Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I Scoff

scoff·law - skäf-'lo
One who habitually violates the law or fails to answer court summonses.

Sounds harsh, doesn't it? I am a scofflaw bicycle commuter. This is not because I fail to answer court summonses, but is due to my disregard for many traffic laws while on my bicycle. My friend Jon calls it invoking the bicycle clause, which allows for indiscretions in certain situations. He wasn't that way before, but was led to the Dark Side by yours truly.

Being a scofflaw commuter is not about blatant disregard for all traffic laws. If it were, I would have been dead a long time ago. It's about common sense and an awareness of one's surroundings.

Who will sit at a red light in the middle of the night and wait for it to turn green when there is no traffic to be seen or heard? Who is going to come to a complete stop on their bike at a four-way stop sign when there is no opposing traffic? Who is going to walk their bike through a crosswalk when on the wrong side of the street? A scofflaw commuter isn't going to do any of those things.

What is a scofflaw commuter going to do? They are going to rip right through the empty street red light and four way after looking and listening. What are we looking for? Traffic and cops. What are we listening for? Traffic and cops. If a cop decides to cite you for not walking your bike through a crosswalk, they have some kind of mental issue. Scofflaw commuters operate on the fringe, scoffing at menial traffic laws in as many ways as they can. Is a cop really going to cite someone on a bicycle for cutting through a parking lot to avoid a particularly nasty intersection? I think not.

While I operate on the fringe where I live and work, the cops leave me be. If they catch me by surprise when I'm blasting through a four-way, I'll not try to ditch them as I did so many times with 100% success as a kid. They'll check my ID and maybe bitch at me a little for being such a scofflaw, but will let me go without a citation. How do I know this? It's already happened once and the cop could have cited me for two stop sign and one red light violations. Now they know I'm not some crazed junkie looking for cars to break into, so the probable cause stops will not happen. I just need to look and listen a little more thoroughly when I scoff...


Tuesday, March 21, 2006


On the way to work yesterday evening, a motorist thanked me. Apparently the flashing light on the front of my bike was visible over block away. He waited for me to get to the intersection he was waiting to turn left at until I was almost through it. Then he made a point to thank me for making myself visible, which was pretty cool of him. Considering many motorists don't see me in broad daylight, I was impressed that there was even one who could see me at night.


Thursday, March 16, 2006


There certainly is a lot of garbage in and on the side of the road in Orange County. Riding a bicycle and having to pay attention to where one's wheels are about to tread creates a connection with the environment that motor vehicle operators can never hope to achieve. This disconnection motorists have might help explain why some of them decide to discard waste onto the streets from their vehicles, but is by no means an excuse. Some places have higher concentrations of refuse and can be chalked up to socio-economic factors, but when it comes to littering, no boundaries are an excuse.

While there is an inordiante amount of garbage on the streets of our fair cities, there appears to be certain by-products that are carelessly discarded more so than others. What type of person consumes these goods? What is their motivation, or lack thereof?

The least obvious but most present discarded item on our streets would be the infamous cigarette butt. Cigarette butts are discarded in two ways onto the streets and it's tough to decide which one is more reprehensible. There is the obvious throwing of a lit cigarette out instead of snuffing it in an ashtray. California's Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Districts are obviously interested in identifying these perpetrators. The other popular method of littering our streets with cigarette butts is the "dump the ashtray out while stopped at a traffic signal". This seems to happen at left turn signals where there is a traffic island more than anywhere else and is most easily identified when fresh by the mound of butts and grey ash that has not blown away by passing traffic yet. Either way, the California Vehicle Code frowns upon littering our roadways, lit or not.
The most visible prevalent items commonly discarded onto our roadways is fast food refuse. That tossed McDonald's cup, or bag of wrappers and half-eaten Big Mac are a sad, yet common sight. The fast pace of the automobile dependency in Orange County has gone a long way to further this fast food nation, which unfortunately includes the tonnage of post-drive through wrappers that litter our streets.
There a simple and obvious answer as to what kind of person decides to litter. In a nutshell, this is the kind of person who lacks pride and is selfish. They lack pride in themselves for being so lazy. They lack pride in their community by making it a less pleasant for others and taxing municipal resources to clean up their mess. They lack pride in their state, country and planet. They are selfish because they don't care about the consequences of their actions, otherwise their conscience would not let them flick that cigarette butt into the dry brush on the side of the road.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006


