SUVs, Thugs, and Bicycles

About 25 years ago, I first opined that internal combustion engine vehicles have a way of turning otherwise decent human beings into monsters.

An otherwise docile little librarian gets behind the wheel, and because she’s got 100 or more or more horsepower at her beckon call, just by tapping her foot, she feels like she’s the equal of the grimiest wrestling smack-down brute. “Get out of my way, sucker! I’ll blow your doors off!”

Now, I’m convinced that the Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) is that same contraption–which pollutes the air, crowds the streets and lanes, and kills tens of thousands of Americans on the roads every year–on steroids. And while there’s no putting the “horseless carriage genie” back into his bottle, most of us have not yet even recognized that our laziness, and daily motoring habits, are helping us dig our own graves.

Despite the TV commercials in which smiling motorists navigate winding mountain roads or remote trails in some lush rain forest, 99.99 percent of the owners of those oversized monstrosities, don’t drive any farther than home, to work, to school, to the fast-food drive-in, to the gas station, to home again! All of that big engine, big high view of the road, and big budget expense counts for nothing more than a vain image of superiority in the mind of the motorist.

Now that gasoline is already averaging $4.00 per gallon, sure to reach $6.00 per gallon by the end of the summer, and will be knocking at the door of $10.00 per gallon by the end of Barack Obama’s first 100 days as President, those who can afford to do so are trading those gas-guzzling SUVs for more economical vehicles.

But not everybody… (After I completed this article, by coincidence I was forwarded this YouTube link, which bears witness to the remainder of this reminder.)

Now enter your typical urban “Thug:” a usually unemployed, violence-prone, school drop-out, who cannot even fill the tank of that monster truck he’s driving without getting money from a girlfriend (who’s likely to be single-handedly rearing his child or children); from a parent (usually his mother); by violently or otherwise unlawfully taking money from an employed person; or by engaging in some other proscribed behavior.

So, here comes your Thug, who just got $10 worth of regular (just enough to get him to the strip club, then back to his Baby Mama’s apartment). He certainly can’t afford a newer, more economical vehicle. Besides, what Thug worth his Grille would want to be seen in a lame economical vehicle? Dude’s got his radio blasting profane lyrics, and bad thoughts on his mind.

Now, here I come, on a bicycle. It’s Sunday afternoon, at an inner-city red light. I’m in the curb lane. I hear the thunder, move out of the way so Homeboy can make his right turn on red. The driver stops. He leans out the window and tells me to get my “M-F” bicycle off the street.

I ignore him.

He continues his rant.

Finally, I tell him: “Drive on mister. Go on about your business.”

The light turns green. Instead of turning right, Dude speeds ahead, cutting in front of the traffic in the left through lanes, just before his vehicle reaches the parked cars across the street.

Sadly, as I proceed along the street, thinking that individuals like him don’t appreciate that people like me are part of the ANSWER to his (and the rest of the country’s and the world’s) real problems with oil consumption, fossil fuel consumption, air pollution, global warming, and un-winnable wars for domination of oil-rich countries, a little boy no more than six-years-old–a future thug, who’s riding a kick-scooter–shouts at me as I ride by: “I can take you out!” he yells.

Unless something extraordinary intervenes in that child’s life, I think, he may not even grow old enough to drive an SUV, and curse out a middle-aged guy on a bicycle.

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