Sunday, July 31, 2011

Safety First

Timing. Mine's bad. I arrive at the stop sign just as a Volvo with two diminutive seniors tucked down in the front seat rolls through the intersection.

It appears that the Volvo is straining hard pulling a train of cars along behind it.  I count 10 cars before I can turn out and become the temporary caboose.  The speed limits 50 KPH.  We cruise along at a stately 35KPH.

I try to keep a couple of car lengths between me and the car directly in front. Soon there's a Miata trying to become intimate with the tail light of my bike.  Up ahead the cars are bunching up; less then a car length separates most of the train. 

Looking ahead I see a long sweeping left hand curve leading to a short straight stretch.  Inside the curve a farmer is working in a hay field.  On the outside an orchard reaches down to the curb of the road.  I'm sure I can count the aphids on the tree leaves.  My mind starts to drift off.  I'm Dickens getting 3 cents a word to describing nothing.  So far I've made $10 and I'm only on the cobble stones by the time I get to the door knocker I'll be rich.

"Braaack!" I'm snapped back to reality by the distinctive sound of a small block V8 roaring to life.  All that money gone, damn!

The pick up behind the Volvo has swung left to pass. He's misjudged the power and has overshot the road. His left wheels are throwing dust and dirt. The Volvo's brake lights flash. The Volvo drops speed like Newtons apple. Suddenly and with a startling affect on the driver now immediately behind the Volvo. Ouch!

The Newton swings left to miss the Volvo.  The truck has made the pass and is back in the right lane. But there's a car coming towards us.  Newton brakes hard and cuts back in behind the Volvo which is now creeping along.

My hands are sweating on the handlebars. It's all over in a flash.

The train resumes it's slow progress down the track as the Volvo slowly picks up speed until it reaches 30KPH where it seems to run out of breath.  Dickens sitting in the orchard witness the entire scene and starts an account for the Times.  He'll make 20 quid.

I pull over at a fruit stand shut the bike down and wait.

I can hear Donald Sutherland's baritone richly explaining the virtues of a Volvo.  I turn around and he's talking to a young couple with a baby.  Fourteen cars are piled on top of a Volvo, he explains the features, three point seat belts, padded dash, multiple air bags, disc brakes, crush zones.  It's as strong as a tank.  "It's so safe you could drive it in your sleep."  Did I really hear Donald say that?

Years later the baby is gone but the couple are still driving.  I imagine the baby having grown into a teenager throwing himself out the back door, rolling through a ditch, jumping up and leaping into the back of a pickup full of red necks running whisky and dope from the local grow op to the big city. The teenager is grinning ear to ear, shouting. "Free At Last."

The couple don't know the baby has grown and fled but are still sedately rolling along safely unconscious in their Volvo.

Donald Sutherland turns out to be a white haired farmer asking me, maybe for the fourth time, if I'd like to try some cherries.  I look at him and say, "What I'd really like is to kick Donald Sutherland in the ass but I'll take a flat of cherries."

He looks at me, he looks at the bike.  Right, better make that a single box.  I try to tell him about the Volvo.  He listens then disappears behind the stall.  I hear a cellphone chirping away then, "Betty better get down here and bring the Browning."

Ok, it's time to go.  I leave the cherries and $5 on the counter.  You meet the most interesting people on a motorcycle.  It's important to make an impression.  I round the next corner and there's a single apple sitting in the middle of the road.  Weird.  I roll on the throttle and crush it beneath the tires like a bug. 

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