What was up with people last night on my way to work? It seemed like all of the drivers on the road were in an extra hurry for some reason. Where was the fire? What was the rush? What was with all of the honking? This time the "beep beeps" were directed at other drivers, though a pubescent male voice akin to the zit-faced kid character in The Simpsons emitted from a small pickup with dark tinted windows and had something unintelligible (and most likely unintelligent) to say to me. It wasn't even worth turning around to hock a loogie on.

My questions were answered when I took my lunch break at Midnight. If it had not been cold out, I would have taken my shirt off on the way to get some tacos so I could get a nice moontan. The lunatics were out in full force with the Moon waxing to its last moments on the way to being full.

Some "scientific studies" decry the "full moon fever" as myth, but my guess is the persons doing this study were never involved in Public Safety. During my tenure as a 911 Dispatcher, I can honestly say that there is a correlation between the Full Moon and people being out of sorts. Personal experience also showed me that cloud cover had a tendency to keep the lunatics at bay (pun intended for werewolf fans), but if the clouds gave way to clear skies and that big hunk of green cheese started smiling down on its puppets, the strings were immediately yanked.

The Moon had sunk into the horizon before I pedaled home this morning and for this I was thankful. Now that the Moon had shown its face and had made its pawns give up the monthly show of their asses, the streets were just a little safer. While pedaling home, I couldn't help but think of a particular lunatic in Fayetteville, NC. The last time I had spoken with her was the last Full Moon I had experienced as a 911 Dispatcher in that fair city. I could have set my watch by her Full Moon call every month, reporting that her next door neighbor was "looking at me". There was comfort in knowing she isn't driving a car in Orange County.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Pedaling for a Haircut

Locating a real barber shop in Orange County is a tough prospect, especially finding one in easy cycling distance from home. The stylist chains are so hit or miss, with all of the recent graduates of various cosmetology schools permeating their ranks. You can walk in to those places and never know who is going to cut your hair until you are sat down. Hair salons aren't my bag either, mostly because I don't wish to overpay for a simple man's haircut. Call me cheap, but it's the truth.

There are a few barber shops close by that looked consistent, so I decided to drop into the one that looked the homiest. It wasn't the closest to home, but that didn't matter. There was plenty of room to park my bicycle near the side door without locking it up, or blocking access for anyone entering or leaving the shop. There were a few customers inside waiting for a turn in one of the three antique chairs, all sitting in nice and cushy waiting chairs with plenty of elbow room. The lone barber was busy finishing a cut on a young man in his 20's who looked like he might have been active military on leave. I didn't mind waiting.

One of the other customers waiting was conversing with the young man in the chair about the military. The waiting customer engrossed in this conversation was an elderly gentleman in his 80's who looked and sounded a lot younger. The story he was relating to the young man in the chair was about his flying fighters in WWII for the US Navy. His British accent would have been the only thing to bely the sound of a true American Patriot from this man. I enjoyed listening to his story, as well as the subsequent anecdotes he related while taking his turn in the chair. People who dismiss the elderly just because they look/sound/are old don't know what they are missing. The wait was made intriguing and entertaining.

This place where men gather is adorned with the usual barber shop decor. Sports memorabalia is a mainstay, especially Angels baseball photos and plaques. A 21" television on one side of the shop has a sign over it stating something to the effect that there was no liability if "the game is on". The Barber is a season ticket holder for the Angels. The most interesting inanimate items in the shop are the chairs themselves. The cushions are definitely not original, but the metal base, frame and mechanicals were obviously made in a time long gone, when things were built to last with minimal care. The wait was almost not long enough to take it all in.

My turn in the chair arrived after another elderly gentleman had taken his turn in the chair and conversation. I didn't feel too chatty as the Barber worked his way around the mop on top of my head, but made a few interjections during pauses in the ongoing topics as I had during my entire visit. There is a strange sense of community in this place that no other barber shop I had ever been in has had. I enjoyed it, almost to the point of looking forward to my next haircut. The wait never dwindled the whole time I was there, at about four or five customers deep. My turn in the chair ended and I paid the Barber for his services while the next customer slid into the chair. I pedaled away with the cool breeze hitting my scalp like it had not done so for about two months and couldn't help but think that I had gotten a great bargain on the whole experience, including the tip.


