the intersection, then started through myself when it was safe to do so. My rear wheel was about five feet across the line when car number two arrived at the stop line on the right. She slowed down, looked right at me, and continued through the intersection. I quickly thought, if she turns right or goes straight, I'm OK, and if she turns left, I'm dead. I could hear her accelerating. I think I checked my perception of what was to my right to see if I had a safe out that way. She went straight. My front tire was about a foot from her as she rolled by me. I yelled at her window to alert her to my presence. She may have gestured at me, although with the window tint I couldn't see. She continued accelerating and drove away without even touching her brake pedal.

Anger. Adrenaline. Violent thoughts. A little shaking. These are normal reactions, and I was fighting them as I rolled down the street on the other side. Why fight against normal reactions? Simple: I'm better than that. We can do better than that. 

If given the chance to discuss with her what she did, now, I would tell her: I love you in the Aristotelian sense of philia, a dispassionate, virtuous love of equality, familiarity, and identification. Equality because under the law at a four-way stop, my bike and your car are equals. Familiarity because I drive a car, too, and know what it's like to be rushed, impatient, stressed out, and distracted behind the wheel of a two ton gas-powered steel death machine with the stereo blasting and the Blackberry buzzing its fool head off. Identification, because we're both human beings, and not that different after all. Because of that identification, I know deep inside that allowing my normal reactions to get the upper hand will not result in an improvement of relations between us. Yelling at you or worse would only result in you yelling back or worse, and that's not really what I want. I know that what is actually required is for one of us to reach for something higher, philia, to be a better steward of road relations. I can be a caveman with a big stick along with the rest of my species, but I don't actually want my family to be stuck in that world of lizard brain amygdala-driven relations. We can do better. Much, much better. I have seen it happen. So have you.

So: driver who almost took me out at the four-way stop on Friday: I love you, and I apologize for yelling at you. Please allow me to buy you a cup of coffee, or a cold beverage. Let's hear your side of the story. Even if you drove your death machine at me on purpose, I would like to understand why. I believe, even in that case, we could still part as friends, because I assure you the feeling is not reciprocal. I understand your reaction, but believe that we have to do better in order to live better. Next time, I will strive to wave and smile as you almost hit me, sending you peaceful energy filled with philia, and hope that it has some small effect on your future actions. I'm a person too. I love you like Aristotle. Peace. Get up. Go ride.

15 comments:

  1. JRA:

    I salute you for your admirable, revised view of the incident.

    There's only one thing that bugs me about handling it this way: the next poor bicyclist that this (blanketty-blank) female (blank) encounters may not be so lucky.

    I realize you have no real expectation that this woman will be reading your blog and responding to you, the fact that she didn't even stop says, to ME, that she could care less about you and your wellbeing.

    I, myself, blew through a stop sign in my car one time, and saw the surprised/terrified face of a bicyclist coming from the street on my right. I made it a point to stop, turn around, go back to the intersection and apologize to the cyclist. He seemed very much surprised, until I explained I was a bike rider, too.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are truly the better man.

    ReplyDelete
  3. BluesCat, I worry about the next bicyclist who runs into this person, too, particularly since there are a lot of kids on bikes in the neighborhood.

    Limom, I keep trying.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wow, I salute you. Or perhaps more pertinently, Namaste - I salute the God within you. :)

    To BluesCat - I think there is a difference between resisting and overcoming bad things and behaviour, and 'anger, adrenaline, violent thoughts' (I'm sure you also realise this). Though I can also see that an initial reaction of negative emotion might give a driver something to think about, if they notice it, maintaining that negative emotion is unlikely to be particularly helpful.

