Sometimes the disembodied voice of Mandy Patinkin appears in my head to tell me that a word “does not mean what [I] think it means.” (Obviously, I’m talking about Princess Bride Mandy Patinkin, not Criminal Minds Mandy Patinkin, because that would be weird and creepy.) When this happens I pull out my trusty dictionary and look things up:
“Highway Speed” (adj.) – a deceptively misdescriptive term that falsely suggests a momentum that would typically only be encountered on an interstate highway.
“Bloodsport” (noun) – a sport or game where the opponents are legally allowed to draw blood, severely injure, or kill one another as the objective of the sport, especially involving riding a scooter on Henry Avenue on Saturday night.
As Inigo Montoya would say, anyone trying to ride down Henry Avenue at night should “Prepare to die.”
By this point, readers of my blog may have begun to ask themselves whether I purposefully put myself in harm’s way in order to have crap to write about, or whether I simply have a death wish. Neither of these is true. (OK, well, neither of these is completely true.) But, there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this particular kamikaze mission: I was trying to deliver a pizza. Due to an unfortunate miscalculation on my part, I did not appropriately estimate when the sun would set — because of how damn long it took to travel from Center City to Wissahickon to deliver the damn pizza. (I really ought to keep the Farmer’s Almanac in my top case.)
Also, this was my first time on Henry Avenue.
If it hadn’t been my first time on Henry Avenue, I would have known to wear full riding armor and/or have delivered the pizza while driving a tank. There is probably some sort of lesson here about “being prepared” (because you never know when you will be called upon to deliver a pizza that necessitates traveling on a local road that people treat like I-95). I will have to continue to think about that, because heuristic opportunities are valuable.
I grew up in Connecticut, so I know a thing or two about I-95. And one of the things I know is that people drive a hell of a lot faster and more recklessly on Henry Ave than they do on I-95. There’s “highway speed” and then there’s “Henry Avenue speed.”
Yeah, so, anyway, it was dark; I was lost; and I had a couple pizzas bungeed to the bike. And I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts (it was August). If this had been a car commercial, the words “Professional Driver. Closed Course. Do Not Attempt” would have been on the bottom of the screen. But I wasn’t on a closed course, I was traveling around 50 mph on Henry Ave with carbohydrate-rich food lashed to the bike, while SUVs and F-150s rocketed by at mach 3.
As I quietly regretted all the life choices that had gotten me to this particular predicament, and sang the “I don’t wanna die” lyrics from Bohemian Rhapsody over and over and over, I also wondered, “Why the hell is everyone in such a mad rush? Where are they going that is so God-damned important? Are they all trying to deliver pizza within an hour delivery window? It’s Saturday night at 9 P.M. Are they worried about being late for a movie? For a beer? For a blow job? Nothing is worth making life a bloodsport…”
I wanted to slow down, but I feared that might have a greater likelihood of causing an accident. Sometimes when everyone around you is acting insane, it seems like you have no choice but to be insane too. Things were moving so fast that I even overshot the turn off Henry Ave to get to the drop-off address — which had the perverse result of keeping me on Henry Ave even longer as I had to double back for two miles. (There is probably another lesson here that even a stubborn dumbass like me can figure out.)
After I dropped off the pizza, I collected my thoughts and contemplated abandoning the scooter overnight in a parking lot off Henry Ave and trying to find an alternative way home. But then Fate intervened in the form of an enormous Harley with after-market pipes. It’s true when they say that “Loud pipes save lives.” Cars moved out of his way like he was Moses parting the Red Sea. So I got in his wake and followed the Guardian Harley back to the city.
It’s good to be lucky; it’s better to have a Guardian Harley; but it’s best not to be a colossal-fucking-idiot (i.e., don’t be me). When everyone around you is acting insane, slow down, or (perhaps better yet) find yourself a road that isn’t Henry Ave at night.