I always liked the phrase "an exercise in futility," which is why I chose it as the name of this blog. As a bit of a history buff, I have noticed that the history of humanity is filled with exercises in futility. By that, I don't mean, as Christians often claim of atheists, that our lives are pointless. Life has whatever meaning we choose to give it. What I am referring to are great enterprises that are undertaken which often end up failing utterly in spite of the tremendous amounts of time, manpower, resources or expenditures expended to carry them out. Two big examples of this are the Great Wall of China and the Maginot Line. Both of these projects were conceived as impregnable defensive barriers to keep out enemies, which were barbarian tribes in the case of China and a resurgent Germany under Hitler for the French. In both cases, these defensive systems completely failed to achieve their purpose.
As for myself, today I experienced what could be described as an exercise in futility, pun included as it turns out. To put things in context, this coming weekend we will be having a birthday party for my son. Now, my boy, who will be turning six, is a big Spiderman fan, so of course his cake must have a Spiderman theme.
Yesterday, I drove to a Friendly's a couple of miles away on Jericho Turnpike in Syosset to see if I could order a Spiderman cake. To my disappointment, they did not offer Spiderman themed cakes and the man who appeared to be the shift manager candidly confessed to me that he did not believe that any of the restaurant's employees were skilled enough to custom make one. He recommended that I go to the Carvel's about a mile east on Jericho Turnpike. So, with my son in tow, I drove to the Carvel's to try my luck. When I got there, the only person on staff at the moment was a teenage boy who told me that they did not have any Spiderman themed cakes either. However, he offered that if I could provide an image of Spiderman, even a napkin, then they could create an edible design based on that image and put it on the cake.
I was very encouraged by this, as later in the day I was planning to go to this party store I knew of in Levittown, where I was going to buy the Spiderman plates, napkins, cups and other knick knacks for the party. After I had purchased these items, I remembered that another Carvel had reopened on Old Country Road in Plainview which is much closer to my house. I thought to myself, why bother driving back to the Carvel's in Syosset, given the price of gas, when tomorrow morning I can ride on my bicycle to the one in Plainview? I would be helping, however minutely, to lessen the demand for oil and to cut back on pollution.
So, this morning, I made ready to ride on my bike to the Carvel's on Old Country Road. But as I mounted my bicycle, which I had not ridden since last autumn, I realized that the tires were badly deflated and were in need of air. I knew that a nearby gas station had an air pump where I could fill the tires, so I decided to ride there first. A few minutes later, I was stopped at the southwest corner of the intersection of Woodbury Road and South Oyster Bay Road, waiting for the traffic light to turn red for the cross traffic on Woodbury Road, so I could make my way across to the gas station on the north side.
I looked up at the traffic light and saw it cycle from green to yellow and then to red. A car came to a stop in the left hand lane of the eastbound side of Woodbury Road. Feeling sufficiently safe, I started to move out onto the right lane at the stop lane. Instinctively, as I began to move off the sidewalk onto the street, I glanced to my left and saw to my shock and horror a car rapidly approaching in the right lane that was not slowing down.*** I immediately stopped and watched as the car sped past me and the traffic light, which had been red for several seconds, and contined eastward across the intersection.
"What the fuck is the matter with you!" I shouted at the top of my lungs at the woman driving the car, who based on my glimpse appeared to be in her late 30's, around my age. I then looked at the passengers in the car that had stopped in the left lane for the light. They were an elderly couple, with the lady being the passenger. They both had a shocked expression on their faces and they expressed their solidarity with me by shaking their heads in disapproval at the car they had also witnessed blow through the red light. "I'm sorry about the use of profane language!" I called out to them, but I don't think they heard me.
I then turned my attention back to the car driven by the thoughtless bitch who could have killed me had I not looked before fully committing myself to crossing the road. I watched as she drove a little further east on Woodbury Road and then turned right into the parking lot of the Woodbury Plaza shopping center on the east side of South Oyster Bay Road.
"I can't let this go," I thought to myself and resolved to confront her. I turned my bike around and alternated between watching her car and looking out for a window of opportunity to open up amidst the cars that were driving back and forth on South Oyster Bay Road.
I finally caught my break and made my way across the road, over the sidewalk and into the parking lot of Woodbury Plaza. By this time, the lady had parked her car and was walking towards the stores. She was heading for the entrance of the toy store. "That's nice!" I thought, "this stupid fuck blew through a red light and nearly hit me to go a toy store!"
I saw that I would not be able to close the distance between us before she made it inside the toy store, so just before she set foot on the curb, I called out "Hey lady, don't you know what traffic lights are for?" or something along those lines. She turned around to face me, from about fifty yards away, and said "I'm sorry! I'm really sorry!" Her tone, to my surprise, seemed genuinely remorseful. If there is one thing I really hate, it is when people who are called out in situations like that get all defensive and have an attitude. I can't remember what I said back to her. I think I told her to be more careful from now on. My tone was not hostile but rather like that of a moral lecturer. She repeated that she was sorry and I decided to leave it at that and continued on again to the gas station.
Anyway, back to the story at hand. After filling my tires with air, I rode to the Carvel's on Old Country Road and started explaining to the lady behind the counter what I had in mind. I showed her the Spiderman napkin I had and explained to her what I was told at the Syosset Carvel's. "Oh, I'm sorry, but we don't have the capability yet to do that here," she informed me. I felt tremendously disappointed. I came close to getting hit by a car ignoring a traffic signal on my way to fill my bike tires with air, and then the whole raison d'etre for doing so, to order a Spiderman cake for my son from a Carvel's that was within bike riding distance of my house, ended up not being possible. My noble intentions, to help cut down on gasoline usage and pollution, were thwarted. I would have to drive my car back to the Carvel's in Syosset to order the cake anyway. As I rode my bicycle back home, I managed to console myself that at the very least I did get some much needed exercise.
*** By the way, this is the same intersection I complained about to the police officer I blogged about in my Public Enemy post who ticketed me because he claimed I had made a right turn on red.