Beep Beep

I can't help but think of the song by The Playmates about the Little Nash Rambler when I hear a "beep beep" directed at me while riding my bicycle. Whomever is behind the wheel and feels the need to attempt to warn, scare or make me move out of the street with their horn is just a Little Nash Rambler to me. The operators of these vehicles who choose to "beep beep" me are normally not very large in stature, unless large is solely defined by obesity. These operators are all "Little" in that their narrow little minds can not fathom why a bicycle is using the roadway. Automobiles do not own the roadway and in fact bicycles have just as much right to be there as they do. "Little" minds just don't get it.

Last week, a motorist decided to be "Little" with me by "beep beeping" and swerving dangerously close in passing. What he failed to see with his "Little" mind was that the four way stop ahead was about fifteen cars deep. The look on his "Little" face said it all when I pulled up next to him and asked if he had a problem. This "Little" man hit the electronic lock and proceeded to display his middle finger. A true hero. After informing him that he would never muster the intestinal fortitude to display his "Little" finger outside of the comfort of the gigantic pickup truck he was piloting, I pedaled towards home.

While tooling down the street, I could not help but think about another nostalgic item from my past. As a kid, I had a poster of the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote. Wile E. Coyote was depicted with his hand around the Roadrunner's neck and the poster's caption was "Beep Beep, Yurass!" Ending any day with a chuckle that good has been a great day.


Thursday, March 02, 2006

Near Miss

Are bicyclists really invisible? On my way to work this evening, an SUV driver came very close to plowing into me as I legally and cautiously ventured across a controlled intersection. I'm not sure what they saw, but obviously didn't see a 6'-7" whiteboy wearing a light colored vest on a bicycle with a flashing headlamp right in front of them in waning evening light. The dark tinted windows did not allow me to see the driver. Could it have been the illegally tinted windows that impaired this person's view, or were they engrossed in themsleves and their own little cell phone world? I didn't even want to know.

When I saw the vehicle accelerate into the intersection as I was crossing, my feet became more heavy on the pedals and ass lighter on the saddle in preparation for a leap onto their hood. I'd much rather dent their hood and get bruised a little than get fully smacked. They can always buy me a new bike. They did manage to stop about three feet from me when the realization hit them that there was some dude about to jump onto the hood of their vehicle. We mustn't get our paint scratched, or our hood dented.

I did glance back to see them having made a left turn after the near miss. It seemed that they were shaken, not stirred because people usually haul ass up the street they turned onto and they were creeping along. Good.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Flat Again

It's a well known mythical fact that flat tires on a bicycle comes in streaks. I'm not sure what got me this time, but it was not as sudden as the nail incident. It started as a "tick tick tick" noise with the rotation of the tires, accompanied by a slight hiss. Knowing those sounds all too well from many years of cycling, I gunned it. Being only halfway home and not wanting to fix a flat on the road before hitting the hay, gunning it was the best option. Someone up there likes me at least a little because the one traffic signal that could have held me up long enough for the tire to go completely flat was green. Even so, I didn't make it all of the way home.

What to do a half of a mile from home? I had someone time me on fixing a flat while mountain biking once and took less than two minutes to pull the wheel, extract the tube, check the inside of the tire case, throw another tube in, inflate the tire (with a Co2 inflator), pop the wheel back on and stow my gear. I don't race, but have changed a lot of flats. That said, my commuter bike has neither the luxury of quick releases, nor the light weight of most of my other bikes. Fixing the flat would have taken longer than pushing the bike home, so I pushed.

After waking up in the afternoon, it was time to fix the flat. I still couldn't tell what had gotten me this time. An educated guess would have been glass though because whatever had stuck in the tire and ticked did not sound metallic. So, it took me five minutes to fix a flat on the commuter bike and then it was off to the grocery store and survive yet another afternoon on the goofy streets of Orange County.