After decades of driving small station wagons over the same city streets, about four years ago your narrator switched to using a bicycle as his primary ride. Perched on the seat of my 30-some-year-old ten-speed, exposed to the elements and staying alert for signs of a physical threat, I began to notice things mostly ignored rattling around town in metal boxes on wheels.
Last year I came upon an accident involving several vehicles. As I negotiated my way around the debris on Floyd Avenue the sobbing of a young woman caught my attention. She was seated at the wheel of one of the wrecks; her hands clutched her face. When I came within a few feet of her mangled vehicle, the sound of despair pouring out of her caught me off-guard; it pierced my practiced detachment. Although I didn't know her, for a few seconds my heart raced as if she was dear to me.
If I'd been in a car I probably wouldn't have seen or heard her. Pedaling away it dawned on me that it had been a long time since I had been that close to a young woman crying inconsolably.
A few days later riding across a small bridge over the expressway, a car nudged me close to the railing and I glanced over at the traffic going by under the bridge. The sense of being up high and close to the drop-off flipped a caution switch in my head.
After a deep breath I enjoyed a private laugh at how much I've changed over the years, with regard to heights. Somewhere in my mid-30s, the daredevil boy who had once climbed the WTVR tower for grins was body-snatched; he was replaced by a nervous bozo quite uncomfortable with heights.
Where we are provides a specific perspective. A high perch can allow us to see more, in a way, but that obscures small details which can mean a lot. An automobile expands our range, but it also seals us off. While time can reveal new truths, the process usually puts a new set of blinders on us, obscuring the old truth.
As the bicycle chain churned smoothly, I wondered if I'll ever get too scared to ride my bike across bridges like that one.