Dec 23, 2010

Missed call

Two incidents on one day. Forewarned? Coincidence? Or just the usual, reality trying to scare the life out of you?

Incident one. In my housing society, the exit gate leads to a steep downward ramp clad in the slipperiest paver tiles known to man. This leads to the (scruffier, grippier) paver tiled road. I normally stop (as in feet down) at the head of the ramp - to check on traffic - before I head down and left and leave for work or whatever. Today I noticed a Honda City coming up the road slowly - heading in the direction I would once I made my turn. I nodded to the chap as a sort of, "Allow me to go first, please?" And crept down the curve once I saw his head bob downwards like he understood. Halfway down - hard to stop at this point - I realised that the Honda City'd picked up his pace. Whoa.

I quickly accelerated while leaning further to keep my line tight and to get the bike cleanly ahead of the car. In that moment, I looked into the car with a WTF-ish sort of thought. I realised that the man hadn't bobbed a yes, he was merely getting ready to text someone on his freaking cellphone. And now, in the midst of the SMS, he hadn't realised that he'd picked up the speed.

Incident two. This took place at a T-junction. I usually pass the top of the T from right to left. This can usually be done rapidly because no one appears to use the intersection to turn right across my path on to the vertical body of the T (heading downwards, as it were). The rare traffic the vertical part does see is traffic turning left in my direction of travel, and in the evening, traffic turning towards me (up the vertical body and right). Complex. I hope you understand the word imagery - I don't have the time to sit with a graphics software right now, apologies.

Anyway, so I'm crossing this place today and I see an autorickshaw coming up in the opposing lane (top of the T, heading left to right) with his indicator blinking. As is usual, he was drifting into my lane as a pre-cursor to actually turning. So far so good. I flashed him with my R15's twin headlamps to ensure he understood that I was going to go straight past him first. I saw him slow up and continue to inch into my part of the road as auto rickshaws are won't to do. But his slow-ness assured me that I wasn't going to be blocked, so I continued.

As I crossed the rick with about two feet of space between me and his front wheel, I saw a Pulsar hidden behind the rick. Rider and pillion, no lids and no clue. They weren't slowing either. Oh sh*t.

Nothing happened, thankfully. For two very good reasons. First, I was bang in the middle of the powerband as I usually ensure I am when I enter intersections - whether I'm on the throttle or not. In my peripheral vision I noticed two things - the rider's hand was not on the throttle - which meant his speed wouldn't change - it'd be near constant. Second, he was looking over his shoulder as he chatted with his pillion - so he wouldn't do anything - evasive or stupid. What happened next, then, was entirely up to me - not too bad a deal I think.

So I rolled on the throttle hard-hard-hard and the R15's indefatigable engine carried me past without a hitch. But not before my heart-rate accelerated rapidly. And I'm certain the clueless Pulsar-borne duo had their own oh-sh*t moment as well in there.

What did I learn? That I'd just gotten lazy and had two reality checks handed to me. In the first case, I should have waited until I was sure he nodded. Or simply done the ultra-safe thing - just waited for the City-man to pass by. I'd have been past him on the straight within moments anyway. In the second case, I should have remembered something that I read once. that is so obvious that it beggars belief when you think about how you never follow that simple instruction.

We, motorcyclists, scan for hazards constantly, right? The better ones among us smoothly identify and deal with these hazards in the normal course of things in a number of ways. Right? The thing I read somewhere - think it was Art Friedman at MotorcycleCruiser.com, but I'm not sure... The think I read somewhere was that reality never guarantees that a particular moment in time poses only one hazard.

In simple terms, you need to pay attention to the hazard to process and mitigate it. But that doesn't mean another or more hazards do not also exist in the same moment. That you need to learn to keep scanning for hazards even as you deal with one. This is harder than it appears on the face of it by a matter of scales - but it isn't optional.

But you live and learn, eh?

7 comments:

Sankoobaba said...

before getting to the post.. i will tell you this the exact kind of posts that i miss..
riding-tactics etc...
damn..while reading it felt nostalgic of ur regular posts..

anyway..

u made a very good point.. and yes,, scanning hazards is difficult but gets better with time.. and yet.. thanks to laziness we ignore the basics..

and I hate car-drivers who are doing anything else while driving..coz they are dangerous..

its crazy...

good to have u blogging..keep it coming . as and when you can

The BATFAN said...

Excellent post but well that's kind of expected from you :D Hope you keep it coming, and the year end starts off something good for the blog in the new year :)

Riding is just an extension of life in so many ways for this. There is just not only one problem to deal with at one moment of time and it is so important to prioritize them just right.

Wish you a good safe year ahead. Ride On. Write On.

Love said...

I've noticed that most of these 'clueless' drivers/riders have a HUGE S-T-U-P-I-D sign stuck on their foreheads... you can make it out from the face taht the loser is gonna bump you off the road at any given oppertunity of proving their stupidity...

Shrinivas Krishnamurthy said...

Don't beat yourself up over Incident 2. You had no way of knowing the other bike was going to be there. Predicting that kind of event is never going to be possible. Being paranoid about something like that will swiftly change your riding style to a very demure, extremely defensive one, which you will not enjoy. Just be secure in the knowledge that your instincts and your bike's performance will get you out of it in one piece, worst case- your gear will reduce the road rash.

We've all had these moments, where for a second, the world seems like it is going to end, but I trust my instincts and my bike's handling to get myself out of it. On my rx/zma, I opt to power out of these situations, and it has served me well. On the bull though, I rarely ever get into these situations because I'm usually riding in a pretty leisurely manner.

And drivers texting while driving are not going away anytime soon. So the less trust you put in their judgement/ability, the better. I'd put them on the same rung as Drunk drivers on the "I'm careless/inconsiderate enough to kill myself and everyone else on the road around me" list.

--xh-- said...

"The think I read somewhere was that reality never guarantees that a particular moment in time poses only one hazard." So true.

Once in a while, these kind of reality checks are good - they do help us to keep our instincts sharp, and help us not being complacent.

Sainagakishore Srikantham said...

Driving / riding in the opposite lane seems to be 'in fashion' these days. I've had a good reality check in the past year. I bumped into a Hyundai Getz near a school because he braked too hard. Reason, a guy on a bike with two kids who didn't bother to indicate that he was going to turn.

P.S: I'm NOT a rider, I have a car; But, I used to ride. But I agree with you on the texting-while-you-drive thing.

Carla said...

Nice reminder! I guess we tend to forgot that basic has the same meaning with fundamentals and it could be a fatal flaw.