Friday 4 September 2009


Scanning. It's one of the things that keeps me alive and in one piece when on my bike. My eyes are constantly moving like the red dot on the first generation Cylons. Side to side, up and down and even the occasional check in the blind spot behind me to see if some speedy bastard is about to overtake.

It's an art, and one practiced by too few of those that step out their front door each morning for a spot of exercise. When riding on a bit of open road like the one below, I'm looking 50-100 metres ahead in order to get plenty of warning from oncoming problems. I'll also take the odd gander at the pedestrians off to the left - just in case they decide to cut across in front of me (amazing how many people change direction suddenly and step in front of large, fast moving cyclists).

Way too many pedestrians though are lucky to be this observant. Most seem to be closely examining a bit of concrete three feet in front of their toes. The ones I hate the most are those that have a baseball cap pulled down low, thus totally restricting their forward vision. No, actually the ones I hate the most are those that have the low slung baseball cap and then top that off with a hoodie that blocks peripheral vision as well. They might as well visit a race track and steal a set of blinkers from a horse.

I even look at the tree tops when I'm riding or walking - I blame my ancient infantry training for that. We were taught to look everywhere - from down at our feet for mines and booby traps up to snipers in the trees. The logical part of my brain knows that there are no snipers in the trees in Five Wog. If anyone is going to start climbing trees and shooting people from a distance, it's me, so there is definitely no risk of incoming from the upper branches. However, the rest of the brain simply over rides the logical part and forces the eyeballs to scan the upper regions of the trees every few seconds. I find it pretty easy to read people, and often seem to know what they are going to do before they do - as in sensing when they are going to stop or start or turn and walk in a different direction. The signals are all there - you just have to watch for them.

I am now also well acquainted with the walking texter. They are easy to spot from behind - they look like a thalidomide baby, in that their arms appear to end at their elbows. That's because both arms are bent upwards at the elbows as they peer at the screen of their phone. Their head will also be bent forward, resulting in them seeing next to nothing of the world in front of them. I am looking forward to the day when the Pyrmont Bridge swings open, and half a dozen text-dazed fools walk off the end of the bridge and into the cold, deep waters of the harbour. Maybe we can add a few sharks just before opening time, just to liven things up.

Anyway, the point about scanning is that you really miss it when it isn't working. I had a few mornings this week when the scanning engine was on the blink. I'd be zipping along, and then notice that I was failing to look up at the horizon for oncoming cars, dogs, buses, aliens and so on. I had to force myself to look around, which is an odd feeling. I have no idea what caused that, as the eyeballs reverted to their natural wandering state after a few days. It was quite bizarre whilst it lasted though. One reason could be that it was so cold, I had tears constantly running from both eyes. I arrived at work a few times with wet tear tracks down each cheek, which were offset by the sweat dripping off my forehead and nose. It's strange to be so hot, yet so cold at the same time.

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