Yesterday, during my morning commute, I was behind a car that was weaving side to side in its lane. I eventually pulled into a turning lane to go left and as I passed (in a hurry to get around him), I noticed the driver was completely oblivious to everything around him due to what seemed to be an engrossing phone conversation. He was wearing a full headset with a microphone attached, the kind you see office workers wear. Later, during my evening commute, I found myself following another driver who failed to signal through three turns while entering a shopping center. The driver was still on the phone as she exited the car and walked into the store. I’m quite certain she never knew I was there.
I’m not sure how many car drivers realize just how much information we motorcyclists can glean just by watching a car and its driver through the windshield and side mirrors. It’s almost like a sixth sense. I can tell when I’m going to be cut off, when a turn signal has been left on and shouldn’t be trusted, or when someone just isn’t paying attention.
I am constantly reminded of the “machine vision” scenes from the Terminator movie series where we see from his point of view. His display is scanning the scene ahead and identifying various threat levels, possible responses, and various pieces of information about everything ahead of him, both friend and foe. That’s the way it feels sometimes when I’m commuting. I play the Terminator game in my head to keep me on my toes; but really it’s something we all do out of necessity.
I play another mind game with myself while commuting too. I mentally hand out the “worst driver of the day award.” Rather than voting at the end of the day, I bestow the award on the first person that cuts me off, turns without signaling, tailgates, etc. It’s awarded only temporarily and can be taken away by a more egregious assault on my safety by other drivers. The balloting stays open until I pull safely into my driveway.
All of us, to varying degrees, develop this sixth sense, much like the Terminator’s machine vision. We have to because in the end we are more responsible than anyone else for our safety and that’s what it takes. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised; but more often than not my intuition holds true and I find myself glad I trusted it. I get steamed occasionally; but usually the mind games keep me calm. I even find myself saying, “come with me if you want to live” (and occasionally a few other choice one liners I won’t mention in a family friendly post) inside my helmet in the best Terminator voice I can muster.
Games and humor during the commute help to settle my mind, keep me calm, and make it easier to concentrate and to stay proactive rather than reactive; for me that’s the best way to get there safely and the Terminator is one of my favorites. I swore as I started writing this I wasn’t going to say it because I know how hackneyed it sounds; but I can’t resist: I’ll be back.