Sometimes my bicycle is a vehicle of escape from tragic events. Others it shields me from knowing about them, for a short time at least.
The DC area has had three events that allowed me to escape scary circumstances. On September 11, 2001 I was working in a government office building in L’Enfant Plaza in Southwest DC. When the decision was made to shut the government down, the entire city emptied out. Or tried to. My wife worked in the same building. She drove. I rode. She spent five hours on the road for what is usually a 30 minute drive home. I was home in about two hours. This was longer than normal because I was not allowed to cross the 14th Street Bridge by a very stern looking police officer. Then I was not allowed to approach the Memorial Bridge near the Lincoln Memorial by another very stern looking police officer. So I rode to the opposite side of the bridge where I did not find a very stern looking police officer and rode over the bridge directly toward the crash site at the Pentagon. I turned south along the Mount Vernon Trail and was making good progress when a very stern looking police officer with a very big firearm told me to cross to the other side of the Parkway. It took about ten minutes to do so because so many cars were zooming away from DC. All the while the plume of smoke from the fire at the Pentagon passed overhead.
When the DC snipers were randomly shooting people, it was creepy to be outside. Riding my bike to and from work seemed sensible. The snipers were staking out stationary targets. Even a slow moving target like a bicyclist is less desirable than a man gassing up his car. My biggest worry was that I’d get a flat. I didn’t.
An earthquake hit DC a few years ago. Once again the government shut down. I had no trouble riding home, avoiding yet another immense traffic jam.
I’ve had two other escapes of a different sort. I don’t have a radio on my bike. So when something tragic happens I don’t know about it. For this reason, I didn’t learn that my friend’s best friend had been killed by a bus until 24 hours later. My wife had heard about the incident on the radio but since she didn’t know the victim there was no reason to tell me about it.
On Friday evening I had an enjoyable ride home. My wife walked in the house and said, “Isn’t it awful about Paris?” I had no idea what she was talking about. The news broke during my ride home.
I am torn between wanting to know what’s going on for my own survival and not wanting to know to avoid sadness. It is a comfort that my bike can help me escape danger. What a shame that it can only old sadness at bay for a short time.