I was driving home after dropping Ark off at the library. Two lane road, and over on the opposite side, riding against the flow, a cyclist on a yellow bike.
No gearing, upright stance, big retro fenders. No real branding or effort to conform to “road” or “mountain”. A K-mart bike.
And the rider, a guy with flip flops, a ball cap, no gloves, in street shorts and a shirt.
And, as mentioned, he’s on the wrong side of the road. A casual cyclist.
To the right side, the Hideaway bar. I’m looking at him, placing him as just the sort of character who lives in a small hipster pad downtown, who works some strange little job (like a frame shop or deli waiter) and who likes the image of peddling over to the Hideaway (where all the downtown bohemians go). Covered my brake and sure enough, he came right across my lane and almost my hood, showing as much control as a seagull.
And into the bar parking lot he goes.
I’m left wondering if writers make better drivers. By writers, I’m talking about honest writers, the one’s who take apart other stories to see how they work, who shake their heads at clever devices others have used, and who know how to string a plot with just enough twists to make it interesting. No, not the Harry Potter wannabe billionaires, the ones who are working on their Great American Novel yet never read anything (except, of course, Harry Potter). No, real writers. Artists.
So, do they drive better?
I’m not sure. I think I do. Actually, I know I do. I’ve had one moving accident (a three mph tap thirty years ago). In the same time, I’ve been rear-ended four times, twice hard enough to replace a bumper. I’ve also been side-impacted by a motorcyclist who had all the cool gear and none of the methodical skill (I saved his life, too, but that’s another story).
So I’m left to wonder if writers (if they still exist by my definition) are better drivers. Do writers see the story behind the story (remember The Man With The Can?). Do we see the ebb and flow of people, their virtues and faults. Do we notice the AnnRomMom in her Escalade and give her wide berth, to the angry guy in the beat up car who looks like a poster boy for repression? Do we look at these people in the cars next to us and see their stories, their hopes and faults and foibles?
Or are we just as distracted with our plot-musings, our self-deadlines, our own little worlds?
Then again, maybe this is because I’m a bike-commuter, and I’m used to spotting dangers before they become spinning wreaths of cartoon pain-stars.
If you don’t notice the drivers around you (or you’ve given more accidents than you’ve received), maybe its time to start looking harder at them. It’s a good exercise – it will let you practice creating characters and perhaps lead to that Great American Novel you’ve been dreaming about. And at the very least, it might spare you hundreds of dollars of repair bills…