Yesterday I was driving Rapunzel to her weekend gymnastics class. Some families have a first kid to go to college but in our family we lean more towards over-educated than first to school. However. Rapunzel is the first in her family to do a split. The rest of us have not been inspired to flex our bodies into a capital T but we enjoy watching her do her thing.
So I am driving along and ahead there is a red light. I stop. This particular road is a lovely bike ride with a very nice bike lane so it is always covered in a generous layer of weekend bicyclists. I like these folks. I think on weekdays they are the car drivers who are more likely to give me a decent amount of room when they pass. So I am sitting at a red light and there are a few bicyclists waiting also and life is pretty calm.
I am looking around. In the other direction cars are of course stopped also and as I watch a bicyclist hauls ass up to the light, his face twisted into a skewed mask of rage. He pulls up next to a minivan. I arch an eyebrow. I can tell this will be interesting. Inside the minivan I see a soccer mom (Sparkle Pony plays soccer, I know a soccer mom when I see one) tuned out mindlessly eating a slice of pizza (jesus christ lady, pizza? It's barely 11am) and then I see Outraged Bicyclist pound on her window while screaming the immortal words:
What the fuck did you think you were doing? WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING! W H A T T H E F U C K !
"I was right" I think to myself smugly. "He's mad."
I can see the woman in the minivan. She glances at the light which resolutely refuses to change. She glances at the bicyclist who is still screaming. I can see the froth bubbling up at the corners of his mouth and the flecks of foam that are starting to dot the glass of her car window. Woman gives bicyclist a blank cow-like look. It is obvious to me that she has no idea why this psychopath is attacking her. She has never seen this guy before in her life.
Which is of course the problem. She did not look and so she did not see the bicyclist a mile or so back. Because of this not seeing she nearly ran him over. In that moment the bicyclist was terrified that he would spend the rest of his life as a quadriplegic being fed Cream of Wheat by his doting but no longer faithful girlfriend. Soccer Mom drove away mildly wondering if there was any more pizza in the box and if eating a last slice would make her fat and meanwhile Bicyclist came after her with his terror converting rapidly into mindless rage.
Now before you car drivers congratulate yourself on never losing your temper Google "road rage" and shut the fuck up. Ok with that done, let's consider losing our tempers, pros and cons. Attentive non-readers may have observed that I came after a big-haired buffoon who came near to taking out my dear husband a week or so back. I am not above using the immense power of my bicycling-enhanced lungs to attempt public humiliation of the automobile class.
Good things about losing your temper and shrieking at the top of your lungs:
1. you go away with the pleasant feeling that you have inflicted a little of the panic/terror that was just recently visited on you.
2. you remind the person in the car that bicyclists are operated by humans with feelings who may take down a license plate numbers if they feel personally threatened.
3. there is a slim chance that the car-driver will wonder why an otherwise ordinary middle-aged mother bicyclist hates him/her and is indicating that she wishes you were dead and cremated.
Bad things about losing your temper and shrieking at the top of your lungs:
1. The driver may get angry and come after you and kill you =(
2. The driver will be confirmed in their opinion that bicyclists are maniacs.
3. The driver will not ever be swayed in their opinion that only cars (who have actual important business to conduct) should be on the road and so the bicyclist just wasted their breath.
What do to do if you are a car being screamed at. Slow down. Say "I am sorry." Say the words with absolute sincerity. Feel free to add "I was lost" or "I should have been more careful" or "I'll do better." This will have an amazingly calming effect on the bicyclist who just had a near death experience. Only if it's true, say something like "I just found out I have cancer and I was distracted." In those instances, the bicyclist will actually apologize to you.
What to do if you are a bicyclist wanting to scream. Remind yourself that you are one of the lucky few, a bicyclist. Cars are to be pitied. Remind yourself that it is pretty common for the drivers of cars to use their vehicles as a weapon. If the driver decides to fire their car at you, a bicyclist, your chances of survival are on par with a person who holds a wooden shield up to a hydrogen bomb.
So in sum, to defuse yourself:
1. be glad you are still alive.
2. feel pity for the jackass who is (a) in a car and (b)a crappy driver who will undoubtedly have many expensive accidents.
3. consider that if the driver gets really angry they may kill you for real this go around.
..and if you must go on the offense?
1. be creative and please please project your voice so that everyone can hear you. move away from classic insults and reach for a personal touch. "Choke on your lipstick you disgusting walrus!" "No wonder your parents put you up for adoption you miserable pinhead!" and "your car is as fucking ugly as you are you worthless whore!"
2. Shout what you would say in person. If they pull over because they couldn't hear you correctly say "I said "You are a disgusting dripping douchebag."
3. be ready to get on the sidewalk if things get hairy.