A motorcycle is an intensifier. Everything matters on a motorcycle, and motorcycling makes everything matter. Thus, it’s possible smoking saved my life.
I never cared much about weather reports until I started riding. “Forecast says a little rain on the way to Flagstaff? Who cares? I think there’s an umbrella in the trunk.”
Not so on a bike.
Same thing in regards to traffic while going through green-light intersections. “Maybe there’s a car coming in from the right. Probably not. If I’m wrong, I’ve got seatbelts and airbags and a steel cage around me.”
Not so on a bike.
In the same way that riding forces one to take such things far more seriously — demanding an engagement with one’s surroundings that non-riders can’t understand — I need to tell you: Had I not been a smoker probably I would not be here to write this.
My post yesterday on the time machine got me thinking: If I could go back in time to about 1995 when I had just started working in IT and had found that the brightest guys (and gals) were hard-core smokers who would talk though the particulars of IP subnetting and disk partitioning under JFS with anyone who’d stand around with them during smoke-breaks, would I have done anything differently?
Smoking helped my career back then, or so I thought. I had smoker-friends at work. It was a real community of addicts. We got things done. We stood up for each other. It led me down some interesting though questionable paths, as such things do.
If I hadn’t smoked I likely wouldn’t have married the the way I did the first time, nor the second. Both of them were fellow addicts, and both remain so. (Though actually, I was enough of an emotional wreck that I probably would have married other wrong people who just happened to not be smokers.)
Given the choice, would I have done something to avert the next twelve or so years of paying five bucks a day to suck on a death-stick while surrounding myself with others who did the same?
At first, I thought “Why, but of course! Yes!”
Then I remembered all those years when I would stop for gas on long-distance motorcycle rides through the Rockies and smoke ’em before saddling back up on the way to Rawlins or Durango.
It used to drive my riding buddy crazy. He was anxious, like squirrel! He wanted to get back to riding, and quickly. I took my time. Puff-puff.
If I took smoking out of the equation that was my life back then, I wouldn’t have had as much of a reason to take my time. And there were so many instances where only a few seconds (hell, a split-second) meant the difference between arriving safely and arriving in a bag.
So yes, motorcycles are intensifiers. But then life itself is intense. No matter who you are, it better be intense for you, or else you are doing it wrong.
The more I thought about it the more I realized that given my time-machine scenario, there is really nothing I could just go back and change — by itself. There could be no cherry-picking. Anything I changed — any stupid decision that I would have reversed, any opportunity I wished I had taken, any bad habit I wished I had corrected — might mean that I would not be here today. It’s possible that smoking saved my life.