Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cars, wheelies and cops. Oh, my!

Studies have shown that motorcycling requires more decisions per second, and more sheer data processing than nearly any other common activity or sport. The reactions and accurate decision making abilities needed have been likened to the reactions of fighter pilots! The consequences of bad decisions or poor situational awareness are pretty much the same for both groups too.

Occasionally, as a rider I have caught myself starting to make bad or late decisions while riding. It is a mark of experience that when this begins to happen, the rider recognizes the situation, and more importantly, does something about it. A short break, a meal, or even a gas stop can set things right again as it gives the brain a chance to catch up.

Good, accurate, and timely decisions are essential when riding a motorcycle…at least if you want to remain among the living. In short, the brain needs to keep up with the machine.

I had been banging around the roads of southern California and as I headed back into LA, found myself in very heavy, high-speed traffic on the freeways. Normally, this is not a problem, I commute in these conditions daily, but suddenly I was nearly run down by a cage that decided it needed my lane more than I did. This is not normally a big deal either, as it happens around here often, but usually I can accurately predict which drivers are not paying attention and avoid them before we are even close. This one I missed seeing until it was nearly too late, and as I took evasive action I nearly broadsided another car that I was not even aware was there!

Two bad decisions and insufficient situational awareness…all within seconds. I was behind the power curve. Time to get off the freeway.

I hit the next exit, and as I was in an area I knew pretty well, headed through a few big residential neighborhoods as a new route home. As I turned onto the nearly empty streets I opened the visor on my full-face helmet to help get some air. I figured some slow riding through the quiet surface streets would give me time to relax, think, and regain that “edge” so frequently required when riding.

Little did I suspect…

As I passed an oncoming car, a brown furry missile shot out from under it and tumbled to a stop immediately in front of me. It was a squirrel, and must have been trying to run across the road when it encountered the car. I really was not going very fast, but there was no time to brake or avoid it—it was that close.

I hate to run over animals…and I really hate it on a motorcycle, but a squirrel should pose no danger to me. I barely had time to brace for the impact.

Animal lovers, never fear. Squirrels can take care of themselves!

Inches before impact, the squirrel flipped to his feet. He was standing on his hind legs and facing the oncoming Cruiser with steadfast resolve in his little beady eyes. His mouth opened, and at the last possible second, he screamed and leapt! I am pretty sure the scream was squirrel for, “Banzai!” or maybe, “Die you gravy-sucking, heathen scum!” as the leap was spectacular and he flew over the windshield and impacted me squarely in the chest.

Instantly he set upon me. If I did not know better I would have sworn he brought twenty of his little buddies along for the attack. Snarling, hissing, and tearing at my clothes, he was a frenzy of activity. As I was dressed only in a light t-shirt, summer riding gloves, and jeans this was a bit of a cause for concern. This furry little tornado was doing some damage!

Picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and leather gloves puttering maybe 25mph down a quiet residential street…and in the fight of his life with a squirrel. And losing.

I grabbed for him with my left hand and managed to snag his tail. With all my strength I flung the evil rodent off the left of the bike, almost running into the right curb as I recoiled from the throw.

That should have done it. The matter should have ended right there. It really should have. The squirrel could have sailed into one of the pristinely kept yards and gone on about his business, and I could have headed home. No one would have been the wiser.

But this was no ordinary squirrel. This was not even an ordinary mad squirrel.

This was an evil attack squirrel of death!

Somehow he caught my gloved finger with one of his little hands, and with the force of the throw swung around and with a resounding thump and an amazing impact he landed square on my back and resumed his rather anti-social and extremely distracting activities. He also managed to take my left glove with him!

The situation was not improved. Not improved at all. His attacks were continuing, and now I could not reach him.

I was startled to say the least. The combination of the force of the throw, only having one hand (the throttle hand) on the handlebars, and my jerking back unfortunately put a healthy twist through my right hand and into the throttle. A healthy twist on the throttle of a Cruiser can only have one result. Torque. This is what a Cruiser is made for, and she is very, very good at it.

The engine roared as the front wheel left the pavement. The squirrel screamed in anger. The Scooter screamed in ecstasy. I screamed in…well…I just plain screamed.

Now picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a slightly squirrel torn t-shirt, and only one leather glove roaring at maybe 70mph and rapidly accelerating down a quiet residential street…on one wheel and with a demonic squirrel on his back. The man and the squirrel are both screaming bloody murder.

With the sudden acceleration I was forced to put my other hand back on the handlebars and try to get control of the bike. This was leaving the mutant squirrel to his own devices, but I really did not want to crash into somebody’s tree, house, or parked car. Also, I had not yet figured out how to release the throttle…my brain was just simply overloaded. I did manage to mash the back brake, but it had little affect against the massive power of the big cruiser.

About this time the squirrel decided that I was not paying sufficient attention to this very serious battle (maybe he is a Scottish attack squirrel of death), and he came around my neck and got IN my full-face helmet with me. As the faceplate closed partway and he began hissing in my face I am quite sure my screaming changed tone and intensity. It seemed to have little affect on the squirrel however.

The rpm’s on The Dragon maxed out (I was not concerned about shifting at the moment) and her front end started to drop.

Now picture the large man on the huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a very ragged torn t-shirt, and wearing one leather glove, roaring at probably 80mph, still on one wheel, with a large puffy squirrel’s tail sticking out his mostly closed full-face helmet. By now the screams are probably getting a little hoarse.

