Technologies and Cultures of Impersonalities

On a Friday night riding my bike in the Valley to a somewhat formal engagement.

I'm going through a residential area, which tonight has considerable traffic volume. There is probably an average of 2 cars trailing, passing me for each of the 15 blocks I travel. I ride my bike to the side, allowing cars to pass when I feel the build-up of cars. In other words, there is nothing too special about the night, just another night riding my bike, following the traffic laws.

I come to an ordinary residential Stop Intersection intersection that I'd gone through hundreds of times. Stop. Let the two vehicles on my left and my right pass. Behind them are ready and eager cars. Acknowledging that the new and ready cars see me, a bicyclist, I hesitate for a split second and make my move. I pedal.

About 2 or 3 seconds later it looks like some asshole in a white GM sports utility vehicle coming from the right is going to make a right turn without stopping, which would mean I'd crash into him and probably get hurt. The driver of this White GM sports utility appears to be slightly blinded by the ready and eager car to my right. Unsure of whether he sees me or not and if he's just going to proceed with his turn without stopping (or regard for traffic laws), I stop just before I cross the intersection just to make sure.

I can't see anyone's face in the dark, just a bunch of headlights. For his seeming inability to stop and near running into me, I look at his headlights and inadvertently say and express with my lips a slightly delayed, message-sending "WOW", which the driver apparently caught. A split second later, people from the white GM appeared to yell back at me, laugh, and honk.

I pedalled for a block and then of course the white GM truck making the turn was trailing me. They tried to intimidate me off the road by pushing the gas. They honked and yelled again. "Drive-by-yelling", I'll call it.

This mild harrassment not only startled but annoyed the hell out of me. I couldn't do anything about it. Their piece of empowered technology enabled them to make a left turn and zoom off with no deserving consequence waiting for them.

I greatly dislike the ability of people who yell something from moving vehicles, usually cars and from what I can remember mostly pick-up truck drivers (though maybe I have a special hate/motivated memory for those assholes). It's for the lack of a better word, some PUNK-ASS BULLSHIT. They wouldn't yell shit if they were walking or fellow bicyclists.

Say if the GM driver's mode of transportation was modified from horsepower to just horse, I doubt those, young-sounding idiots (I suppose they could've been senior citizens, which actually would significantly sap the energy and introduce a non-seriousness to this post), would feel so empowered to yell so much at bicyclists and pedestrians. I don't imagine people speeding through at 15 MPH in a golf cart yelling at people.

I guess with a car you can not only haul a bunch of cargo, but tons of douchebaggery as well.

Let me try to put the phenomena of drive-by yelling in context.

Without the speed and ensuing impersonality of the car, I'm sure they'd still find ways to be assholes, but with a car, they have a better means to carry out as impersonal an act as they please. Kind of like how killers would probably find ways to kill, but with a gun, they have a better means to carry out as impersonal act as they please. Wonder how far Jared Lee Loughner could've gotten just stabbing people? Or to bring it back here, I just wonder how many less drive-by and gang shootings there would be.

The car and the gun are pieces of technology built on speed, and seem to promote cultures of impersonality. While they provide a connectivity over distances, we can get "lost in them" . Our attention is occupied by our usage of these pieces of technology. When our attention is occupied like that we can said to be "in transit", we are in non-places, disconnected. This saps the connectivity in the moment to our immediate surroundings.

By being in the car or "in" the gun, we build expectations that were going to get from point A to point B fast. So with the car, we expect to move fast. With guns, people expect to get a maiming or even killing done fast. With the car and the gun, we have ourselves "cultures" or ways of life built on things getting done fast. What would make us "whole" for a moment in the wider American cultural context seems to built on getting things accomplished and this is all dependent on the well-functioning of those technologies.

If something gets in the way of our being "in transit", our response is one of shock. They violate our expectations after all. The outward response is then something else. If we do respond outwardly to something that violates our being "in transit", it's curtailed by the constraints of being not only mentally in-transit and the actual speed of our technology. And so what comes out is a quick reaction, one enough to get the attention and shock the disruptor. Getting attention and inducing shock can be achieved in a wide variety of ways --- yell, intimidate, honk, and if you could get away with it...kill.

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