Friday, January 21, 2011

Comfort, Safety and Other Illusions That Are Bad For You

According to my halfway reliable sources, the temperature when I left the garage Thursday morning was fifty one degrees Fahrenheit. After a couple weeks of temperatures in the thirties, it felt pretty good.

As I was walking in to my office, another gentleman followed me in, and made a comment along the lines of "chilly morning for a ride." I told him that it was actually nice out, all things considered.

He said, "I'm a wuss, I can't ride in this cold weather."

I laughed politely and hurried away, worried I might catch a nasty case of total pansy.

Encountering admitted slaves to comfort freaks me out a bit. You can spot them because their reasons for not doing things can always be distilled down to "I might have to tolerate discomfort, so I'm not going to do that."

Comfort is nice, in moderation, but it shouldn't be the motivation behind every action, nor should it be an excuse for not doing things. Comfort becomes a distraction, and a trap. Looking a little harder, perhaps this need for comfort is actually a thin disguise for a desperate desire for safety. If it isn't comfortable, it might not be safe, and if it's not safe, I'm not doing it seems to be the logic behind this excuse.

Sometimes in our modern life, however, comfort actually masks a very real and very close danger. Consider, if you will, the comfort of the modern automobile. The seats hold the passengers in remarkable comfort, with modern climate control systems ensuring the perfect temperature. They're so quiet inside it becomes unsettling. Luckily, modern automobiles have excellent stereo systems to block out all that silence. Driving a modern car is, in every way, a very comfortable experience.

It's so comfortable, in fact, that it's boring. And it's so comfortable that it's easy to forget that driving is inherently dangerous. People feel safe in their cars, when they're anything but. A lot of people get killed or injured due to automobile crashes. Chances are you've known several people killed in car crashes. But it's easy to forget about all that danger in a modern car. After all, they're comfortable, and the manufacturers are happy to tell you how safe their new cars will keep you.

So we get people falling asleep, texting or talking on their cellphones and otherwise not paying any attention to the fact that they're still supposed to be controlling a ton or two of fast rolling steel.

Maybe if they were a little less comfortable, they might notice driving is anything but safe.

Safety, security, and comfort are all illusions. You can have some safety. You can have some security. You can have some comfort. Sometimes you can briefly have them all at the same time.

But if you're doing anything worthwhile, chances are these states are temporary at best. So embrace discomfort, take safety into your own hands and while you're at it, forget about security because there's no such thing.

But I'm probably just talking crazy.


SonjaM said...

I am with you on this. If you think that's crazy talk, I'll join the club. Although I prefer to ride in fair and not too hot weather, adverse weather conditions are not an issue for me. Like you said: comfy is boring. And being more vulnerable and exposed to nature sharpens your senses, at least that's what I tend to believe.

Gary France said...

I am not sure if others will agree, but I tend to more easily remember my rides in extremes of weather, be that hot or cold, wet or even in snow. I look back at these more fondly than when I was riding in normal comfortable weather and temperatures. Somehow, the more extreme the weather, the more memorable they are and more fun they are to look back on. I prefer not to ride in bad weather, but later, I like it more. Weird huh?

Anyway, pizzas get soggy when wet.

Lady Ridesalot said...

Hmmmm... I've had this argument with my hubby several times over this exact subject.

Over the years, he's ridden many, many more miles than I, has done all the hell rides through torrential rains and froze his nuts in extreme cold. Even though he still enjoys riding... he's become a rider of comfort.

He tells me he doesn't have to prove to anyone that he can do, so he just chooses not to. It's one thing to endure the weather while your on a trip, you usually don't have a choice. As far as just getting out on a Saturday and riding all day? If it's below 45 or 50 degrees... he's not so ripping ready to go riding as much as I still am. (I think turning 50 has something to do with it!) LOL!

Arizona Harley Dude said...

I've ridden in the low teens with 8 feet of snow on the ground, when it was over 120, when it was so windy the bike was leaning at 45 degrees to stay going straight, and when it was raining so hard you couldn't see a foot in front of the bike. Nuts? Probably. For everyone? Not a chance. For me? Perfect. But, now with the soon to be bride it isn't my comfort I have to consider. Oh well, she makes me smile.

Michelle said...
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Mark said...

Great post.

Adventure is so much more fun when you're somewhat prepared. I ran out of gas once and actually had a paper and pen to make a sign that said, "I need gas.". I really felt like the genius I'm not when a landscaper stopped and quickly rectified the situation with his gas can. I paid him double and had a great conversation about motorcycles with him.

Things like this change your self-image from, "Idiot who can't even remember to get gas" to "thoughtful genius with creative ingenuity that can get through anything".