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The funeral procession

June 1, 2009 - Meg Alexander
Once again, I'm back to quoting Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The author is on a cross-country motorcycle trip with his 12-year-old son, and they're just coming out of the desert and back into civilization. This excerpt is perhaps my favorite passage in the book, and it rang so very true today it makes me sad.

"I watch the cars go by for a while on the highway. Something lonely about them. Not lonely...worse. Nothing. Like the attendant’s expression when he filled the tank. Nothing. A nothing curb, by some nothing gravel, at a nothing intersection, going nowhere.

Something about the car drivers too. They look just like the gasoline attendant, staring straight ahead in some private trance of their own. ... They all look like they’re in a funeral procession.

Once in a while one gives a quick glance and then looks away expressionlessly, as if minding his own business, as if embarrassed that we might have noticed he was looking at us. I see it now because we’ve been away from it for a long time. The driving is different too. The cars seem to be moving at a steady maximum speed for in-town driving, as though they want to get somewhere, as though what’s here right now is just something to get through. The drivers seem to be thinking about where they want to be rather than where they are.

I know what it is! We’ve arrived at the West Coast! We’re all strangers again!

Folks, I just forgot the biggest gumption trap of all. The funeral procession! The one everybody’s in, this hyped-up, ****-you, supermodern, ego style of life that thinks it owns this country."

Even in small-town Fairmont, what Robert Pirsig writes is evident everywhere you look, and I'm as guilty as anyone of falling into the funeral procession state of mind.

But today I've had it. When some guy in some souped-up truck decides to ignore some little person (that would be me) on a bicycle rightfully crossing the street at a pedestrian cross, something is wrong! Another driver had the courtesy to honk at the jerk for me, not that it did any good except to produce a smirk -- a smirk!

This isn't the first time I've nearly been smeared across the road riding my bike or walking. Good grief folks. Pedestrians have the right of way. Is there somewhere so important everyone has to be that they can't take the time to look around, breath and make this city a safer place in the meantime?

Maybe if people felt that this community was connected, that they were being watched simply because people care, not because they're a "suspicious person" to be reported in the police blotter, we could make Fairmont a place to be proud of. Or maybe we should just all join hands and sing Kumbaya. I don't know. I clearly don't have all the answers. I just want to ride my bike to work.

Sigh ... Sorry, just had to get that out of my system.

 
 

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