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« The Black Racer | Main | The ups and downs of cycling casualties »

Nowhere Man

John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote:

He’s a real nowhere man - Sitting in his nowhere land - Making all his nowhere plans for nobody.

Nowhere Man is the average man of this world, the majority of people who wander aimlessly through life, with no real direction, simply existing day to day. They work boring jobs, and return each night to their boring homes, boring families and friends.

This recession is hitting Nowhere Man hard. His whole identity is centered around his high paying job, and all the material things that it can buy. When he loses his secure job he loses his identity, his only reason to exist.

Our corporate society could not exist without Nowhere Man; not only is he there to do the corporate bidding, but the often crappy products our corporations produce, are in turn sold to Nowhere Man. The whole system is self perpetuating.

What started me off on this train of thought?

I was wondering why the ongoing hatred toward cyclists by other road users. Whenever there is an article somewhere about a proposal to make roads safer for cyclists, the article draws an unbelievable amount of venomous comment and hatred.

Then it occurred to me that this is Nowhere Man speaking

He’s as blind as he can be - Just sees what he wants to see - Nowhere man can you see me at all.

Nowhere Man is not just angry at cyclists, he is angry about every issue you can think of. Immigration, health care reform, taxes, schools, crime; you name it; articles on any of these subjects will bring angry rants, sooner or later.

Nowhere Man is angry because the government is not doing enough; then he is angry because government is intruding too much into his life.

Nowhere Man is fine as long as there is the status quo, as long as he has his boring, but well paid job. He is not really happy but at least he is not quite as angry as when his lifestyle is forced to change.

Nowhere Man cannot and will not change. When he sees a cyclist on the road, he doesn’t get angry just because the cyclist is impeding his way; it goes much deeper than this.

The cyclist represents a change in the status quo. A car driver will sit for 30 seconds or as long as it takes behind another car turning left, but will honk at a cyclist in about 2 seconds. The car turning left is normal; he will do it sooner or later, but the cyclist, in his eyes, has no place there.

He gets angry because here is someone doing something other than just exist. The cyclist is either someone out getting some exercise, doing something for his health and well being; or someone who is riding a bike as transport, to save money, or both.

Nowhere Man will die an early death. The anger and stress he carries inside, coupled with his sedentary lifestyle, will manifest as some disease or other. Hopefully his children will see the error of their parents lifestyle and not become future Nowhere Men.


Reader Comments (19)

The world is full of 'em, sadly.

August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStephen

I work with 2 of them, they also seem to have a preference for Limabaugh and Hannity...

August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEJ

"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation..."

August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHal

"I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it"

-Niccolo Machiavelli

August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThe Greek

Superbly written, Dave. This piece belongs in every newspaper across the land.

August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLouis

Depressed nowhere men. Instead of prescribing meds, physicians should prescribe bicycles. What a difference that would make!

August 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDwight

A little over the top and generalizing perhaps ? There's a perception of cyclists being self-righteous, this is a somewhat reinforcing article. Who are you to judge whether or not people's work/lives are happy/boring ? By applying your own value system to other people ?

I usually enjoy your articles, this one miffed me !

August 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGavin

I’m sorry you didn’t like the piece, but then it is impossible to please everyone. I don’t see that I was being judgmental because I didn’t name specific people or any particular group of people. If I was judgmental, then so too were Lennon and McCartney when they wrote the original lyrics.

I am writing about a certain type of personality that is extremely judgmental of others simply because they happen to be riding a bicycle. And yet, somehow, I cannot comment on this without being labeled as “Judgmental” myself. I find a certain irony in that.

There are losers in this world and there are greedy corporate bastards, there are good and bad in all walks of life. At the top of this page it states that I sometimes comment on “Life in General.” This is what I was doing.

There is an old English saying, “If the cap fits, then wear it.” I was aware when I wrote this that it may offend some, but then I thought it just may make others get off their ass and try to improve their life.

