Tuesday, September 02, 2014

What a Focker

Back in the days when I was in high school and still living at home, I would call my little brother names like, "asshole". Then one afternoon I used that foul language again while my Dad was eating in the kitchen. He was kneading a clump of sticky rice in his hand like a stress ball. And then he stopped, and asked me what "asshole" meant since (he must've observed that) I called my brother by this name a lot.

My Dad is pretty fluent in English considering it was a second language he had learned in his early thirties. In fact, he knew how to speak, read and write it before any of us in the family did. By that day, my knowledge of English had surpassed my Dad's but he was no dummy. "Does it mean sabu?", he asked me while pointing to his belly button. And then he bit off a piece of the sticky rice ball in his hand and chewed it. The whole time his inquisitive eyes never broke contact with mine.

Oh shit, I thought. Then replied, "...No...". And then I explained to my Dad the meaning of the bad word I had been using. My Dad didn't have to tell me it was not an appropriate term of endearment for my brother. I knew it was wrong and so I stopped calling my brother names after that. And I pretty much stopped swearing. Except for times when I get so angry, it is the only think I can think of in a split second to express how I feel. Like this morning.

I left home earlier than usual this morning. The sun was still young and rising in the horizon. I turned on the front and rear lights of my bike, like I always do (except for when I am riding in a group). I also realize that when the sun is behind me, it makes it difficult for people looking my way to see me.

Later in my route, I had a close call when a man driving a white, commercial van made a left turn at the last second instead of waiting for me to pass the intersection. It was a two-way street with a turning lane in the middle. It was a complete street where the lanes are straight with a clear line of site.

I saw it happening. Like a movie playing in slow motion when the white van started to turn in front of me. There was nothing I could do except squeeze the brakes to avoid kissing the front grill of the van or making a pancake out of my body like play dough thrown against a wall. I yielded because it didn't matter if I had the right of way.

In that moment, many things went through my mind in an attempt to give the driver the benefit of the doubt. The sun could have been in his eyes. His line of sight may have been blocked by a vehicle that passed me seconds before. He may not have seen me riding in the bike lane. Or he saw me and didn't care. THAT'S what I concluded. Because it's a slow street (25 m.ph.) with very little traffic. Because there was a second or two after the other vehicle passed me on the left cleared the intersection. It was enough time for the driver yielding to see me and my blinking L.E.D. light. I had a hunch that the man in the white van saw me but didn't want to wait for two more seconds. Some people who drive tend to forget that when making a left turn from a dead stop, it takes a while for the vehicle to get up to speed. They forget that it takes more time to turn than they might think. That the approaching traffic is moving faster than they think. They forget that people traveling on bicycles are vulnerable road users. People on bicycles do not have a metal cages and  air bags to protect their bodies during a collision.

It wasn't a big deal and usually I just let it go without a word. After all I did not get hit by the van. That instant scared me for a moment but then I knew I would be okay. And I don't get angry that often. But this morning anger formed inside my belly, and it came rushing out of my mouth. It roared and didn't sound like me. "You FUCKER!!!" I yelled at him. But the driver had already made the turn and didn't look back.

I used strong language because I wanted him to KNOW how I felt about his decision to cut me off. I didn't care if I was in a dress and wearing heels. I didn't care if my yelling profanity wasn't lady like. He didn't want to wait and decided to turn knowing I would have to yield to his van or risk getting injured. HE was the real asshole for putting my life at risk and I am fortunate I am still alive. So I said it for the other women who were not as fortunate while riding their bikes to work.

Amelie Le Moullac, 24 years young public relations professional was killed by a delivery truck making a right turn. She was riding her bike to work on that fateful morning. What's worse was that she was blamed for the accident until the SFBC found a surveillance video showing the driver of the truck was at fault.
Amelie Le Moullac was killed while riding her bicycle on Folsom Street.
Amelie Le Moullac, 24 years young (kqed.org)
Joy Covey, former Amazon CEO was killed at 50 years young when a mail delivery van turned in front of her. She left behind an 8-year old son and was riding her bike towards home so she could pick him up from school. In the articles I've read since the tragedy, the driver of the van didn't see her even though he had a clear line of sight. He didn't take just two seconds to LOOK for her and because of his decision, he cut her life short and forever altered her family's.

Joy Covey, 50 years young and mother (fortune.com)

Very recently Sherry Kung, 31 years young lawyer was killed by a left-turning truck. She recently adopted a young seven-month toddler. Her daughter will never get to know her. She will never ride a bicycle on her own side-by-side with her Mom. Sherry was also riding her bike to work.
Sherry Kung was killed while riding her bicycle
Sherry Kung, 31 years young and mother (seattlebikeblog.com)

These women's lives were cut short because the people who were driving did not care to yield to them. If the people who were driving took just two extra seconds to observe their surrounding and look for other users of the road--not just people in cars then maybe they would not have hit and killed these women.

As a cyclist myself and someone who rides her bike to work I try my best to ride defensively. Because no matter what I do, when someone who is driving makes a rash decision to turn the wheels without regard for me, it can cost me my life. But sometimes no matter HOW defensively we ride, there is NOTHING we can do to protect ourselves when we are up against careless people behind motor vehicles. Like these women, who paid for the mistakes of other people's with their lives.

I felt bad about calling my little brother names when we were kids. He didn't deserve it. But I don't feel bad about yelling the profanity that I did this morning. Was my language excessive? Maybe. But I don't regret it. This time, I just felt that I had to. And I don't think my Dad would give me the look of disapproval either. Because the next mistake that driver makes, may cost someone their life.

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