Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fly Away, You Fly

I had my mid-year review at work in the past week or so. After the two issues that arose recently, I was sure I was going to get a poor review, but it turns out my boss has this weird problem where she relentlessly focuses on the positive—the review was good.

I told her I thought she was going to say I was a horrible employee, recalcitrant and never missing an opportunity to say, at length, what I don’t like and why, but she said no, no, no, she thinks it’s fine for people to say what they think, and that it is helpful to her to know what the possible issues are.

I learned something about Hammett’s secret life recently. I was in the bathroom and could hear my neighbor in the next building, Sarah, whose bathroom window is six feet or less from mine, talking to a fly: “Hello, fly, why are you in my apartment?” and so forth.

Then she yelled, “Hey, neighbor!” That could only mean me. I assumed a standing position and looked out the window. She asked if I also have fly problems. I said I usually have one or two around, but not a huge number. It turns out Sarah really hates flies. I offered to send Hammett over to chase them; he loves to do that, and catches one pretty frequently.

Sarah said if she weren’t allergic to cats, she’d take me up on that and added that she often sees Hammett looking at her—he stands on our sink and peers into her bathroom. She said it’s slightly unnerving to notice the two little round eyes trained on her. I’ve never seen him do this. It made me wonder what else he does when I’m not around.

Thelonious never seemed to notice anything around her, but it’s obvious that Hammett sees everything, though he has not yet figured out that he is likely to be inadvertently kicked if he parks himself immediately behind me when I’m standing at the kitchen sink. This has happened many times. It’s lucky our place doesn’t have stairs, because he is frequently right underfoot.

Now for a little treatise on why I love red lights.

There is a place on Market where the bike lane goes between two other lanes. It looks kind of goofy when you first see it, but the lane to the right is right-turn only, and the bike lane is actually placed where cyclists really do ride. However, it’s also true that that stretch of bike lane is one big door zone, potentially, on both sides—doors to either the left or the right could open into one’s path.

Would someone in the third lane from the curb actually open a car door into this little skinny bike lane? Yes. I’ve seen it done, causing a near miss for another cyclist.

One day not long ago (before my crash), there was a long line of cars in the right lane waiting to turn right, and no cars in the lane to the left of the bike lane, so instead of riding right next to all of the stopped cars in the cramped bike lane, I just used the left lane; there wasn’t far to go until I’d reach the next block, which has a bike lane conventionally located next to the curb.

But before I got to the intersection, along came a Honda driver behind me, outraged and honking. A block later, he was stopped at the light and I passed his car and peered in to get a look at the driver. He glared at me; I nodded genially.

I love that the sound of honking has ever less effect on me. I used to think it meant, “I’m going to kill you,” but now I know all it means is that the motorist behind is ticked off, or even just letting me know of his presence, though probably more often the former. In fact, it can mostly be taken as a good sign, since, as John Ciccarelli correctly said, honking indicates that the motorist is aware of the cyclist's presence.

Later on, I ended up just behind this same car at a red light where I had to wait for a cycle or two. I love stopping at red lights, and the longer the better, because every second I’m there, I’m imprinting on the brains of the motorists around me the sight of a cyclist using the whole lane. I do not squeeze by in the little space between the stopped cars and the curb, though I easily could, and though 99 percent of cyclists do. I pretend my vehicle is 12 feet wide and wait patiently.

That guy felt very free to honk at me when he perceived that I was “not using the bike lane”—I would characterize it as “avoiding the door zone”—but he could hardly honk at me for being behind him at a red light in the center of the lane, or even in front of him at a red light in the center of the lane, and that is why I love red lights. Every single one is an educational opportunity.

Just EXACTLY How Good of a Morning Is It?

When I went to have X-rays done after my bike crash—nothing proved to be broken or cracked—the X-ray lady asked me, “Can you tell me which elbow was injured?” “Yes,” I said. I thought she was asking me if, when the time came, I would have the ability to say which elbow it was.

“CAN YOU TELL ME WHICH ELBOW WAS INJURED?” she asked again, and in quite an unpleasant tone. She was absolutely the rudest medical person I’ve ever encountered, though I know this was nothing at all in comparison to horrible stories I have heard from friends, and then of course there’s the lady who writhed to death on a waiting room floor not long ago, and I’m sure a million more stories just like that.

