Monday, January 30, 2012

If I were a better person, I'd be sorrier.

A few mornings back the Contraption Captain snorted up some of  his morning coffee.  I looked up.  He informed me that a bicyclist had shot and killed someone.  I looked over and read the story which described a 65 year old bicyclist who gets pulled off his bicycle by three teens who proceed to assault him and then he takes out a handgun and shoots two of them killing one.  I laughed but then felt ashamed for laughing because one person was dead and another in the hospital but then I laughed again and then was sorry again lather rinse repeat.

Teenagers do a lot of stupid things, I know because I was a teenager and I did stupid things.  Decades later I still do stupid things whereas my understanding is that it's more typical to grow out of your stupid phase.  But here it is, even at the height of my stupid powers I never assaulted anyone of any age.  I think we'll credit my parents with raising me to be a non-assaulter of 65 year old humans and call me fortunate.  I assume my daughters will do stupid things as teenagers and like other parents I hope (desperately) that they won't do anything so stupid that it causes lasting harm.

Later that day at work, I showed the story to two friends, both of whom happen to be bicyclists and if it matters, both of whom happen to be better engineers.  One of them (the guy with the Trek Madone that I secretly covet but which I will not assault him to acquire thanks mom and dad) has done a bunch of work in Iraq so we'll work on the assumption that he knows about conflict.  Both were absolutely horrified by the story and entirely unsympathetic to the bicyclist.  They very much disapproved of the bicyclist shooting the teenagers and I was suitably chastened and informed by their higher ground.  The one (Trek Madone guy) said seriously "How can anyone learn anything from this?  He's dead.  No one will not assault a bicyclist because of this."  His words resonated and I really think he's right, there is no lesson for anyone else here, and someone quite young is dead and another badly injured.

I continued to be not entirely sorry despite my best efforts.  I thought about why the story resonated so much and why it was so meaningful to me that this guy, not much younger than my dad (and remember I am older than dirt) had turned the tables on these teenagers.

I liked it because bicyclists are bullied on a near daily basis.  Because as a bicyclist I am out there with my twenty-five or so pounds of bicycle and my ugly helmet and my tiny rear-view mirror and  nothing else.  Because if you want to grab us and pull us down you can and we fall and it hurts and then you can start kicking us.  Because when a car does not "see" us it makes it ok to hit us and kill us and then it's just an "unfortunate accident."  Because of all of this and more, when I heard that three teenagers had pulled a bicyclist down and assaulted him and the bicyclist had taken out a gun and shot two of them?

I wasn't as sorry as I should have been.


  1. None of the actions in this sorry tale were good or right....

    The Bicyclist certainly should not have used a gun...but then one could argue that at 65 there was no way that he could have defended himself against three teenagers, who were intent on causing him serious physical damage.

    The young man who died lost his life as a direct result of actions that he chose to take...and what a waste of a life.

    I wonder - if the 65 year old had not been carrying a gun if he would have died instead.

    This is a story of the stupidity of violence in any form....


  2. Would the outrage or the sorriness be any different if bicycle was removed from equation?

    "senior citizen knocked to the ground and assaulted by youths on a multi-use trail. Man shot youths in defense."

    1. The thought of a bicyclist with a gun is outrageously incongruous to me. We just don't seem a gun-totin' crowd. The thought of a pedestrian with a gun does not seem nearly as unusual. I'm reminded of the scene in the Crocodile Dundee movie when the goons are out shooting kangaroos and Dundee gets behind a kangaroo body and has it point his gun and start shooting. The goons shout something like "ohmigod it has a gun!" and the scene is funny because, well, a kangaroo with a gun?
      But this is not a movie and Trevor is correct about violence being stupid in any form. Any humor from the real situation dies if I imagine the mother getting news of her son.

    2. The thought of a bicyclist with a gun is outrageously incongruous to me.

      It's Pennsylvania. Anyone who doesn't live in Pittsburgh or Philly is pretty much armed 24/7.

    3. Apparently I've been in milk-toast land too long, most of us are un-armed ttbomk. Chafe's Law says that if I carried a gun I'd probably shoot out my own front tire =(