Bring on the Bubblewrap

The evidence was unmistakable: skid marks veering across the oncoming lane and off the road into a stone wall, orange police paint on the street, and a dark splotch where a man’s life ended at the edge of the pavement. I’d heard that a cyclist had been hit on a road not far from here, but the reality that I was retracing his route exactly 24 hours after his untimely death didn’t hit home for several minutes, until my road-weary brain processed the marks I saw in the street.

Cycling can be dangerous. But so can crossing the street. Driving a car is probably the most life-threatening thing we do on a regular basis, and most of us think nothing of the additional distractions of sipping coffee, playing the radio loudly, or chatting on the phone at the same time. (I believe those drivers have all buzzed me on my bike at one time or another.)

Mountain biking is an alternative to being smeared in the street by a lousy driver, but what if I crash out there in the wilderness and nobody finds me for a few hours or a day?

I hate that our society is so attuned to the possibility, however minescule, that we may get hurt lifting a box or taking the stairs instead of the (safer??) elevator. Life is full of risks — at least I hope to live a life full of risks. The alternative is too depressing to contemplate. So please keep your bubblewrap and silence your overblown concerns that are really excuses to do nothing at all. My bruises will heal, and I’m proud to earn every one of them doing something fun.

Last year, I participated in the Athol River Rat Race, a wild canoe adventure on ice-cold, frothing water. Members of my family were concerned: a man had drowned during the race a year or so before. But I brushed them off. In actuality, if I’d fallen out of my boat I’d probably have fallen into someone else’s boat, because there were THAT many canoes in the competition. In fact, I was probably closer to killing one of the boaters who had no idea how to steer his watercraft (so he continually banged off mine to correct his zig-zagging course) than to being a victim of the cold rushing water.

the River Rat Race was too crowded for the water to be the dangerous part

Several people remind me regularly to wear a helmet. Of course I do when it’s appropriate (always when biking or rollerblading)… but I’ve never worn one canoeing. You never know, I could be killed by a wild paddle stroke to the head — or I could die from drowning because my soaking wet helmet became too heavy for me to swim to the surface.

A week ago I was out jogging with a friend on a gorgeous Sunday. A banging noise greeted us. It was familiar, but didn’t immediately register. Turned out to be a kid shooting baskets. OUTSIDE. It dawned on us that seeing kids playing outside has become so rare in our safety-conscious world that we didn’t recognize the sound of a basketball on the pavement. Quick, we joked, get that kid inside before he hurts himself!

It’s arguably more dangerous to sit on the sidelines (risking the more likely documented health effects of a sedentary lifestyle) than it is to enjoy the physical thrillls of getting out and actually doing stuff. Would the deceased cyclist choose to stay inside somewhere safe rather than risk getting hit from behind by an errant car? We’ll never know. But he was healthy enough at age 74 to be out there, taking that risk. And he was wearing his helmet.


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One Response to “Bring on the Bubblewrap”

  1. Mike Says:

    i hope you don’t mind, i enjoy reading your stories…life is full of risks-at least i hope to live a life full of risks, very well put.

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