I said, “If you’re asking me if I can tell you which elbow was injured, the answer is, yes, I can. If you’re asking me which elbow was injured, it’s my right elbow.”

“Goodness,” said my mother later. “Why didn’t you just answer the woman’s question?” She added, “You should have been a lawyer.” I’m of a literal turn of mind, and took the question, at least the first time, at face value. If she wants to know which elbow hurts, she should ask which elbow hurts.

The literal thing comes naturally, but working in QA for a few years didn’t help: “When you say ‘Good morning,’ what precisely do you mean? Exactly how good? Do you mean this morning or some other morning? In this country and time zone?”

My first night’s sleep after the crash was not all that comfy, but everything has gotten steadily better since, except for my knee, which seems, if anything, to be getting worse. As for the little trench excavated from my right elbow, I put jojoba oil on it, because I put jojoba oil on everything now, and it formed a scab it semi-nauseates me to look at.

The day after the crash, last Friday, I took BART to work and had a guitar lesson in the early evening and then I watched Laurel Canyon. I’d seen it before, but I wasn’t a Christian Bale fan then.

I’d planned to go paint circles around potholes on Market St. with some Bike Coalition members last Saturday, but after my fall decided I’d have to miss that. However, that morning was so gorgeous I thought I’d feel sorry for myself if I stayed home, so I went, after all, on my Bianchi. It’s much less stable to ride than my Marin, but it was a lovely day to be out and about, and it was nice to do a worthwhile project for an hour or so.

Then I went to Rainbow and cooked a pot of soup and in the evening, watched the world’s worst movie: Reign of Fire, starring Christian Bale.

On Sunday afternoon I went to hear my guitar teacher play with his trio at a café in Noe Valley, and then it was on to Eugene’s. I haven’t been to Howie’s in ages, but I’m sure he still does this: When he opens the floor to questions, he says, “Nothing too theoretical. Something that feels alive for you.”

I wish Eugene would do the same. Virtually every question asked Sunday nights is mind-numbingly theoretical. I don’t want to be critical, but I have to wonder how a lot of things that are asked could possibly have any bearing on anyone’s actual life. Eventually I could barely keep my eyes open, and had to leave before the evening was over.

It was about twenty degrees cooler just outside the room, which gets warm and stuffy with so many people in there; maybe sitting closer to the rear doors in the future will help me stay awake.

This past Monday evening I went to see Jack for bodywork. He confirmed that I had been knocked askew, but said that things seemed to be settling back into place. Among other things, to relieve the pain in my lower back, he worked on the place where the small intestines meet the rear wall of the stomach, or meet the something or other. It was uncomfortable, and I feel faintly queasy every time I think of it.

I have to say, the next day, I felt worse, partly due to being newly conscious of my own intestines, but a day or two after that, I felt better.

Tuesday evening I picked up the Marin at Freewheel. The rear light had been smashed, so I figured I would need to buy a new one after getting my bike from Dan, but he had scared up a light he said was “lying around” and put it on, for free. That was so sweet. I was touched that they had taken that extra step to make my bike whole before I saw it again. I love my bike shop.

On Wednesday night I went to see Jeff for acupuncture, plus he rubbed some sort of Chinese liniment on my bruises. He has an exceedingly nice touch, so that was a treat and very comforting.

I wrapped up the week’s self-care extravaganza Thursday evening with a visit to Mike, who was recommended by Jack, for a massage. Mike is a lovely person, and the massage was really nice. I told him I was looking for something soothing and nurturing, not the kind of thing where you say later, “That really hurt, but I’m sure it was very therapeutic.” He was exactly the right person to go to, and I felt great afterwards.

On Friday night, laundry could be deferred no longer. Many other things fell by the wayside this week, such as stretching, cooking dinner, and practicing the guitar. That’s OK.

Today I had a guitar lesson and finally practiced the guitar and talked to Carol Joy on the phone and watched the crime drama We Own the Night, which I liked—Mark Wahlberg stars, along with Joaquin Phoenix—and I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead.

