Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Extracting a Needle of Meaning from a Haystack of Luck

Mister Happy goes for a ride

 Between my work and home, two freeways cross and then become one (or one becomes two depending on the direction you're looking and how anal you want to be about the description). The main travels due south from Minneapolis, and the other comes from st. Paul to the northeast. The latter crosses the former, and then winds back into it, merging its two lanes into one and that one runs alongside the main's two. Got all that? (Here's a map link for those adventurous enough to look for fun http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=44.735893,-93.275486&z=12&t=h&hl=en ) It's a crappy intersection at rush hour particularly. While the freeway I begin on announces "lane ends, merge left" well in advance of the actual merge, plenty of asshats pretend they can't actually read (though I suppose that some of them actually can't), stay in the right lane and crowd into the merged lane as if they have no clue what's happening so the rest of the planet should stand aside.

When you ride a motorcycle, there's one important thing to remember; everyone is out to kill you. One of the reasons I don't wear a helmet is that my head is swiveling so fast and so often that I'm afraid a harmonic of the centrifugal force will one day resonate exponentially until my head swivels right off its neck. I've been pretty lucky so far. Only once have I been forced off the road and into a ditch, though I'm not counting the few times I found the ditch without anyone's encouragement. With all that in mind...

It was cold so I imagine the brain was working in half notes, the body in slo-motion. Still it was an average ride home with a thousand or so of my closest 2 ton friends moving at the speed of sound. I was a good boy, in the left lane well before I was supposed to be, the most courteous of manly men. It was a bit cloggy ahead, our two lanes mashing, their two lanes struggling, but it looked as if a smooth convergence was possible if one was to time it just so. As jammed up as it became, there was surprisingly little deceleration, most vehicles continuing in the 60-70 mph range. Now once the mashup is complete, the right lane becomes a very long exit lane with one more spate of merging traffic before the majority of cars and trucks chucks off at 160th street and heads for the middle suburbs where the wanna be but can't quite be wealthy live and play. The center lane morphs into a merge madhouse with people coming and going in spurts as if chocolate milk shooting from a laughing college student's nose. The left lane, well I'd call that my lane. That's the one for people that are going a long long way, the folk from the boonies, not those sissies who need to live next door to Fried chicken stores and Wallmarts.

My head was doing its normal swivel, and then some. The mashing was not going swell; there were more asshats than usual, and just as many "don't let the asshats in" asshats ahead of me in the correct lane. I searched out an opening, but didn't really see one that appealed to me, so I swiveled in cut time left, back, right, up, forward, back, left, left center, right... then I saw it; a center laner was merging into the left lane leaving me a perfect hole! I watched, making sure I was truly seeing what I thought and not some traffic mirage, and sure enough, the hole was opening, so I leaned a tad left and goosed the throttle just a bit.

It couldn't have been a breath after goosing that the air pressure tightened and my right side temperature raised at least ten degrees. As my head was already in full swivel I didn't visually connect with the scene in its entirety, but even without focusing I noted the minor scratch marks on the upper rear side panel of the pickup truck I was jetting past at 65 mph. It was so close, had I stuck out my tongue I could have licked it. The moment was indeed only a moment, in the blink of a real live eye I'd moved past the nearly stopped mountain of steel and centered myself in the middle lane where chocolate milk was squirting in every direction. As mathematics go, by the time I had fully realized what had almost taken place, save a split second of serendipity, I was at least a mile down the road, intact, breathing and wondering just what it was that had decided my life was worth saving. Seriously. That close. I was doing at least 65. He was by my hind-sighted calculation nearly at a standstill. I should be dead. Don't tell Linda, she gets funny about that sort of thing.

It's finally into the 20s at night and it hangs on until well into the morning. I obviously rode to work today, 24 degrees when I left, 40 some on the way home. Tomorrow may be the last day of the year for me. I'm no fair weather rider and I do love the mileage savings, but even I have my limits. This will be the end of my 41st year riding motorcycles, with only one real accident to account for, and no injuries beyond scrapes to date. Of course, today might have changed all that, but close, horseshoes and hand grenades and stuff, ya know?

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