Wednesday, December 18, 2013

As if a Million People Were Silent, Then Suddenly Cried Out in Terror

So I took a couple of years' break from my blog. You might have noticed, except that assuming you were one of my three regular readers, you stopped checking for updates by early spring of 2012.

This was all part of my master plan.

Writing is a wonderful thing, very therapeutic, not to mention that organizing one's thoughts (or attempting to, anyway) to the point where they are not only comprehensible, but maybe even interesting, to complete strangers, is excellent mental exercise. And God only knows I need it. I've been watching too much TV.

But having an audience adds pressure. That being said, I guess it isn't clear why I don't just keep a paper diary or take advantage of one of many available software programs which process words, which are what I produce by typing, assuming I lay off the wine.

Yeah right!

The topics on my mind seem off-limits tonight. A man I never met, but consider a kindred spirit because he was a fellow bicycle commuter, blogger, parent, and 44-year-old, was killed yesterday on the frontage road of I-35 in Round Rock on his way to the office.

His poor family. Those poor kids. I am so terribly sorry. God bless and keep you.

To spare a little pity for the driver who hit him, as well: We live in a society deeply entrenched in the premise that driving is safe - that, if you slip up a little, the worst anybody is likely to suffer is a little property damage and maybe a stiff neck. This mindset is in the process of changing, but there's a sense that, behind the wheel, drivers are almost entitled not to have to worry about these things. Well, I never did when I was driving, not until I really got out there and felt the vulnerability of knowing that a momentary lapse of attention on someone else's part might kill me. They'd feel shitty about it, and I'd actually feel really sorry for them having to go through that, except I'd be dead.

My daily danger zone is my daughter's middle school. I walk with her there each morning, through our quiet residential neighborhood, walking the bike I ride to work after dropping her off. She's in seventh grade now, so at some point fairly recently, she stopped holding my hand (though when I occasionally take hers, she doesn't yet pull away).

Everything is fine until we get to the school itself, where we walk across the narrow neighborhood street where the cars pull out of the school driveway after dropping off kids. That place is a hellish free-for-all slice of mayhem.

The people waiting to turn out of the driveway rarely signal, so you have to guess if it's safe to cross in front of where they'll be pulling out if they're turning left. Meanwhile, cars are approaching from both directions in the street, sometimes to pass through, sometimes to pull up to the curb and drop off a kid, again not often signaling. Many of the cars departing the school are trying to get the hell out of Dodge via the cross street on which my daughter and I are approaching. Signaling? Whatever. It's like fucking Frogger.

The school, neighborhood, and surrounding streets largely predate cars. Traffic control at the school consists of one extremely nice and patient lady trying to keep kids (and the occasional irresponsible bike-walking parent) from getting run over. And the car horns? It sounds like Manhattan up in there. Everybody is PISSED.

I think I've seen one other family that walks their child to school there. It's sad, because our walk is about 1/2 mile across the park and up a steep hill (by Austin standards) and is a pretty nice start to the day, up until we get to the street bordering the school and it gets fugly. And it's a neighborhood school, you know, so not many of the students live more than a few blocks away.

These are things we've lost sight of, as a society. It's not anyone's fault, it just naturally happens when you get in the habit, as pretty much all of us do, of never traveling further on foot than from your front door to your car, your car to your office, your car - in the parking space you've found, after circling the parking lot for 10 minutes looking for a close-in spot, near your grocery store or shopping mall or gym. We all admit this, and it's not your fault or my fault or anybody's individual fault, but maybe we can make a little change and all our little changes together can make something better. We all crave the invincibility and anonymity that cars, or online comment forums, give us. Who wouldn't? It's safe, you can do what you want, and nobody has to know who you are.

I don't have a master plan. I just want us all to be well and happy and not get run over.

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