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Car Dancing


This is hard to put “down” simply because I realize that it flings open the door to a room that is not visited by many. I am a person that when it comes to doing certain things that seem to be the proverbial “right” thing to do in a tough circumstance, I will do so without any thought. It is entirely intuitive and I could only not do it by forcefully arguing with myself. That step of arguing with my thought happens when there can still be a choice, but on some issues there is no choice to be made, life for life is a trade you accept in support of the end game that is being laid out by circumstanes. (Does anyone get that? I wrote it a few days ago and I see the path, but I also see that I did not articulate every step on that path, as I run the path and don’t care about individual steps, trusting on my feet to take care of that.)

I have not died yet, which is why putting this down is weird because I only know about my status by living it out. Here are some of the steps I have taken, as I look back.

I learned to drive in Detroit. It was 1969 free to hit the road on 12:01 the day I turned 16. I had been driving with an adult licensee in the car for a month, but I was free after that moment. I had access to a ‘67 Mustang convertible, red with a black top and black interior, 289 two barrel, automatic, standard AM/FM radio. (Later I added an 8 track on a mount under the dash with two 10” speakers tucked into the back seat corners.

I will summarize what I became for you, then maybe give you examples of how I got there. When I drove, in those days and as I drive now if I don’t tell myself not to, every single moment was like a Nascar race. That is what happened on the streets of Detroit in the late ‘60s early ‘70s. I lived there, schooled there, had the basketball Jones there and worked there in the decade of the seventies. I even had a CDL there.

What I learned was that at any moment a dance may develop between 2 or more cars. The Dance could be on a Freeway, a multi lane highway, city street or even a neighborhood as you headed to a commercial street. What I learned on a fundamental level was that you better not enter onto the dance floor unless you were ready to contend with bad behavior. What I also learned is that some time you DO have to be the baddest to get through an event, but other times you merely have to be bad enough to show the steps you are taking are valid. As baddest, you make your move and lead. Sometimes you can show the baddest that you can run even and that is all they need to see. Seriously, in Detroit when you raced then at least half the time you ended up waving to the guy you raced (on the freeway/highway) or even talking to them at the next stop light if it was a city street.

So, I have never wrecked as the result of a dance, but on two occasions the other dancer wrecked. They wrecked because they were either not paying immediate attention, made a bad assumption, or just didn’t realize that my dancing ability was excellent. (In real life I always had good footwork when playing sports, or running from bullies as a kid, and perhaps that footwork analysis was applied by my brain when I Car Danced.)

What brings this all to mind is a recent incident that focused my understanding of my behavior, especially relevant to the behavior of others. Now, to be fair, I have a bumper sticker, square in the middle of my bumper that reads “Detroit Law”, so anyone with that view should begin to realize the paradigm with which they are dealing. Here’s the thing, well one of the things, I have learned: the adrenaline people get from a real or perceived affront to their “right” to a spot on the road sends them right to “fight or flight”. Further, those with a pick up or an SUV assume the “size” of their vehicle and almost always choose to fight, or at least not to step back.

When I am driving, if I size up a tight spot approaching me I will intuitively begin to evaluate alternatives available to me, fast, slow, change lane, etc. The other day it was 10 in the morning so and I was on a one way, two lane, city street with cars parked on both sides. As I came around a blind turn in the left lane, adjacent to what turned out to be an SUV (it had not registered with me except to be in a lane that was not of immediate concern to me) the alternative evaluation started on its own.

A good block ahead was a car moving much slower, no other cars involved. I was already past the nose of the guy next to me and I knew if I goosed it I would go around the car in front of me and back to my lane without stress to him. (Except…) So I goosed it and put my blinker on at the same time, I was committed and had plenty of room for the move, but apparently when he saw my blinker he wanted his lane regardless. He was too late, but he came right up on my bumper because he goosed it anyway. Then he got really stupid thanks to the adrenaline.

Before I could go left he went around me and back in front of me. Since the left lane was still clearly available, I went there. But, oh, he was not done with the adrenaline. He jack knifed in front of me and his door opened. I sized him up, younger, lighter in weight and maybe a little shorter than me. I was out at least as fast as him and walked to meet him face to face. This is what I told him, before he could say a thing, “You made a decision, I made a decision and you made another decision. Are you going to make a third decision right here?” By this time, his brain was registering my body language and realizing it was not SUV v Station Wagon any more. He turned and walked away. In Detroit, back in the day, that would have been the end of it, but on this day I knew I had him and I couldn’t resist adding, “I thought not” as he walked. (Never do that in Detroit, by the way.)

Some day I will be shot, but heck, I am old and that may save some less culpable person from being shot by the same guy. Choosing not to behave in a manner I think appropriate, in the immediate circumstance, is not a page in my book. Most people would have to make a hard choice to act my way and would never make that choice, wondering how people like me do that. (I have three times, at least, faced extreme physical harm to protect someone less empowered than me, on city streets, a parking lot and a park.) Wow, told you it was hard to put down.

Not everyone can be Hemingway
(not even Hemingway)

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