Wednesday, August 25, 2010

On the road, again

Since I moved back to Pittsburgh in April, I haven't had much use for a car. Which has been convenient, because I don't have one anymore. Yes, I sold the Red Devil to my parents for a hefty sum of $400, not a bad deal since, y'know, they bought it as my high school graduation present anyway. So it's been to the bike and bus with me to get everywhere. I've debated buying a skateboard so I can traverse short distances conveniently, even while in my suit for work (especially while in my suit for work), but I've been significantly deterred by the fact that they are like a hundred plus goddamn bucks now? Are you serious? Also, I can't do an ollie to save my life.

I prefer biking, but I've got to take the bus to work so I'm not sweaty and gross when I show up to the ninety-four-year-old four-star Grand Dame hotel where I work. The management wouldn't like that very much. They don't even like when I show up with a little stubble. I don't like that I suddenly have to shave every day. What kind of bullshit is that? I still can't grow a full, magnificent beard like I've always dreamed of, and never will be able to--but I now have to shave some dinky little patch on my chin every single day? Adulthood is a crock. Ugh.

But, whenever I've got a day off here and there, I do almost all my travel by bike. Some days I don't even have a place to go, I just make up some pointless errand, invent a need for new socks (I love new socks!) and head out to some far-flung store that might carry them or maybe not, who cares. That's how I almost hit a deer the other weekend. I wanted to get a new copy of FIFA 10 since mine kept freezing up, and the closest available copy was out at the Waterworks Mall in Aspinwall. So I jumped on my bike, directions written down my forearm in Sharpie, and took off. I got lost on the way, but eventually looped and re-looped back around the Zoo before crossing the Highland Park Bridge. Trying to keep up with the flying traffic as I came up on the bridge, I barely saw the dead deer laid out on the median before I slammed on (and popped) my front brake. Inches from face-planting into the carcass, I screeched to a halt. It's an adventurous way to get around, to say the least.

Urban cycling is a life-affirming fucking thing. I've biked through Manhattan and felt like a superman while doing it, but even riding in Pittsburgh, a city where the car-driving populace still doesn't quite get the fact that people use bicycles as transportation and not just to be target practice for their massive 4x4 Chevy Landfuckers, is positively exhilarating. And I can hold my own, I'd like to imagine. As long as you respect that I exist and weigh in at approximately 4% of what you and your tank-sized spaceship on Goodyears does, I get along just fine. Whether you're hurtling down the road or taking up three parking spaces along the curb, just keep in mind that I'm tiny and fragile and we'll be friends. Especially when you're parked, actually, because I live in constant, nail-biting, panic-attack-inducing fear of getting my ass doored into oblivion. All I ask is that you keep from killing me, not treat me like a three-year-old.

You see, over a year ago, I wrote a blog that I titled "On the road" that wasn't, in fact, about how much I hate Jack Kerouac (though I could write an entire, wandering, purposeless, self-involved book about that). It was about terrible drivers, and focused, in the end, on my very least favorite brand of them: the Good Samaritan. You've dealt with him, the driver who gives of himself to help you (oh holy day!) when you plainly do not need any helping, messing up the flow of traffic and being a general nuisance while thinking smugly to himself that he is just such a good guy, gee whiz!

I thought I'd seen the last of the Good Samaritan drivers when I traded my four wheels for two, considering most drivers here are content to just kill you on your bike, rather than give you a cute little wave-on. But yesterday I actually got one again, one who just couldn't help herself from being soooo helpful. She was in an SUV (duh) and two cars ahead of me on Smallman Street, slowing down at a green light with her right blinker on. Naturally, not wanting to get flattened by her veritable locomotive when she turned, I slowed down, coasting up past the cars on my left... which had come to a complete stop, because the woman had braked to a halt in front of the intersection. At a green light. The cars behind slammed on their brakes and laid on their horns as I slowly crept up beside her motionless vehicle, expecting to see what she obviously saw: an ambulance flying down the street, a car zipping through the red light the other way, anything that would have warranted a sudden halt. But as I inched up, I saw her, smiling broadly, waving me on with two fingers. Go ahead, young man, I see you on your little bike and I want to make sure you get home safe!

C'mon lady.

You almost caused an accident, you confused the hell out of me, had everyone slam on their brakes, and I'm not on a goddamn tricycle here. I'm paying more attention to the road than you are, because my life depends on it. The last thing I want to do is come rushing up the side of a massive sport utility vehicle with a huge blind spot and a light that is blinking, saying, "HEY WATCH OUT I'M COMING THE FUCK RIGHT INTO YOUR SHIT!" So when you think you're doing me a favor, stopping up traffic to let me come by you... you're not. That's exactly how my friend Jason got nailed in Philadelphia and the paramedics had to cut his clothes off. His clothes from Urban Outfitters; dude lost like four hundred bucks that day. And almost died. So again, please, you pridefully patient pricks and sons of smug-ass bitches: just drive. We don't want your favors, we don't need your kind gestures. We just want the flow of traffic to... well, flow. Can we just be settled at that?


  1. So I should probably let you know that aside from our (news to me) differing views on the quality of Jack Kerouac's writing, I am now the not-so proud owner of a husky Dodge Durango. I'm using the word owner loosely of course, it's my mommy's cause I'm spoiled like that apparently. But this as you say, landfucker, will take us to more exotic shooting locations. Interesting photography sound like fun? I thought so. But don't worry, I will never under any circumstances stop the flow of traffic for little Zerbe, and not cause I don't care about your safety but because I drive with common sense...and because bicyclists are "motorists" too. So don't go using your two-wheeled position to take on only the best of both the motorist and pedestrian rules. Red lights aren't stop signs, and sidewalks aren't roads. Just sayin'.
    Anyway....pics are up, when are you free?

  2. I never ride sidewalks, and I only cross lights if they're about to change anyway. Stop signs I just think are stupid in general--they barely use them in Buenos Aires.

    And as you know, I don't hate everyone indiscriminately that owns an SUV. They do, however, tend to attract a certain kind of personality. And therefore, you driving an SUV not only doesn't offend me, it kinda makes me giggle.