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« Veterans Affairs Nurses [Strikeout Nurses] Management Scrutinized After Patient Deaths (Norman Costa) | Main | Tuesday Miscellany (Sujatha) »

May 07, 2012


I smell hubris. Here, for example:

Even though it's the time when I am at most immediate risk, riding my bike in Manhattan traffic is also one of the only times when I am never anxious or afraid — not even when a cab door swings open right in front of me, some bluetoothed doofus strides into my path, or a dump truck’s fender drifts within an inch of my leg.

Does Kreider know what anxiety is? If he's registering the carelessness of a pedestrian with the epithet "doofus," then he's anxious. My guess is that Kreider's play at being "a fleeting entity stripped of ego and history" is mostly defensive. The question of whether or not we're thriving, fully and electrically alive, is a matter of personal opinion. Sometimes fear provokes it. Sometimes happiness does.

I recall with some vividness a scary accident on a fortunately relatively slow L.A. freeway one afternoon. My car was caught on the driver's door by a passing semi and trailer drifting into my lane. The driver didn't see me until I became uncaught and spun around perpendicular to the flow of traffic, my driver's door window providing a view of the truck's grill. Kreider guesses correctly. I was not terrified. I had a vision of being delivered to my parents like a sandwich spread in a burped Tupperware container. I thought, "Ah, well. This is it." The truck slowed down, my car drifted further down the freeway, and nobody else was involved. As Kreider points out, I was completely focused on the immediate circumstances. But anxious? Hell, yes, I was anxious!

If your idea of greatest happiness is finding yourself "in a hot tub with a martini and a very good naked friend," and you are not an adolescent boy, then yes, it wouldn't be the most electrically alive moment.

But seriously, while I enjoyed the article, what bothered me is the narcissistic whiff of the Dude Ranch /urban warrior mentality of a man who seeks the dangers of the Savannah in the traffic jungle of Manhattan and the pride of a yogi in his "meditation at gun point." The truth of course is that millions of people in the world face appalling conditions and worse perils on unregulated city streets, not because they seek mind honing thrills but because they have to in order to put food on the table.

Indeed. The solipsism was thick. Which explains how one or two really, really rotten cyclists make it bad for the rest of them. I marvel as they course through the suburban Albany streets, as they did this morning on my trip to work, not stopping at stop signs, edging closer and closer toward the inside of the lane, even when there are cars occupying that area, and swooping across the lane through a left turn at an intersection with a green light and oncoming traffic. They're not at all conscious of placing themselves in real physical danger. The journalists among them, maybe so. But not most of them.

It has only just occurred to me that Kreider's thesis is, "What, me worry?"

The zen of bicycling- I knew that when I was a kid with nowhere to go but in circles on a stone courtyard behind our apartment building. I didn't need to dart around city streets braving traffic and curses for that.

But the zen of walking, paying attention to the bird chorus that starts as you approach and diminishes in the distance when you pass, that's much more restful to me now.

These urban warriors however are not on bikes and many probably live in my neighborhood.

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