I can’t report on the latter, because not far into it, Jonathan Rhys Meyers gets sodomized with something sharp enough to cause him to die later of internal injuries in a bathtub full of bloody water. I had to turn it off at that point. I started listening to SnakeNet Metal Radio instead, which had recently played a no doubt charming ditty called “F*cked with a Knife.” Just so. I guess we can say Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ acting was way too good for someone who doesn’t even like to think of intestines existing.

I’m also going to purge my Netflix list of anything that is likely to be violent in a nauseating way (as opposed to violent in an invigorating and refreshing way).

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Dad-Blasted Lawless Cyclists

I have long been paranoid about being hit from behind while cycling, though I know that, statistically, it’s a rare occurrence. Well, on Thursday, July 31, as I rode to work, I was hit from behind. (Which is not to say my paranoia was worth the time I spent on it; it wasn’t.)

I was on Market St. and had just stopped at a red light, as is my custom: to fail to do so is illegal, potentially discourteous and unsafe, and, in any event, lousy public relations.

Right after I stopped—BAM!!!!—something, namely another cyclist, hit me quite hard, sending me crashing to the pavement. In retrospect, I have to admire his skill in hitting the narrow target that is my rear wheel and rack so dead on. I ended up tangled in my own bike and underneath the other cyclist and his bike.

My first remarks, delivered at as much volume as I could generate, are unprintable. A few cyclists paused to make sure a pool of blood wasn’t spreading across the ground and that I wasn’t dead; one stayed and attended to my bike and to me, which was tremendously kind of him.

The man who hit me was perhaps in his early 60s or so, and seemed a bit dazed—the experience can’t have been all that pleasant for him, either, since he basically hit a brick wall (me!). When I got done cussing, I asked him to write down his name and phone number, and to please look closely at my right elbow, which was bloodied and already swollen—I wanted him to observe the results of his inattention.

I also said I would like an apology, which he offered right away (though if I had been the one to hit someone, I think I would have apologized much more profusely, and no one would have had to ask me to do it).

My Good Samaritan suggested I might want to see my doctor about my elbow, and walked me to a place where I could lock up my bike, which had suffered a couple of obvious injuries; later I found out the rim of the rear wheel was also cracked.

I decided to take a cab to work, but saw none, so I walked a block or so to the hotel where an African-American guy is often seen hailing a cab for a hotel guest. I’ve passed him a million times but never took a good look at him before. It turns out he’s a dead ringer for Jamie Foxx.

I asked him for help getting a cab, and also if people ever tell him he looks a little bit like Jamie Foxx. I didn’t use the phrase “dead ringer” because I suspect most people like to think their looks are (pleasingly) unique.

He answered, “All the time!” and said that when he went to see Ray, people in the theater were turning in their seats to sneak peeks at him—they thought he was Jamie Foxx watching his own movie incognito.

He asked about my accident and said, “See, that’s what makes me scared about riding in the city.” Uh oh! Not the intended message. I told him I’ve been riding a bike in San Francisco for more than 20 years and that this is the first time anything like this has ever happened to me. I told him that I’m going to bring him information about a free bicycle safety class he can take, and I will.

Later I took a cab to pick up my bike, dropped it off at my place and went on to my doctor’s office and adjoining hospital for X-rays.

I had the X-rays taken and then took another cab home; that driver thought it was completely hilarious that I’d been hit by another cyclist. I was in a pretty good mood by then myself, for whatever reason. The day had certainly been a departure from routine, and I got to have pleasant chats with $90 worth of cab drivers, including the bribe I had to offer the first cab driver to fetch my bike and put it in the trunk for me.

Inventory of injuries: Severely bumped and slightly bloodied elbow, hideous bruise on left buttock, sizable and hideous bruise on left thigh, slightly scraped and aching right knee (which has developed a clicking noise), slightly bruised and aching lower back, slightly bruised right calf, stiff left hip (of course, the same hip I had previously injured in a fall), and quite stiff neck.

I was thinking I’d need to add up everything I spent so I could ask for reimbursement, but then I got to thinking that maybe what I’d like most of all, besides for all cyclists (and motorists) to stop at the freaking red lights, is for the guy who hit me to attend the urban cycling skills class I attended last September, which changed my cycling habits completely, for the better.