Dr. Pedal and Mr. Drive
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was sent in for posting by Henry after seeing that I was experimenting with car-dependency this week. It’s an older piece of his written in 1995. It’s a bit of caution against pulling a calf muscle while pressing the accelerator–or something like that.
Thanks Henry. 車不如自行! (Ding! Ding!)
Dr. Pedal and Mr. Drive
by Henry Morgenstein
It was five o’clock at night. I was on my bicycle, on my way to Meijers. I was lost in thought when a car whizzed by me, only inches away. He was doing 40-50-mph. There was no car to his left. He deliberately stayed as close to me as he possibly could. He hated the sight of me–a bicyclist.
He scared me, and suddenly I became the bicycle rider I usually am: aggressive intense. I went into a state called high alert: every fibre of my body was alive, aware, and suddenly I remembered a letter I recently received from my son Ethan. For several years year he did not own a car; he went everywhere by bicycle. But suddenly, because of his jobs, he needed a car. Here is his note to me after just one week of using a car to get around:
What is happening to me? I feel this transformation, a change that I can’t quite control. From the moment I stepped into the thing I was a different man. I feel it inside and outside, through and through, from top to bottom. My body is shrinking. Those legs that used to pedal so hard are now content to just gently press the accelerator. The arms that supported me and guided me now just rest on the steering wheel. Lungs that used to breath deep chests of brisk outdoor air now are now just inhaling filtered, temperature controlled boxed air.
Even my mind changes, my disposition. I was once the man to travelled with fiery eyes and a sharp tongue. I would take my piece of the road with a passion, a force, that could not be broken even by a half a ton of speeding steel. I would shout at any one who dared to invade or threaten. My mind raced and chemicals flowed. Endorphins flowed through me, giving me a high like none other. I thought big thoughts. I contemplated motion and wind and balance. Now, I have settled down. Those chemicals no longer flow. I accept my piece of the road, like the others do. I do not fight for it. When my space is invaded I give a beep and hope that they will give me a few inches. My mind is filled with thoughts of shopping and pointless errands. I contemplate radio stations and dashboard dust. I am passive…
Until once again I decide to jump on my horse and ride out in the wild night air. And all of a sudden he is back. That man of passion and force. The endorphins begin to flow and my mind races. Those old muscles grow back into hulk size and I am my other self. It is then I become aware of the struggle, the two sides fighting for control.
It is then that I see the faces of Dr. Pedal and Mr. Drive.
Dr. Pedal and Mr. Drive: the man of passion and force vs the man who rests on the steering wheel. The man who travels with fiery eyes and a sharp tongue, or the man who contemplates a radio station and dashboard dust. The mode of travel creates the human being, and those who power themselves become different human beings than those whose muscles atrophy because they are being carried along.
• Photo via Bikes, Bikes & Bikes!
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