Liz Ray has Mad Throttle

Getting rear-ended and other misadventures...

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I love DMVWhen I wanted to get a bigger scooter (i.e., a bike without a clutch), I had to get an M-Class license (i.e., prove that I can ride a machine with a clutch).  Kinda like how we require drivers who want a bigger car to first get their pilot’s license (oh, wait, no we don’t)…

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Don’t Touch My Stuff

keep-calm-and-don-t-vandalizeSome people are decent human beings with values that comport with generally accepted notions of agreed-upon morality.  Some others are Cowboys fans.  But the darkest and most deranged among us — those most irretrievably disturbed in society’s eyes — vandalize scooters.

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If You Can’t Have It Right Now, Wait Dammit!

PatienceThe ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said some stuff about patience.  It was deep.  But the modern American philosopher Axl Rose was more direct: “Sometimes I get so tense but I can’t speed up the time.”  This sentiment is true for 1980s GNR power ballads, and it also is true for driving.  It is particularly true if you are driving a large SUV while a bunch of people on scooters and motorcycles are heading down the road for Christmas-themed rides…

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Say It With Hummus

hummusThere are certain things that I expect to see in a hospital gift shop.  Books, cards, flowers — the tried and true things that tell a patient, “Hey, here’s a little something for you to stare at while you’re needled, medicated, and feel like crap.”  But for the unconventional, you can apparently also say these things with hummus… Continue reading


schadenfreude_mints‘Tis the season to scoot about town for Christmas shopping (or just buying things that are on sale for yourself).  And today’s edition of Mad Throttle brings you the cautionary tale of That Guy.

You don’t want to be That Guy.  I met – or I should say encountered – or, really, I should say saw and marveled (in a bad way) at That Guy – while I was trying to buy legwarmers on sale at Century 21.  Legwarmers are on the second floor at Century 21, and since stairs no longer exist in any public place, that meant that anyone who wanted to get to the second floor (whether to purchase legwarmers or for any other reason) had to negotiate the escalator.

Escalators typically aren’t that challenging to negotiate.  Even a novice can grasp the concept of walking up to the kinetic staircase, placing a foot on one of the moving steps, and then effortlessly ascending to one’s destination.  (This is why escalators don’t come with instructions.  Even regular people can figure them out, just by looking at them.)  Varsity-level players may up their escalator game by walking up the stairs during their automated ascent to heaven.

But then there’s people like That Guy.  Alas, poor That Guy.  I knew him well, Horatio. (Shit, wait, wrong rant.)

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Yes, But, Are They Poisonous?

carrot-top-hiA few weekends ago, I rode my scooter to a farmers market. My goal was to enjoy a peaceful shopping experience on a sunny afternoon, support local agriculture by purchasing usuriously priced produce, and get some root vegetables.

Sometimes people call me a churlish misanthrope.  I promptly correct these people by pointing out that I don’t actually hate everyone — just idiots, morons, and dullards.  And that it’s not really my fault that they are not in short supply and — in fact — the world seems to have been completely overrun with them.

Some people then go on to tell me that I violate the social contract, because I have the audacity to say what I’m thinking.  Polite society — I am told (since I let my membership lapse long ago) — is predicated on a bunch of people running around and lying to a bunch of other people about what they’re actually thinking, then going home and resenting the fact that they can’t actually say what they’re actually thinking.  Seems like an awful lot of effort and subterfuge.

My way is easier, and frankly, more entertaining. (At least to me, which is what matters most to me.)

But what does my egocentrism and condemnation of the social contract have to do with root vegetables?


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The Illusion of Control

Philosophically, it is disconcerting to think that we are all helpless apes sitting on a rock, flying around a star at 18.5 miles per second.  But for the vagaries of gravity — something we don’t even fully understand — centrifugal force would shear us off the planet and send us careening into the vacuum of space.  Clinging to our rock, we fare little better in day-to-day life, where the chaotic vicissitudes of countless random events conspire to determine where we work, who our friends are, and whether the beer we really wanted just kicked.  Desperate to believe that we wield a modicum of control over the Nietzscheian parade of the nihilistic happenstance of the everyday, we attempt to impose order on the ungovernable — groping about for some weapon to battle the cosmic maelstrom of purposelessness.

Against this absurd incoherence, we impotently put forth: Stop Signs.

Stop Signs: A Feel-Good Charade:

Since we cannot rely on common sense, common decency, or a general desire for self-preservation to entice drivers to slow down or stop at the perpendicular intersection of paths of opposing traffic, we place our faith in Stop Signs.

(Based on anecdotal experience, our faith is misplaced…)

These small red octagons serve as quaint reminders of a bygone era when people were willing to compromise their egocentricity long enough to see whether it was safe to continue ahead without seriously maiming or killing someone.  Now, with the social contract essentially null and void, many people (I call them “assholes”) refuse to bend their will to the imperial dictates of a polygon.

