Commute Diary #2: Music and Road Rage
About a year ago, I was visiting my pal Davey’s bike shop (the recently exploded & then reopened G&O Family Cyclery in Seattle) and impulsively bought a little, waterproof speaker that straps onto my bike’s handlebars.
It immediately changed my daily life. Instead of a tedious, repetitive daily chore, my commute instantly became a solo dance party on wheels. Suddenly, fewer people would pass me in the bike lane. Was I inspired to keep pace with the music, or were they hanging back to rock out to my tunes? Hills seemed less steep, and the familiar sights I passed every day took on new meaning and interest in alignment with the soundtrack.
I also noticed, though, that my music choices majorly affected my experience and how I rode. One day I put on a particular punk album, and rode recklessly and made unsafe choices—that was immediately deleted from my phone. For a while I biked to work listening to the Riot Grrrl bands I’d never explored in the 90s, and would arrive feeling energized, empowered, and all worked up and ready for the day. But eventually, I realized that listening to Bikini Kill, although it spurred me along to great speeds and passionate determination, was also giving me a major case of road rage. Every little clueless, reckless, or thoughtless thing that someone in a car would do would set me cursing; even just driving past and existing on the road at all seemed inexcusable. It was exciting, but not fun, and not how I wanted to interact with the world or feel every day.
So I deleted all the angry music, too.
What did that leave? Well, my friend had just turned me on to her favorite band, Cloud Cult. Sitting in her house and listening to it for the first time, I was skeptical. The lyrics were sentimental and their extreme positivity turned me off to an extent that a therapist could probably have a field day with. The musical style was not one I was used to enjoying. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t relate to it, either, and I am sorry to say that I did judge it a little, despite my best effort not to.
But now it was the only album left on my phone. And the first time I played it on my commute, the difference was amazing. The upbeat tempo worked perfectly to bike to, and the extreme positivity … as well as the active attempt that I had to make to embrace it … gave me a whole new attitude on the road. Someone passed me too close and I grinned. I witnessed a near crash, and went around it, whistling.
Have my musical tastes changed from angry to posi? Absolutely not! I mean… okay. Maybe. Go figure. At least having a music-induced mellow attitude on the road during my commute gives me the time and space I need to have a heart-to-heart with myself over my lifelong musical choices and their connection with my emotional state. All that for only the cost of a bike speaker and a few albums? Priceless.