I would be interested to hear other viewpoints on this aspect.

August 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDave Moulton

I thought the piece was nicely done Dave. You are correct about appearing judgemental here. Though I don't run into it very often, I too have wondered about "hatred" of cyclists.
I know there are many reasons for it, just as there are a wide array of emotions that might be perceived as "hatred" when you are confronted with them while cycling.
I believe urban/suburban conditions contribute to a lack of patience with cyclists. I also know that when I get behind the wheel it takes a conscious effort of will to put myself, a rider who gets in @100 miles a week, in the cyclists place. I can imagine how it must be for the soccer mom minvan driver with a car full of kids. OR someone running a little late to an important appointment.
The HTSA in this country used to put out intructional videos for those learning to drive. I recall one piece on "velocitization." The film defined this as the loss of perspective experienced by those who drive on the nations freeways. They fail to perceive how truly fast they are going (say 70mph) when all other traffic is going at that same speed. They drive as if they were in fact going 30-40mph; only a car length or two behind and other symptoms.
My point is that our cars surround us in a metal, leather cocoon. The effect is heightened by music or cell phone use. The world flies by us at xxMPH and we fail to notice its passing. We are insulated from the outside world and by extension from those whose mode of transport is slower. We forget that autos can be 1.5 ton killing machines.

August 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterskylab

I enjoy reading your blog, Dave, but this is one article that I'm not in total agreement with. There's some truth to it, but I think it's important to realize that these so-called "nowhere men" are probably what forms the backbone of our entire civilization. It's the nowhere men who raise the families, and it's the nowhere men who produce the stuff we need and the stuff we buy. It's probably nowhere men who produce the friggin bicycles we ride, at least what's left of actual working human beings in those big bike factories... and there are many who just don't have the time left over after all that to be riding long hours and miles on a bicycle.

When I was young, and the nowhere man song was fresh out from the Beatles, like many young people, I sneered at people like my dad who seemingly were happy just to work themselves to death and enjoy a few beers and watch some ice hockey in the meantime. But, thinking like that is a luxury of adolescence. In the end, we are all nowhere men, and many who aren't are merely stuffed shirts who perhaps own more material possessions.

August 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPierre

There is nothing wrong with being judgmental. We, everyone, is judgmental every day. It is how we all make it through the day. Can I step into the street? Do I like this photo? Is that car going to hang a right in front of me? All day every day. What is interesting to me is that it has become fashionable to be offended when anyone offers an opinion that is not strictly PC. PC is empty.

As long as we are quoting, I like Shakespeare's line form MacBeth. "She doth complain too much, me thinks." When our ire is raised by someone's statement it usually means that the statement hits too close to some part of ourselves that we are trying to deny. Karl Jung described this as Shadow.

Please Dave, keep sharing your opinions.

August 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRedtaildd

Excellent. And thanks for sharing your opinions. This is a great song and I think you nailed down it's essence....and then applied it as you saw fit. Now read the lyrics by Jagger and Richards in their song "Salt Of The Earth".

Keep up the good work.

August 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPhil

I like the comparison between The Beatles lyrics and the people who run our often bizarre society of producing and buying stuff we really don't need. This post kind of loses me though near the end where you start thinking for the nowhere men sitting behind the wheel.

I seriously doubt that even one of them is thinking about their inability to change, their lack of exercise, well-being, saving money, or darn near anything other than the bicyclist as a fly, a gnat, an intrusion on "their" space.

If you put a horse and mount on the road, these same drivers would curse the rider and the horse. If they saw a dog on the freeway, they would curse the dog. Why? Because in their mind, these beings don't belong there. Cars belong on roads. People on sidewalks. Bikes? Bike trails and shoulders. I don't agree with this mentality at all, but it's how automobile drivers see others. In all likelihood, these same people, when dressed in a suit for a corporate meeting, would hold a guy in shorts and a t-shirt in a lower regard.