Interestingly, Stop Signs (as I have learned from the Internet, in which we should all place absolute trust) are octagonal to make it easier for drivers traveling from the opposite direction to recognize the sign from the back.  Since people rarely stop  when they encounter the sign head-on from the front, it is  not immediately clear why being able to  recognize the ass-end of the sign should matter.

Given their limited-to-non-existent stopping power,  we must ask ourselves the obvious question: Why Then Do Stop Signs Exist?

Some Other Reasons For Stop Signs:

1.  Good Mental Health:  Some psychologists have argued that positive illusions, including the Illusion of Control, foster mental health.  As humans we like to believe — and are happier when we can believe — that the things we do somehow have some effect on various outcomes in our lives, i.e., that things we do provide an Illusion of Control.  (If we eat kale, we won’t die of cancer tomorrow.  If we are nice to people, they will be nice to us.  If we install a Stop Sign over there, someone someday might pause before barreling through the intersection.  None of these things is true, of course, but it makes us feel better to think they might be true.  Like Fox Moulder, we want to believe.)  Traffic engineers lack state licensing credentials to administer prescription anti-depressants, but perhaps Stop Signs are the next best thing.

2.  Euclidian  Equal Rights:  With the exception of Stop Signs, octagons are an underutilized and underappreciated polygon.  You have to admit that triangles and squares have cornered the polygon market.  Pagans and the U.S. Military have enshrouded all the five-sided stuff.  Bees and Allen wrenches took hexagons.  Without Stop Signs, octagons would be relegated to abject disutility — little more than the ugly step-child to septagons, which (to the best of my knowledge) have no earthly purpose.

3. International Law: In 1968, a group of people (who I can only assume were bored idealistic hippies) gathered for the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals — (yes, this is a thing) — which standardized international specifications for Stop Signs.  (Because facilitating the ability to run Stop Signs across various nation states is a noble undertaking.)  Not much was happening in world history in the late sixties, so it made sense to take a step back from the hurley-burley of geo-politics and focus on things that really matter (like uniform traffic signage).  The 1968 Vienna Convention (really a thing, I swear) “revised and substantially extended” the 1949 Geneva Protocol on Road Signs and Signals.  One can only begin to fathom the awesome advancements in traffic sign technology that had occurred in the intervening decades.  Obviously, Truman-era Stop Signs must have been woefully inadequate by 1968.

With the semicentennial anniversary of the 1968 Convention just around the corner, now is the time to petition the UN to once again focus on this key issue.  (Who knows, a uniform standard for septagonal signs may usher in a bold new era in deceleration communication — or at least get opposing traffic to stop long enough for me to scoot through an intersection.)



The Night of the Road Cone

Sometimes Life throws the Unexpected at you.  By “Life,” I’m referring to juvenile delinquents on bicycles in North Philadelphia.  And by the “Unexpected,” I mean 28-inch, 10-pound road cones.

Periodically, Life aims for your head…

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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.”

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Don’t Get Them Wet…

“Don’t get them wet.”  This is good advice for gremlins, anything made of suede, and streets — which, in Philadelphia, are a lot like gremlins.  Relatively innocuous when dry, but expose them to water and they transform into malevolent little psychopaths with hearts of pure evil.

(I didn’t intend to ride to work in the rain this morning, but I naively believed that the “20% chance of a light shower” that had been predicted meant that it actually might not rain.  Now I know the language is meteorology-speak for “heavy rain is certain; best to stay home.”)

Shielded from the elements and stably set on four wheels, cars are generally impervious to the nightmarish rain-induced terrors that charge at bikers like a pack of mentally unstable wolverines.  The most challenging obstacle that a car faces in the rain is squeaky windshield wipers.  While those can be pretty annoying, I’m unaware of any that resulted in death.  And a PubMed search for “squeaky windshield wipers” and “excess all-cause mortality” yielded no relevant hits.  (It does not get more scientific than that.  Sir Francis Bacon would be proud.)

Since motorcycles and scooters don’t have windshield wipers, we are spared any related hazards (even if they existed).  On the other hand, we do face a litany of other hardships…

Leaves, for example.  So idyllic in their rustic autumn tones — they’re great when dry and they know their place: Staying the hell up on trees.  But moisten the little bastards and put ’em on the road, and they want only one thing:  Death.  Deciduous trees are, quite simply, a bad idea.

And a wet manhole cover may as well be a pressure-activated, anti-personnel land mine.  ATF should regulate the damn things.

Even the deceptively innocent crosswalk is out for blood and maiming once that paint is wet.  Who knew that the main ingredients in road paint are hydraulic machine oil and Astroglide?  In winter, we put salt on the roads to make them less slippery if snows.  Why are we OK marking pedestrian areas with stuff that turns the street into an Olympic luge track?

The solution here is obvious: I should install a flame-thrower on the front of my bike — you know, to dry out the road ahead.  (It should nicely balance the mini-gun that I’m planning for the back to ward off tail-gaters.)  Unfortunately, my attempts to acquire a flame-thrower from standard sources (i.e., Amazon, ebay, Craigslist) have not been successful.

It seems ATF has figured out how to regulate those.  (Dammit.)

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