Lucky to be alive

To the Editor:

“Look, I’m sorry, but I grew up here.” Have you ever heard this sad elitist excuse muttered by an Islander? This is not acceptable. Ownership of this Island does not come just by living here.

This is what was said to me by a man whom I recognized as the owner of an off-Main Street art gallery in Vineyard Haven on Saturday afternoon, as I was face-to-face with him while he sat in his truck and three Tisbury police officers stood there next to me.

I was driving my 150cc motorized scooter, which is registered as a motorcycle and travels up to 65 mph, on State Road leaving Cronig’s. It was a busy early Saturday afternoon with moderate July traffic. As I was driving toward Vineyard Haven, a huge grey F150 Ford truck passed me on a double line speeding into oncoming traffic in a 25 mph zone as the driver leaned on his horn for about five seconds. I was owning the lane as I am permitted to do as a motorcycle. He nearly killed me.

There was no shoulder and nothing but cars. I believe that his intention was to cause me to have an accident. That will show me, right? If I was not an experienced motorcycle driver, I would have been in serious trouble. His truck was at most a foot away from me as he passed. He had to go even faster because cars in the oncoming lane were swiftly approaching and I was traveling at the speed limit. As I continued to drive…in an absolutely stunned and frightened state, a moped rider pulled up next to me in the traffic and asked me if I was okay and said, “That %%!!! tried to kill you!”

I was now right behind this truck and I prayed out loud because I needed help. Just then, he turned into the boat launch parking lot just before the bridge. I turned in too, saw a police officer, stopped my bike and yelled to the officer that I needed help. The two other moped drivers whose lives were threatened pulled up next to me and said, “He tried to kill us too!”

One of the drivers, who was on vacation, remarked that he has driven motorcycles for 15 years and has never seen anything like this in his life. Now, there were four police officers surrounding us. We were asked to explain what happened. We did. I was told by one of the officers that I need to be careful. Thanks. After a useless interaction with the police who talked to me like I was an idiot and that I have to understand that I look like I am on a moped, I became pretty enraged. Did that make me the offender?

When the police asked me if I was waiting for something and why I was still standing there, I said I needed to say something to this driver. I walked over to him in his car. He shrugged his shoulders and cowered saying that he didn’t do anything and he was sorry. He then said, “Look, I grew up here.”

Does growing up here make it okay to drive like a complete dangerous idiot? I don’t care if this Island is named after you. A young man tragically died on this Island a week ago on a moped. That was an accident. What this man did on the road was no accident, and that is terribly sad and depressing to me. I have never had a problem on my bike from tourist drivers. It has always been Islanders, and business owners at that. A taxi driver and owner of a local taxi company was another person who tried very hard to hurt me on the road and teach me a lesson. This letter is not to complain about clueless tourists, as Islanders often do.  It’s to call out people who are supposed to be fellow Islanders looking out for me and wishfully for each other.

I certainly understand the frustration of being behind a line of 10 mopeds when you are trying to get to work. It’s part of the deal here. But what I don’t understand is aggressive driving and passing a motor bike traveling 40-50 mph with traffic. And to you, gallery owner and artist, be a man. Get out of your truck, look into my tear-filled eyes, shake my shaking hand and tell me you’re sorry.

Even though that does not help in the slightest. Don’t shrug your shoulders and lie in front of the police and tell me to understand because you grew up here. Pathetic. You even set yourself up in front of the police saying that I looked like a moped and I was in the middle of the road. I guess the police didn’t pick up on the fact that you contradicted yourself and admitted fault. You had no regard for three lives on the road today. You need Islanders and you need tourists to back your business. And, you need to not be a maniac on the road. Shameful.

Please slow down out there, everyone. Take care of each other. Tourists, Islanders, humans. When the Island is this packed, we are all inches away from an accident. Please, be compassionate and care about each other whether we are on foot, on bikes, mopeds, boats or ordering dinner from a tired waitstaff. I’m very lucky to be alive and not seriously injured.

Griffin Hughes Douglas

Oak Bluffs