I saw the documentary “Motherload” in September and meant to write a review. I wish I had done it fresh, but I keep thinking about it, so better late than never.
Motherload connected with me on an emotional level. I teared up as it captured on film and described feelings and moments I’ve had biking with my kids that I’ve never heard anyone articulate. People know I’m the crazy guy on the bike with his kids; this film told my story, our story. In this post I’ll remark on a few parts that stuck with me. Here’s the trailer:
Based on what I hear from cyclists in other cities, Ann Arbor drivers are relatively kind toward bikes. But maybe they woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, as I was harassed twice while dropping my kids off on the way to work.
I hate it. Car-to-bike yelling and honking carries the underlying threat that the driver could, if they wanted, kill you instantly and likely not even face repercussions. You’re alive because they tolerate you. By virtue of their speed and windows, they dictate when an exchange will happen, when it starts, and when it’s done.
When I get harassed, my heart starts racing, I second-guess myself, I stop chit-chatting with my kids. If I was harassed more often I’d be discouraged from riding my bike, and it’s undoubtedly keeping others off their bikes now.
None of that is news. But the two incidents this morning provided a useful contrast and left me slightly hopeful.
Driver #1: I was biking up Seventh Street north of Huron with two kids on the back. There’s decent room to pass here and cars often do, as they’re unable to on the previous block. A man in a pickup pulled up alongside me and drove parallel to me while he shouted, “that’s seriously unsafe, bro!” Then, not sure what else to add: “Seriously unsafe!” and sped off.
I didn’t have a snappy comeback, and don’t have one now. Bike safety is more complicated than a soundbite. My kids and I were quiet. They were rattled like I was. To the extent our trips to school are dangerous, it’s because a man like this could kill us. So it’s disconcerting to hear a warning from him.
I’ll just note here that the underlying issue is Ann Arbor’s terrible transportation infrastructure. We should not have to share a lane with this truck. In fact, the city just last year considered installing a bike lane on this stretch, but decided to use the space for storage of private cars instead. Yeah, the guy shouldn’t yell at me, but the City of Ann Arbor takes the assist on this one. I used to get harassed on North Maple Road, now there’s a buffered bike lane there.
Driver #2: having dropped the kids, I headed inbound on Miller toward downtown. The bike lane was pure ice so I took the lane. A Pontiac Vibe laid on the horn as it passed me – then had to step on the brake as the light at Seventh turned red. I pulled up alongside the car and told the driver, “the bike lane was full of ice so I had to drive in the car lane, sorry.” He rolled down his window, fumbling for words: “Sorry. It’s just hard.” Pause. “I get too pissed off, I’m sorry.” I smiled, and told him no worries, we are all trying to get to work. “Have a great day!”
His contrition buoyed my spirits and offset the incident with the truck. He was a normal human: a decent person on foot and an impatient, unkind one behind the wheel. This near-universal transformation applies to me, too, and it’s been widely acknowledged since before this 1950 Goofy clip, where driving a car transforms him from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde:
I was lucky to catch Driver #2 at the light for this moment of redemption. It left me optimistic about the power of people to get past differences, see each other as humans worthy of respect, and come together – once we log off our devices and get out of our cars.
Last night my family dined out at Seva, a stalwart of Ann Arbor’s plant-based restaurant scene. The big kids nibbled quesadillas, I enjoyed the “Veracruz” tostada, and the baby toddler gobbled everything including the crayons. It was a nice treat on a Sunday night. The kids noticed that they were the only children in this upscale restaurant.
I paid in cash. Normally I’d use a credit card, but I’ve grown more concerned about Capital One skimming a several-percent cut of each transaction from local businesses. And I had exact change so we could make a speedier getaway, always good with kids.
The big kids were shocked to see the cash I plunked down (there were a lot of ones, so the fat stack caught their eyes). “How much money did you put in there??” They started counting it. “Wow that is so much money!” The 8-year-old gets $2/week as allowance and it would take her over half a year to pay for this meal.
Correct, kids: it was an expensive dinner. That’s part of why it’s a treat to dine out. We’re lucky we can afford it. But if I had charged it, they wouldn’t have realized this or asked questions.
I didn’t expect to spark a conversation by paying cash. It’s conventional wisdom that paying cash makes cost more salient to a purchasing adult, but I’d not seen it apply so clearly to kids too, who are still learning about money. I realized how my paying by credit card abstracts the cost of goods and services to children. Airplane tickets are expensive, but do my kids know that?
This may be a phenomenon of affluence, to have the luxury of charging everything and having kids blissfully unaware of cost. But for those lucky enough to be in that situation, perhaps paying in cash – especially for things the kids consume – will help them appreciate the value of money and be grateful for their good fortune.
Most TV and movies are trash, whether for adults or kids. The grownup material loads up on mindless violence or sex to compensate for its underlying dullness and unoriginality. Kids media sells stuff. None of this is news.
But twice this fall I’ve bumped into disheartening synergy that I felt merited a lament: the endless recycling of violent grownup-movie cliches had jumped the track into movies for small children. This seems like the worst direction this could go, though maybe not surprising.
Here is my n = 2 of complaints. I’m sure if I had the misfortune of watching such movies in increments of more than 45 seconds I would have more to rant about.