Slow Down!... You Can't Win.
I've lived in Greater L.A. for over 13 years. In retrospect, I can see that early on I was a gullible softy from the Mid-West, shaped into a battle-hardened denizen out of necessity. Like so many cockroaches that gradually took over my first dingy apartment, I quickly learned to adapt to external pressures.
I attribute a good part of my callous exterior to the survivalist mentality I developed as a motorcycle courier. Frantic secretaries and attorneys routinely demanded, "You have to get there! Today is the last day!" All too often they were oblivious (imagine that!) of what it took to travel 15 miles during the heart of L.A. rush hour traffic with only 25 minutes before the courthouse closes. Hours and hours of preparation on a "Motion to Dismiss" were in jeopardy if I didn't make it. Wonderful.
After years of this I developed nerves of steel, a complete disregard for my own safety (many would say the safety of others), the requisite riding prowess to slice through traffic like a ninja, and an immense hatred of the legal profession.
"Over time my riding was sharpened to a razor's edge."
What must have seemed like simple recklessness to so many hapless cagers was in fact a talent forged over the years and under the pressures of too little time and too many cars. A talent held by few, but coveted by many. I learned to read traffic patterns. And I found great benefit in looking at other driver's mirrors as I approached them to study what their eyes were doing. I would commit to memory places where many drivers would routinely and ignorantly make dangerous maneuvers. A less-seasoned rider could easily fall victim to cell phones and lipstick. I suppose if I had the time I could recount a number of, shall we say, "talents" that I acquired over the years.
I learned to adapt to my environment. Tragically, so many I knew had not. They ride no more.
I haven't couriered in a long time, but years of it have made me into the rider -- and driver -- I am today. I admit that I often drive aggressively; it's part of my philosophy on how to survive big city traffic. But, unlike the attorneys I catered to, I'm not oblivious to my surroundings. I know when to drive fast and how to pass safely while doing so. Unfortunately, a drawback (one that I haven't failed to recognize) to such assertiveness on the road for so many years is that I seem to do it almost everywhere and anytime.
So here's what I've observed about my riding and driving: my habits unintentionally bring out the competitive nature in man (and on occasion a woman). In about three trips out of five, I can look into my mirror and expect to see some repressed individual giving chase. For the life of me I can't figure out why. I suppose the complexity behind such behavior is territory that I'm not qualified to cover. Still, it amuses me.
Now lest you go accusing me of cutting someone off, you need to understand that the person who is feverishly trying to keep pace with me isn't someone I passed with only inches to spare. Nope, not at all. This crazed driver is someone I passed a mile or two back, but with two to three lanes between us! When I finally notice their lane-dicing antics I ask myself, "What is this nut doing?" Then suddenly they go darting down the off-ramp like a NASCAR hopeful diving for pit lane, and I never see them again. I recall one instance when a fellow motorcyclist felt obliged to rise to the imaginary challenge. He did this to what I'm sure was to the detriment of his driver's license. I passed this helmeted combatant (again, more than two lanes apart!), and before I knew it we were swapping positions like a couple of mid-pack racers. I eventually realized that this youth's ego had gotten the better of him, and I pulled out of his way. Off he went, fast as ever and into the waiting, long arm of the law.
Man, was that cop mad. I knew this because when I passed their parked vehicles there was nary enough room to fit a credit card between the patrolman's front bumper and the bike's rear tire. The officer jumped out of his car like his ass was on fire, his hand hovering over his holstered weapon.
Look, if you find yourself sheepishly admitting that you're given to fits of freeway frenzy like the doomed fellow above, relax. It's nothing personal, it's just the way I drive. Please slow down and understand that you won't win. Because I'm not racing.