Finally I got the upper hand…I managed to grab his tail again, pulled him out of my helmet, and slung him to the left as hard as I could. This time it worked…sort-of. Spectacularly sort-of, so to speak.

Picture the scene. You are a cop. You and your partner have pulled off on a quiet residential street and parked with your windows down to do some paperwork.

Suddenly a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a torn t-shirt flapping in the breeze, and wearing one leather glove, moving at probably 80mph on one wheel, and screaming bloody murder roars by and with all his strength throws a live squirrel grenade directly into your police car.

I heard screams. They weren't mine...

I managed to get the big motorcycle under directional control and dropped the front wheel to the ground. I then used maximum braking and skidded to a stop in a cloud of tire smoke at the stop sign at a busy cross street.

I would have returned to fess up (and to get my glove back). I really would have. Really. But for two things. First, the cops did not seem interested or the slightest bit concerned about me at the moment. One of them was on his back in the front yard of the house they had been parked in front of and was rapidly crabbing backwards away from the patrol car. The other was standing in the street and was training a riot shotgun on the police cruiser.

So the cops were not interested in me. They often insist to “let the professionals handle it” anyway. That was one thing. The other? Well, I swear I could see the squirrel, standing in the back window of the patrol car among shredded and flying pieces of foam and upholstery, and shaking his little fist at me. I think he was shooting me the finger…

That is one dangerous squirrel. And now he has a patrol car…

I took a deep breath, turned on my turn-signal, made an easy right turn, and sedately left the neighborhood.

As for my easy and slow drive home? Forget it. Faced with a choice of 80mph cars and inattentive drivers, or the evil, demonic, attack squirrel of death...I’ll take my chances with the freeway. Every time.

And I’ll buy myself a new pair of gloves.

I wish I had written that one but I must give credit where credit is due...

Hope you enjoyed it none the less.


My ADHD Me said...

When I see squirrels on my back fence, sometimes about 5 feet away from me, i get this feeling that those big rats are just waiting for the chance to jump at me and start clawing. I DO NOT LIKE SQUIRRELS.

I was reading your story thinking, man, that's awful....that's awful..... that's awful .....that's a little far fetched ... oh come on .......No Way......

It WAS a funny story though.

Hey, come read the conclusion to my First In Last Out post. My firefighter years were minimal compared to your military years. I need someone to tell me to "get over it".

My ADHD Me said...

HA! You were doing what I asked you to do, while I was asking. Thanks!

Kelly Combs said...

I loved this story and I was believing it until the end. Plus I was going to tell you to get checked for rabies.

I live in Virginia, so yes, I do speak with a little accent. I can't hear it...but I've been told. It's not horrible, but it's there. And I only use "y'all" for the plural. I am not a "y'all" in the singular type gal. :-)

Amber said...

Oh my gosh... that had me laughing till I cried. That's got to be the funniest thing I've heard or read in ages.

Heart2Heart said...

I guess the squirrels from that Geico commercial really are that good.

Yikes, makes me wonder what did the police officers do when Mr. Squirrel wouldn't get out the police car?

Or better yet, you know that squirrel went home to tell his squirrel wife why he was late and told her exactly what happened and what do you think she did?

Yup he was outside the tree sleeping!

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Kelly Combs said...

En réalité, j'ai un accent français.

No, it's sweet Southern. You didn't imply anything. I just was making sure you didn't think so. :-)

Jusqu'à ce que le prochain post ....

2Thinks said...

About two paragraphs in I was saying, "This is the best story on the block tonight." and it truly still may be- but I thought it was you, I really did. I'm gullible. So, at the end, there was a teeny letdown sort of ahhh, because you had me going, you did.

So, I went to the site of the guy who wrote it and there, he won't actually say if it is true or not. By then it was okay though, because I see he is an author and he does tell a great story. I don't ride a motorcycle (oh, big surprise there, right), but I would, and may, buy one of this guy's books.

As for bad decisions and insufficient situational awareness, being behind the power curve and needing to get off the freeway...happens to me every single day in my Chevy Malibu Maxx. Have you seen *Driving Miss Daisy*, okay, well that's one toad's breath away from where I live- I do need a driver, I do.

I take the short breaks to give my brain a chance to catch up regularly and not just when I'm driving my car either.

So, basically, I truly identified very closely with the first part of this story w/o being a biker.

Question. How do you know the motorcycle is a she?

Becki Jacket said...

I remember finding a dead squirrel when i was ten. I poked it with a stick.

By the way, I did in fact smack the dog considering Wilson is far too old for my husky pup. Wind howling in your ears so sharp it brings tears to your eyes scares the shit out of me. Wear a helmet. Who broke my heart? It doesn't matter because i know i'm a tough cookie and i will get over it in time, learning a lesson on the way. I'm one tough cookie. It just needs some time is all. =D

Edie said...

Oh my goodness this was hysterical! I LOL all the way through it even though I kept thinking it couldn't be true.

I would like to introduce that squirrel to a certain cat...
... On second thought, they might join forces. :o

Thanks for the laugh. I feel so much better now.

HeartNiki said...

Cute story. The squirrels on my mountain have a death wish. I all most run over one every morning. Thanks for stopping by my blog and naming my blog animals. lol
PS: I'm following you...

Choleesa said...

hmmm, Ive always been a little scared of squirrels, and now I know why!