Because I left early, I had to scratch for a ride. The retreat organizer arranged one, I'm pleased to say, but the journey did not promote the inner quiet the teachers had in mind.
I rode home with a young lady who had done these retreats before. She did her first one in Tibet, a 10-dayer, she said, and she's done several shorter retreats as refreshers since.
We're not talking about an airhead here. We're talking about a young woman in her mid-twenties I'd say, of at least some seriousmindedness - interested (if not in spiritual pursuits) certainly in the examined life.
We hopped right into her late model, very dirty Volvo sedan. I was afraid almost immediately.
She drove with her phone in her left hand and her instructions on how to reach the retreat site in her right, only dropping the instructions to fool with the radio or CD player.
She lives in metro Denver not far from Tamar's and my place, but she had no idea where we live. East and west were unfamiliar terms. She knew streets near her home but was lost elsewhere. I offered to navigate. She turned me down.
She seldom drove with both hands and full attention. More often she manipulated the phone, studied the instructions and changed radio stations or swapped CDs, concerned that she was choosing music that I'd enjoy.
While she did those things, tasks that were clearly priorities, she did not or could not drive in a straight line. She would veer over the center line or cross the fog line onto the shoulder. Three times she jerked the wheel to center the car on the road, apologizing to me each time.
At one point she said: I guess I shouldn't get into an accident with you in the car, meaning me.
When we reached I-25, she used the left-hand lane primarily, following too close and continuing to look at her phone or radio or CD player. Once or twice, traffic slowed in front of us; she did not notice until we were scarily close to rear-ending the car in front.
I thought of myself on my bicycle or motorcycle, sharing the road with this woman and her like-minded contemporaries, overwhelmingly more intent on selecting the perfect CD than they are on their driving.
They are not troubled by guilt or embarrassment because of their misplaced attention; they're driving just as they always drive - really badly, really dangerously. And they aren't even aware of it. That's the frightening part. They don't know any different.
Often in cars, I feel the inertia, the resistance of the huge vehicle to slow down or stop, especially on busy freeways or on narrow city streets. I suspect that the drivers are not attentive, not exercising due care. Their minds are elsewhere.
But Tamar and I are not in cars often. We walk in the city and ride on the bike paths. We can forget, I'm happy to say, how common incompetence is behind the wheel.
When we cyclists and motorcyclists remind one another to "take care," we may not hear the seriousness behind the phrase. We've got to take care; our neighbors couldn't care less.
Let's be cautious out there, huh?