Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Bambi Vs. Godzilla

I don't know if you've seen this short film, Bambi Vs. Godzilla, made in 1969. You can view it here. It's very simple: Bambi is in the forest, looking around at the beautiful meadows and butterflies and such, and then Godzilla's foot comes down and stomps him flat. I just went to a memorial service (celebration of life) for a friend who was out bicycling in the beautiful meadows and was hit by a logging truck. Kind of like Godzilla's foot, out of nowhere. She was a really, truly amazing person. It's times like this when I wish I hadn't seen so many episodes of Six Feet Under, because it somehow allows a window into seeing the grim reality of death and what it all really means to the corporeal body. I've been torn this week with so many conflicting emotions - sadness of course, and a feeling of tragedy, a life cut way too short - especially such a dynamic life, the memories of the person, the spirit, the life of such a person, the ugly reality of such a death, the fear that you don't always express but is still there when you spend thousands of miles a year on a bicycle, among large multi-ton objects moving twice as fast as you, the feeling that you shouldn't have to feel such a fear, that you just want to enjoy the beautiful feeling of freedom that riding a bicycle can be.

I was on that same road, not all that many hours before she was. Those logging trucks have passed me so many times. Maybe that logging truck. But it's not just that road, and it's not just that truck. Today, bicycling to her service, I had to change lanes in traffic and the guy behind me roared up on my rear wheel and honked. Never mind I legally can use a lane of traffic just like any other vehicle. Normally drivers here are quite used to bicycles and often very courteous. Maybe this guy just moved here from California, along with half our new population, I don't know. Before that, I biked with my kids to gymnastics, and had to negotiate a several-block stretch of busy road with no bike lanes. I hate that bit of road. I hate not knowing if some driver will come roaring too close to my kids. But what is the alternative? Live in fear? Only drive a car? As if people don't get killed in cars every day of the year? Have my kids grow up feeling entitled to drive big hulks of moving, resource-sucking metal because otherwise the other hulk-drivers might accidentally just kill them? God, I hate this feeling. I hate not having a good choice, only the ability to choose between bad ones. Drive the resource-sucking hulk, bike with my kids on dangerous road, tell my kids they can't go to gymnastics because the gym is on such a bad road. Where's the good choice?

I'm rambling, I know. I'm still in some shock that this person is gone. The service was amazing. Totally packed with people, showing the amazing depth and breadth of her influence on the many people in her life. People telling stories about her, about the incredible person that she was, all the dimensions of her life. I'm in shock at her death. I'm sad and scared and also full of the knowledge that this won't stop me from going out on the road either. I biked that road again yesterday, the one with the logging trucks - it's such a short stretch of road, but it connects so many of the local bike routes. To avoid it would be to cut out half the great local routes. My husband is out somewhere on his bike right now, coming home from work, 10 miles away. So if you're reading this and you're a hulk driver (as are many of us, even those of us who cycle as well) please take this moment to reflect that nothing is worth driving in a way that endangers the pedestrians and cyclists that share the roads with you. There's no appointment so important, no moment so big that you might miss that is worth someone's life. Please, drive safely out there.