Highly Classified- 01/98


I am always challenged by the beginning of a new school year. Challenged by the never ending influx of fresh young faces, while mine is older and grayer, challenged by the light of brilliant minds, while I’m having having difficulty in remembering my home phone number. Another challenge I have is to revisit the reasons I am here in this place, at this time, and while I’m here, how will I conduct my daily life. 

Yesterday I had an experience that might prove to be a useful analogy.;
I’m on my way in to work, traveling the Dam Road, going from Highway 24 to El Sobrante. I’ve driven this route thousands of times, it has been my twice a day commuter route for fifteen years, it has also become somewhat automatic. I know for instance, that immediately after one particular stoplight that the road narrows to a single lane through the residential area, and that it continues as a “no passing” zone all the way to El Sobrante. Whoever beats out the light will lead all the rest of the cars for miles.;
I’m not that aggressive, but I am very aware that I want to be ahead of any refuse truck, or slow moving, diesel spewing, commute bus. So, this morning I looked over to see that my companion lane was occupied by a motorcyclist. No problem, he’ll be off the line quickly, but I won’t be choking in his wake.;
I did notice that the young man had on a Harley branded helmet, a Harley branded pair of goggles, a Harley branded set of driving gloves, a Harley branded leather jacket, and by the sound, he was sitting upon a brand new Harley. It must have been a package deal. Looking at him, with his blue knit scarf wrapped around his neck, I remembered my first days at the college, when my primary (only) vehicle was a motorcycle. I suppose I envied him just a little.;
The light changed, and as expected, he took off very quickly, while I followed at a respectful distance, as we wound our way through the residential area. It was then that I noticed that his scarf seemed a little too long, and getting longer. As he leaned from corner to corner, the scarf flapped dangerously close to the rear wheel sprockets. He wasn’t too far from being carried off his motorcycle like a child’s toy top. ;
Before I could signal to him about the danger, the residential area ceased, and he accelerated rapidly, leaving me, and my under-powered van, far behind. He was almost out of sight, with his scarf still flapping, and I was left wondering what I would do when I reached the crash scene. A dented, scraped motorcycle, a headless body in Harley leather, and an occupied Harley branded helmet bouncing somewhere in the bushes. I suppose if I wanted, I could pickup a cheap battered motorcycle at his estate sale.;
Something clicked in me, and I just couldn’t let it go. I stomped on the accelerator, and did my best to catch up to him. Now, if you knew my van, you would realized how ridiculous a concept this was. One word to describe my brown beast- gutless. After a few minutes though, I was actually gaining on the cycle. Honking on my horn, waving wildly out my window didn’t seem to have any effect upon him. The only thing I was accomplishing was to give me a front row seat to the future grizzly event. He just continued his morning cruise with his scarf flapping behind.;
We were both doing about 65 miles an hour, fast enough that on the corners I had to use both hands on the wheel, even though I continued hammering on my horn. I think this is when he managed to look back in his mirror and saw this brown van chasing him. He reacted by by speeding up even more. Now I was really in a bind, before, I just knew about the potential of an accident, now, I might even responsible because the faster he went, the longer the scarf became.;
It was a typical morning commute for most people on the Dam Road. Hundreds of cars going from Richmond to Orinda, trying to avoid the jams on Interstate 80. Only this morning there was the spectacle of a horn blaring van, driven by a bearded, wildly waving maniac, chasing an innocent, blue scarf wearing, motorcyclist.;
At least I know that my horn can work for five minutes straight.;
Fools and mad men are protected, and I survived without blowing a tire, or flying off a curve. I finally stopped the motorcycle near the end of the road, where he slowed for some construction. He looked over at me with some defiance, then I pointed to his scarf. He reeled it in, flashed a smile and nodded. Probably thinking that this idiot nearly killed himself over a loose scarf. Then he looked back at me and I signaled to his rear wheel while making circular motions with my hands. He still looked blank, so I grabbed my neck with both hands, squeezed, popped my my eyes and made gurgling noises. At this, his eyes widened, and he looked at his scarf, then his rear wheel. I could tell by the loss of blood in his face that he understood, so I waved, and continued on into work.;
We all have choices, we see problems and we can do nothing, content with picking up pieces. Or we can commit ourselves, with the knowledge that the commitment may not work, yet we still run to the sound of danger. In the process, the whole world might think you crazy, and from their perspective you are. In the end, regardless of the outcome, you must live with your choices.;
It’s a new school year, new students, new staff, new managers, new structure, and lots of changes. We can sit back, confident that we can pick up the pieces if things crash and burn. Or we can get involved. My personal choice is to lay on the horn, what’s yours?