Cracks in the clockwork

I love my commute
Published August 20, 2012

I once met a rider who hung up his leathers for good, not for the usual reasons. He didn’t stop for newly-born kids, wasn’t guilted by a significant other, didn’t step away after a bad crash. But, he told me, he lost his passion when he lost his San Francisco commute. Retired at a young age, he missed the daily rush of battling traffic to get to work. Everything else was poor substitute.

I didn’t get it. At the time my commute consisted entirely of bland freeway lanes, no battling required. I was happy to not challenge Death daily. But two years ago, an office relocation thrust me into a proper San Francisco commute. Been battling ever since. I wouldn’t give it up.

My commute is the highlight of my waking hours

“Commute” is a bad word for most, one of the worst. It’s hours wasted staring at the ass of the vehicle ahead. It’s sharing uncomfortable space with strangers and not being able to do a damn thing about it. Commuting is helplessness five days a week.

Not for me. Most days–this is no exaggeration–my commute is the highlight of my waking hours.

On a motorcycle, commuting is not a helpless act. I am not bound to follow the lead of the slowest common denominator. I have no awkward company but myself.

A line of dawdling cars clogging the freeway becomes a moving puzzle to overtake. Watch the gaps between them, eyes on converging lanes, and a well-timed slip between the slothful lot yields an addicting drip of joy.

As all lanes bunch up into downtown San Francisco, I batten down the hatches of my attention, focus my mental capacity on deftly filtering through a sea of autonomous steel boxes. I anticipate their moves, study the body language of shadowy figures through rear windows, constantly adjust my trajectory and pick my moments for frictionless spatial intersection.

In The City, rules dissolve in a swirling mess of urgent life. Pedestrians dart between gridlocked cars, bicyclists blindly cut through reds, drivers struggle to find a place for their oversized transport. In the middle of everything, little me acting a selfish ass on two wheels, slipping clutch and throwing revs to maintain forward momentum and find the cracks in the clockwork where speed and safety fit.

If it goes wrong, I lose big. I’m on the ground, I’m in the hospital, I’m possibly dead. If it goes right, I get to work on time. I sit behind a computer, and grin to myself. If it goes right, I can’t wait for the evening battle home.