Deep Thought: Look Where You Are Going
Full disclosure: I cannot ride a bicycle. I never could. I have proven this numerous times to unbelieving people who insist that it is a universal ability. Nope. As a kid, I managed to ride only when the training wheels were on. The parental units took them off and had to pay for my dental work. Tandems are no solution: I have run people into trees. I almost lost a bike in the Rhine. Now, people leave me alone with that contraption.
However, I do remember one thing about bicycles. They told me, 'Look where you are going. If you don't, you'll veer off in the direction you're looking in.' That's intuitively true. Any cyclists want to weigh in here?
The tendency to steer in the direction of where you're looking is something I've observed in elderly automobile drivers, as well. Back before I became an elderly driver, I used to have to drive to work down a two-lane road that went past several assisted-living facilities in a small town. There were two main hazards: drivers under 21, who were late for school/jobs and impatient and tended to 'jackrabbit', and drivers over 80, whose average speed ranged from 'parking lot' to 'medium dawdle'.
The best part of being behind senior drivers and trying to match their speed was being able to tell exactly what they were looking at from the way the car was weaving back and forth.
'Oh, look, Avarice, the azaleas are in bloom in front of the ARP church.' 'Avarice' is a real lady's name in North Carolina. It is pronounced 'Ae-vuh-REECE', you Boeotians. ARP stands for Associate Reformed Presbyterians. They are not affiliated with the US senior lobby. They are just closer to Dutch Reformed in their theology than their mainstream brethren.
Senior drivers don't suffer from a lack of attentiveness. They're just paying attention to what interests them, in common with most humans. Although what caught Mrs Alexander's attention the day she mistook the accelerator for the brake pedal I'm not sure. She was in the church parking lot – in a space that was up on the embankment, the one separated from the main parking area by a four-foot brick wall.
Mrs Alexander, who was 93, displayed remarkable presence of mind as her very long Cadillac overshot the parking space and headed for the pavement below. She quickly trod on the brake, in itself an accomplishment in high-heeled shoes. (She was dressed for the ladies' luncheon.) With amazing aplomb, she exited the enormous vehicle, which was now neatly parked at a 45-degree angle, with its rear end up and its front end down. Brushing herself off, she retrieved her handbag and walked into the church for the luncheon with great dignity.
After dessert, she asked casually, 'Could someone call me a tow truck? I have a small problem with my car.'
My point in all this isn't to shame drivers. Or complain about bicycles. I feel I should point this out in case of excess literalism among internet readers. My point is to reach for a possibly tenuous analogy: what are we looking at these days? And does it skew our sense of direction?
- Do you 'doom scroll' on Twitter?
- Does your interest on h2g2 wane until you can join a moan session about the technical issues 'they' are having?
- Do you refuse to vote because 'nobody is worthy of my vote', and then spend the next electoral term griping about those in office?
- Are your favourite TV shows those that involve violence, fights, and car chases, e'en-the-while you bemoan the decline of artistry in the western world?
- Did you spend an inordinate amount of time googling the story of a former president's trousers, and whether they were on backwards?
If your answer to any of the above was 'yes', please consider that you may be in danger of pointing your personal bicycle into the ditch. Just saying.
Some things you might want to consider doing instead:
- Change your Twitter subscriptions to @h2g2_Guide, QI, Unsolicited Diks (they post pictures of dik-diks), and other accounts that provide whimsy and natural beauty.
- Write a guide entry and submit it to PR.
- Check out your local candidates. Remind your neighbour that next time he runs for borough council, he should invest in yard signs. Offer to help.
- Check Youtube and the Internet Archive for some old shows, and be patient. Sooner or later, Covid will be over and there will be better shows on TV. We can hope.
- Unlearn the habit of watching all the late-night hosts' monologues. Rediscover the art of conversation. Or read a good book. Or play some music. Pick something else to be interested in other than the gossip they're trying to foist on you. You may discover you don't really care what politicians are wearing these days. Or what those entertainers you can't tell apart have 'dropped' recently. (Am I the only one who feels like they're kind of careless with all this album 'dropping'?)
In other words: point your bicycles (and motorcycles, and Model T's) somewhere more interesting. The people who want to sell you things will take notice. They have algorithms.