Monday, July 5, 2010

Lizard brain in the bike lane

Yesterday a motorist passed my cycling group in teaching-a-lesson fashion. That is, too close, too fast, and leaning on the horn. We caught up to him at the light and some of the fellows chatted him up, which digressed into mutual threats. Beyond that, nothing happened. But certainly, what did happen wasn't nothing.

What he did wasn't right; what they did wasn't right. Obviously. But was what I did right? Was doing nothing, but sitting back and enjoying a display of pop-culture Karma right?

Before I answer my own question, I want to provide the context for my decision. I've long justified confrontation with obnoxious motorists, civil and uncivil confrontation, as a method by which I can shatter this anonymous relationship. Motorists behave the way they do, the thinking goes, in large part because they don't view other road users as people, but rather as cars and bikes. The same person who honks and swerves and curses on the road wouldn't dare express even a fraction of that vitriol face-to-face. And so by forcing a face-to-face confrontation, one can break through that illusion of anonymity and communicate the reality and humanity and consequences of the situation.

Fantastic self-justification, no?

I've tried to doff that cloak of bitterness and self-righteousness, but as I watched these other men invite this motorists to fisticuffs, my lizard brain flared with satisfaction. I was liberating my inner reptile, the hunger to hurt, as I chose to do nothing but see these events as simple, prehistoric justice. But it wasn't.

It wasn't justice; it was co de-evolution. And more importantly, it wasn't doing anything to eliminate the anonymity either. If anything, their poor action and my non-action served to further engulf us all in misunderstanding.

What my good friends Christopher and Matt helped me to get this morning was that at the point of digression, there ceased to be the potential for progress. It wasn't simply mixed in, but was instead entirely voided.