Any time you change a person's outfit, whether dropping them in a suit, an office, a hunting hat, or an automobile, their self-perception changes. Drop a person into a car, which is literally about 20-40 times the size of their body, and guess what happens? They quickly develop a deep-seeded belief that they have a god-given right to more space. They know they take up more room, and not only does their self-perception change, but so too does others' perception of them.

Rats are afraid of cats, cats are afraid of dogs, dogs are afraid of humans, humans are afraid of bears. Bicyclists are afraid of cars, and drivers know this. It's a simple matter of scale and perception. Whether we are the car driver or the bicyclist, we know that bigger scale presents more threat.

This goes right down to the core of our societal fabric. When a person climbs the corporate ladder, they are regarded differently. Scale effects perception. When they buy into the perception, they create a new reality. They often regard people below them on the ladder with less respect.

A bicyclist is, to a driver, worthy of less stature. We are in the way. We are perceived as being small and weak. We could be brushed aside like a fly with a swat of the hand, a swerve of the car, out of the way, unimportant. A driver cannot do the same to a car in front of them waiting to make a left turn because it's simply not possible.

When I ride the Burke Gilman trail here in Seattle, I see the same kind of relationship between cyclists and walkers. The cyclists think they have more right to the trail. Scale and perception. The walkers are afraid of the bicyclists. The bicyclists curse the 'nowhere men' for being in "their" way.

August 15, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKelly Hobkirk

Hi Dave! Thanks for your post, it certainly made me think!
I live in Europe and the number of cyclists in my city doubles every year. Still there is a lot of conflict but I can see a positive trend. I think it is certainly a false generalisation to identify car drivers as average, aimless, or boring, even if they act arrogantly. Most of them are simply not socialized to co-exist with cyclists on the road. Would they spend a few days in Coppenhagen or Amsterdam, they would be forced to learn how to behave. :-)

August 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterpanrug


I think it was a good post. I included the quote from Thoreau up above because it is not a new phenomenon. If HDT noticed it in 1847, I think it's more likely a trait of people than of cars. The car, like everything else about "modern' society, has become part of the norm. You have to have a car like you have to have a TV like you have to have a computer like you have to have a cell phone like .... Regarding the hostility that I see displayed at cyclists, it's not unique to people in cars, and I don't think it's caused by cars. The cars themselves are just vehicles (no pun intended) by which people can display their hostility. And, people in cars who act hostilely towards people on bikes are just as likely to act that way towards other people in cars. It is reprehensible either way.

Unfortunately, when I ride city streets what I see, as Kelly Hobkirk mentions, is the same attitude and behavior from people who ride bikes as people who drive cars. I see people blow lights and roll through stop signs, I see people who follow to close, who pass to near, who don't signal their intention, etc. I tend to favor the local bike path when I want to ride long distances because I have to stop less than on the city streets, but when it's busy, I might as well be on the local highways for all the care shown by the people on it. Whether it is hostility, arrogance or obliviousness, I don't know. There's an overall a lack of courtesy and respect shown by people to one another these days, and the roadways and pathways are not the only places it is observed.


August 17, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHal Render

Brilliant post Dave. This is about much more than antagonism towards cyclists, Nowhere Man fuels the consumer lifestyle, he is defined by his possessions, brand names, flashy but pointless accessories, working longer hours to get more money to fill his empty life with more "stuff". Nowhere Man is what he has and so can never be satisfied.

August 19, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterlemmiwinks

Excellent post. As to the inability of Nowhere Man to adapt, it's unfortunate and a little scary, but probably true.

August 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTim

I'd say Nowhere Man is fuelled and paralyzed by his/her "Fear of Want"

August 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRobin Smith

I got hit by a guy driving a truck after he felt compelled to give me a lecture about "bicycle safety" for reasons entirely unclear. I might have been impeding completion of his world-changing mission or something equally astounding, I'm not sure.

He might have been a Nowhere Man, but I think mostly he was just a dumbass. Occam's Razor.

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRTChoke
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