I was riding into work yesterday at the wicked fast pace of 15 mph, when I had two different truck owners scream at me as they drove passed. I can only assume that they were irate that they were forced to slow down to the posted speed limit in order to buzz me as closely as possible and that their lost travel time was going to make both of them late to the birth of their first sons.
If you have cycled on a road recently you know that it is next to impossible to actually hear what people scream at you as they are moving too fast (The Doppler Effect), you are breathing too hard (The Asthma Effect), the wind is whistling too loudly (The Earlobe Effect), and you aren’t paying too much attention (The Zen Effect). I suspect that people that scream out of cars don’t bicycle much themselves or they would realize how ineffective the practice actually is.
This has lead me to a larger reflection on our society where we are apparently all suffering from the delusion that volume makes our ideas better. You can see this practice everywhere from used car tv ads, children begging their parents for things in the stores, and even town hall meetings. Apparently we are all convinced that the reason people fail to agree with us is because they simply can’t hear what we’re saying.
This is perhaps ironic given that it is coming from Yours Truly; a person who’s voice can easily be heard through classroom walls and across athletic fields. My only defense is to say that while I’m very aware of how loud I am and make no apology for it, I am not suffering from the idea that people will agree with me if only I were a little louder. (Mostly because if I were any louder people would suffer permanent hearing loss.)
A most excellent recent example of this can be found in the opposition “rhetoric” (I’m using this term artistically and sincerely apologize to those people who’ve spent hours studying this most excellent form of communication and are insulted by its use here) to the proposed health care reform bill before the Congress. Regardless of your politics on the subject it is my sincere hope that we can all agree that screaming nonsense at people (and inadvertantly spitting on them in the process) might not be the most effective way of making your argument.
But then again, given the number of children walking out of stores clutching candies and the Toy Du Jour perhaps I’m wrong and this is an extremely effective method of getting what you want after all. Only time will tell, I suppose. In the interim, however, when you are passing me on my bicycle please try to content yourself with squeeling tires or simply trying to run me off the road because while I’m sure that you’ve put a lot of thought into what you’re shouting, I simply can’t understand the words that are coming out of your mouth.