Ivan Petrovich Pavlov was an experimental neurologist (among other smart guy stuff) who discovered what’s called classical conditioning, basically the association through repetition of a stimulus with a predictable reflex response. Pavlov rang a bell, then fed his dogs. Eventually, the dogs salivated when they heard the bell, regardless of the presence of food. This strikes us now as ‘well-duh’ science, but in the earliest part of the 20th century this was groundbreaking. Pavlov won the Nobel prize in 1904.
Even as I’m typing these words my computer has made a chiming sound to tell me I have a meeting in 15 minutes. I use very few alerts on my phone and laptop, because I find them annoying, but as a person with some level of ADD, I must concede that some of them are useful. I’ve missed this meeting before, because I was lost in some piece of writing or a daydream. At the same time, my ADD is exacerbated by the constant interruption of my focus, every device in the house calling for my attention, not to mention the dog staring intently at me, wanting to go out.
Following on from yesterday’s Useless Review of Half-Wheeling, I become increasingly aware of how conditioned I am to all sorts of external prompts. Like when a friend (?) is half-wheeling me and without thinking I speed up to match them, only becoming aware I am being half-wheeled when the stimulus repeats itself enough to shake me from my reverie, reminding me why I don’t ride with this friend very much.
I almost never ride with a device mounted on my bars for this reason as well. Information intrudes, always in the guise of helpfulness, but seldom helping me very much. I have enough trouble staying upright and moving forward. If I need routing help, that’s cool, but don’t even get me started on my Garmin Virtual Partner.
And then, of course, because I do the work that I do, the Internet is constantly bombarding me with bike s&%*, because it’s on sale, or because it exists or whatever. And because I am who I am, I click on it, which you should never do, because the Internet is never not gathering information on you, worming its way into your subconscious, creating a bike-shaped space between you and your hard-earned savings. I know better, but sometimes I’m halfway there before I even know I’m going.
Riding bikes is an exercise in freedom for me. When the rest of life gets heavy, I throw off the load and set out on two-wheels. Responsibilities, expectations, the dinging, beeping, buzzing madness, all of it left summarily behind. I don’t want to be made to salivate, to respond constantly. I want to carry myself away, steering in whatever direction I choose, a dog off-leash, harrying the squirrels and marking the shrubbery. Pavlov set us on this path, a genius and a devil, both.
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