Am I losing my mind? Or just a piece?


BART, my second home

With the help of cold wind, science, and other people’s road rage, I freaked myself out pretty good last night.

Pretty normal Thursday, rock-climbing went well, great conversations with friends old and new, climbed a 5.11D, and finished with a dripping burger and fairly gourmet tater tots. What’s not to like?

Then I took the train back to Oakland, where the wind was sneaking down into the station, chivalrous warning of the chill upstairs, so I stopped, set my backpack on the bench, and dug out my spare shirt. Warmer, I left just ahead of a loud crowd of semi-drunk and fully-young revelers.


Singapore at night

Singapore traffic

That would have been an appropriate time to remember the study I heard about a few years back, about folks mired in that most pestilential of modern traditions: the traffic jam. Specifically, the road ragers. The “I’m gonna beat you” in the daily non-race, and the “Put down your damn phone and pay attention!” and the “How f’ing dare you change lanes in front of me!” etc.

Because rage is aggression is animal adrenaline, designed to aid the muscles in fight or flight, yes? Well, road ragers behind steering wheels have no muscular output (sorry, twitching your calf doesn’t count) so that adrenaline just sits in the blood in the brain, and this study found that it’s corrosive as battery acid in there. Scary thought, n’es pas?


Penis drawing in the snow on a Chicago windshield

Why you gotta take yourself so seriously, car? Chicago gets it.

Well I’m not much of a road rager these days, blessed by the benevolence of not owning a car, and when I do, when another bloomin’ BMW/Prius/white car treats my physical wellbeing with the same respect your cat offers the newspaper you’re reading, I can burn it off with quadriceps femoris, iliopsoas, and sartorius. Feels good. (Especially if there are traffic lights, cuz then I beat them in our little non-race.)

The problem for me is my habit of waking up a couple times a night with a wee blossom of adrenaline accelerating my pulse. No muscular salvation at 3:17 AM, and I worry it’s rotting my brain.


Chicago bicycle speedometer

Not saying bikes can’t enjoy a little speed. Someone in Chicago agrees.

Which is why, when I got home last night to discover that I had somehow, preposterously, just left my pack right there on the bench and walked off, I was kinda freaked out. Another bitty bloom of aggression chemicals.

But I’d be less worried, less condemnatory and castigatory, if someone else were to tell me that story. After all, it seems like something people do. Just not, y’know, me. Other people can be fallible, but I should know better. Pssh. I forgive myself, and there are worse things to be than a space cadet.


Lake Merritt Oakland looking good in the sun, Fairyland

Hey Oakland, how you doin?

Losing my pack wouldn’t have been devastating, since it held my climbing gear, book I’d almost finished, and bike lock, but I admit to a sentimental fondness for the harness and shoes that have given me so much joy over the years. But when I got to BART this morning and found my bag nestled under the attendant’s desk, I was overjoyed. Reunited, and it feels so good.

No one was in the booth at 11:00 last night, which means my bag lay there in plain view overnight. That no one would snoop through it was unlikely, and indeed, someone nicked the carabiner. But the fact that they didn’t throw the rest in the lake, or try to sell it under an overpass for $5, but left it to be returned to me feels like a rather splendid example of kindness.


Oakland across Lake Merritt

I see you over there, Oakland, being all purty

Maybe we’re not such a bad people after all, we denizens of a poorly-reputed parallel metropolis. Or maybe my shoes just stink.

Nah, I’m gonna go with a nice lack of greed and presence of kindness. I’m gonna go with gratitude and optimism. And who knows, maybe they’ll  repair some of the holes in my noggin. May you have a gratitudinous and optimistilicious day! (And take it easy in traffic.)

Oakland Lake Merritt at dusk