Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Automotive isolation

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

I drove to work today because of rain in the forecast. It had clearly rained some before I got up, but it wasn’t raining at that time. Still, I didn’t want to take a chance and get dumped on on my way to work, and then show up soaked. Ultimately, I’d like to be able to bike to work even in the rain, but I’m not equipped to do that yet.

On my way to work, I reflected a bit on biking versus driving. It felt strange driving to work after two days of riding the bike; I think that one reason is that biking makes me feel an increased sense of self-reliance. If for some reason I couldn’t drive, I could still get to work (or anywhere, for that matter) on my bike. There’s also something really rewarding about getting around using your own power. However, I felt a bit lame bailing on riding because it was supposed to rain. It wasn’t even raining — in fact, it was beautiful outside. It would’ve been a perfect morning to ride.

The thing I kept thinking about, though, is how much more isolated you feel when you’re in a car. You’re largely shielded from outside noises, smells, etc, from bumps in the road, and from other motorists. Your vision is greatly obstructed. You can still notice things like hills, but they don’t have the same impact.

On a bike, though, all of these things are much more intense. You can see everything in all directions, just by looking around. There isn’t really anything separating you from the pavement, or from the things around you. When you’re going fast, you feel like you’re going fast, the pavement blurs beneath you, and you focus on where you’re going, and you’re in tune with what’s going on around you.

The automotive isolation is taken further when people (including myself) play loud music in their cars. Maybe some people like feeling isolated from their surroundings — sometimes I do, I noticed, as I turned up the volume on my stereo to drown out the sound of a truck — but how much do we miss by doing this? On a bike, you have to deal with the truck sounds, but you can also hear and see a lot more — birds, trees, the sky, etc. You feel the pavement below you, including any cracks, bumps, potholes, and other irregularities, but you also feel, and hear, the texture of the pavement itself. And in the morning, there’s that smell … yes, that smell, which I can’t describe, but is unmistakeable.

I also realized this morning what I liked about a car I used to have, a crappy 1994 Ford Escort. It was a piece of junk, but there was always something I liked about it that I couldn’t put my finger on. Now I think it’s that while cars are designed to isolate you as much as possible, from noise, bumps, wind, rain, etc., the Escort did all of those things very poorly. In that way, it was closer to riding a bike than driving a car.

That’s not to say that I want that Escort back. Not at all. But I’m looking forward to riding my bike more and more, to stay in tune with my surroundings, get around under my own power, get in shape, and more importantly, have fun!

3 Responses to “Automotive isolation”

  1. furiousball Says:

    You could cut the doors off your current car perhaps?

    Did you still get naked in the storage room today?

  2. Sarah Says:

    WAIT JUST A MINUTE. If he cuts off the doors, how will he open mine? How will he flirt with me? Hmm? Although if he did cut off the doors, we wouldn’t have that problem where I’m talking and talking and talking about whatever it is that I’m always talking about and he’s trying to figure out how to politely shut the door in my face so he can walk around and get in on his side.

    By the way, I like this post. A lot. I may not always appreciate the same things in the same ways, but it’s nice to read about how and why you see the world the way you do.

  3. Marty Says:

    I agree that it’s interesting to see the world from another’s eyes. And as for the cars without doors idea, you could get a jeep or a Volkswagen Thing.

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