Luck

Back in the day when something profoundly stupid happened and I did not get a bill from the Reaper folks would say, “That was lucky”, I would cavalierly answer, “No, I’m just that good.”

I wasn’t. I will admit to potentially being good and lucky but in the end fate always plays a part.

Lately I have been taken by a conversation on Adventure Rider about luck. The just of it is this: an accomplished fellow rider ran into a deer and now is a offended that folks are telling him, “You’re lucky that could have been worse.” Which offends him because he made it “not worse” by wearing gear. Which he did. Gear mitigates injury, there is no argument there. Luck is another issue entirely. Ask Larry Grotsky.

This brings us to the idea that a lot of riders look at riding as a science which it is, but what of art? Or luck? Plenty of riders hide behind the idea that they are fully, completely, absolutely in control of their fate. If we do crash we immediately push the blame off onto minivans, elderly drivers, imaginary gravel, dirt or oil…just about anything except ourselves. Heck, the most A-Type control freak will foist the blame off onto something else.

Bulletin to bikers: Shit Happens.

Take the classic left turning, right of way violation. First: you a car turns into your path. Was that luck or your failure to scan or anticipate? Second: you are catapulted off a motorcycle! Did your Leatt style neck brace keep you from dying from flexion or compression of your neck? Nope…was that luck? It is in my world. There are so many variables once you start flying through the air and are in the cold, hard jaws of physics that it is a pretty bold claim to think you’re in control somehow. Yes, you’ve got the gear but physics is a bitch, do you strike your melon first, snapping your neck? Or do land on you shoulder and shatter it Foggy style? Do you stop so suddenly that your heart tears loose in your chest and you bleed out internally like Princess Di? Land wrong and your liver can shatter.

Luck has everything to do with it. You mitigate physics. You work around the laws of motion but riding is such a giant stinking pile of variables that it is pure folly to think you’re in total control of the situation. Think this one over: if you hadn’t lingered and to watch the end of that Victoria’s Secret commercial you might have been three cars past when that minivan decided to make a snap turn. Weird, huh. That’s the stuff philosophy majors study.

Middle aged riders seem to be the ones who hate it the most when you introduce chance into the equation. When he was in school my oldest son worked at a call center for a major satellite TV provider. He came home one break and casually mentioned how much he hated middle aged men. Apparently we don’t listen nor do we take instruction well. He spent hours trying to get guys my age to get past the “I already tried that” and “I think the problem is”. Turns out when you call they have a script that works it way through the most common problems and if you listen and follow instruction, no matter how simple they seem–it will solve the problem. If you try to drive the boat from your home in El Cerrito it’s gonna be a long, long call.

It is tough for mature men to admit “I don’t know” and trust you to solve a problem. We can be as full of bravado as any teenager. Couple that with the knowledge that we have that we don’t bounce as well, or heal as fast, and it is tough to get the sawdust back in once out, it’s no surprise we dislike excluding luck in our riding equations. It’s the joker in the deck. We can plan for it but you never know when, one where, or how it is going to be dealt.

How do you deal with the existential danger that no matter what you do you can get screwed?

I use prayer. And I have a lucky knife I carry. And I always kiss my wife and tell my kids, “I love you.” And I pat my ride like a horse and talk to it. OH, and my wife gave me a bell for each bike.

Bad luck, mojo, juju, call it what you may; but when we ride it is by God’s grace go we.

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