    Thanks JRA for this post

    ReplyDelete
  5. admin: Oh yes, I agree that maintaining that anger would be bad for your health, and I also know that venting it by reading the riot act to a lame motorist is just what the doctor ordered!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks admin, return salute back atcha. I hear people even disagree about the true meaning or proper usage of Namaste. Strange and funny, isn't it, yet predictable, understandable--I wouldn't expect anything else. But, I would choose in my best moments to try to connect with the rare, uncommon inner thing ("Spirit", if I dare say it), rather than with anger or aggravation or other easily accessible buttons. I can imagine a person blowing a stop sign right in front of me, followed by me doing exactly The Right Thing in that moment, causing them to smile, to think twice, to actually lower their anger or turmoil when I respond to their action super-gracefully with humor and lightness. Unlikely, I know, I know. But I also know that it feels better to contemplate, rather than riding away pissed off, getting ready for the bad next stop sign incident before I even get to it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. You have a gift for recounting stories like this in ways that make people want to become better human beings. I am grateful that you choose to share it with us. In a world that so often seems to embrace philosophies like 'my way or the highway' and 'might versus right,' you remind me who I'm trying to be; who I aspire to be.

    I never know how to say 'thanks' adequately for something like this.

    Keep being awesome!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Kokorozashi thanks man. I recently read a post on LGRAB that seemed like double-trouble to me: the first problem is the one the post itself relates, and the second is the overwhelming negative thoughts and emotions in the comments section directed at the troublemakers of the first problem who aren't thinking much or having deep emotions when they do what they do to cyclists. I want to say to all of the cyclists allowing their very understandable emotions to take hold, look: if you want the world to keep showing you its middle finger, then show the world yours. Eventually, our species will evolve into cretins with giant feet for pushing the gas pedals of our SUVs and giant middle fingers for flipping each other off. Count me out, homo flippians. I want the world to reflect smiles and love back at me, so I'll take a shot and send some of those in the general direction of the world and see what happens, with the intent at least of doing that no matter what the world sends at me first. I'm not saying I'm up to doing that if someone throws an actual punch at me. I'm saying, if someone is a jerk to you, being a jerk back is stepping into the abyss. I am certain that we have to do better to live better. I'm not plotting to change the world some day; I'm planning to hand out apple bran muffins and clean socks to homeless people tomorrow. One day at a time, one person at a time, one ride at a time, resist anger and do good.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I philia.

    Very nice post. Love your new banner too.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is why you wear a heavy spiked bracelet and carry a diamond tipped
    scoring device. Stupid goes away with more than the dust brushed off of the paint by your body. Something to remember you by. I have ridden many miles, on two wheels, and the people who ignore you will continue to do so...forever.
    Many scrapes and close encounters has led me to believe that anything you
    do which offsets the balance of power is just OK with me. It is just too bad that you cannot carry enough energy to enable the cyclist to pop a force field upon these type of encounters which damages the beasts and leaves the rider unscathed...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, this post is about love, not touch, but in general I find that touching a car, let alone scratching it, tends to make drivers go insane with rage, which is not my goal, ever. There's enough insane rage out there already.

      Delete
  11. I tried to express the same sentiment myself, the other day. You do it so much better! Nice blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Bloke on a folding bike. I need a folding bike, btw, so will be checking out your blog to see how one goes about life with one.

      Delete
  12. The adrenaline surge that comes with these interactions scares me. I have spit upon such passing monsters many times, regretfully, since this requires malice aforethought, flipped the bird, screamed epithets, shamefully, since all the above violate my desired Christian attitudes. I have even considered carrying a firearm but realize it would only lead to more catastrophe during a near-miss-fueled anger surge. I find your attitude worth working towards.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, JimGeek. A jolt of fear when someone aims their fast-moving vehicle in your general direction is probably a good thing, generally speaking, in terms of activating the actions that can help you to survive. Practice and training will help direct the reaction toward a positive outcome. I've noticed that I then react to my reaction, get angry about the jolt of fear, if you will, which is often accompanied by instant self-justification, accusation, assumption of wrong-doing, self-defense, revenge, etc. This reaction to reaction, this seemingly natural ramp up to rage and then expenditure of the rage-energy toward it's perceived cause just generally doesn't have a place on the road. In perspective, it seems like the incorrect reaction to me. Dodge, evade, ride happy, works so much better all around: high percentage plan.

      Delete

Please feel free to comment here, almost anything goes, except for obvious spam or blatantly illegal or objectionable material. Spammers may be subject to public ridicule, scorn, or outright shaming, and the companies represented in spam shall earn disrepute and ire for each occurrence.