Saturday, April 14, 2012

Why have civilization if no one is going to be civilized?

So yesterday I am bicycling home from work after having missed two days because of a bad cold.  I'm still not at my best (ah-choo!) but I'm managing and the bicycling helps me to breathe easier, maybe because the exercise served to get the blood moving and to open the alveoli.

I need to take a left so I move over one to the left until I am in a car lane and then I move one more lane over into the car lane on the far left.  Now I'm positioned to get into the left turn lane.  There are cars stuck doing about 18mph behind me but the traffic light is just ahead and hey, it's red.

The seemingly inevitable happens.  A guy in a red Saab forces his way past me, scarily close, pausing to roll down his window and explain why I'm such an asshole and if I continue to defiantly ride my bicycle in the left lane I should die.

Think about it for a minute.  Here I am, a middle-class, middle-aged woman with two kids on a bicycle on her way home from a day at the office.  I've got a cold.  I'm bicycling home from work, where in stark contrast to the financiers of Morgan Stanley, I actually put in an honest day of it that hurt no one and had some practical use to those people that enjoy the internet.  If you met me on the street would you really want to tell me that you think I deserve to be killed?  Really?

Within the next twenty seconds we both arrive at the red light.  I notice that the guy's window is now rolled up tight.  I wish I could say that I took the higher ground.  I look at the driver watching me in his rear view mirror (is he hoping I look contrite?  is he looking for evidence that I am short a chromosome?) and slowly and very deliberately, with eyes wide open, I mouth the words:  FUUUUUUUCK YOUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

Yes, my bad.  That's weak overall but I've been examining my cursing and my favorite "you disgusting little worthless cocksucker!" which I guarantee gives a rude shock to white men of any age...has homophobic connotations.  I like gay people a lot.  They don't need me making their lives any more difficult.  If you have exciting curses for mean drivers please share them in the comments as I am looking to expand my repertoire.

Guy in car's shoulders go up and down in outrage.  He can't look away and the light stays resolutely red.  FUUUUUUUUUCK YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.  A silent message mouthed for his rear view mirror alone.

Light turns green.  Now that his car is safely in forward motion again he returns to gesturing at me.  His gestures say some vague thing as "Why are bicyclists, particularly you, in my way?  Why don't you remember your station in life which is under my wheels."

I learned way better gestures than this one in Massachusetts where (in my day at least) we don't pussy foot around when we don't like the way the traffic is going.  I stabbed my middle finger at him with joyful abandon.  He comes to the next red light, hesitates, and then runs it.  Buh-bye you worthless twat.  Also, your Saab is ugly.  Also I memorized your license plate so don't be surprised if we have more delightful encounters.

Then of course I think about it all as I bicycle the rest of the largely uneventful way home.  I'm (a little) sorry that I responded to uncivilized behavior with uncivilized behavior.  It seems to me like a classic bully conundrum.  Your kid gets beat up on the playground.  The mom says "$bully is merely insecure.  Walk away.  Ignore them.  Make friends even!"  The dad teaches the kid how to throw a good upper cut.

Bullying is an apt comparison.  The cars have the upper hand in every respect:  speed, size, and safety.  If the car had a bad day at the office there is no easier way to vent some frustration than tell a bicyclist that she's doing it wrong.  Some days I put up with this fairly well, I look away and keep bicycling.

Other days I try and punch back.


  1. There really is no happy solution to these kind of drivers. There are as in society good drivers, good people and there are rude, arrogant, abnoctious people who also get behind the wheel of a car and drive. Perhaps at times we are forced to stoop to their level but only in a brief moment so that we are not seen to just be a push over.
    I always regret not coming out with something smarter or a clever put down rather than the usual swear words but by then its all too late and the moment is gone
    I like the idea of using a helmet mounted camera like a growing number of commuters do so that they can capture bad drivers and if an offence be made have better evidence for taking them to court.
    Sometimes we just have to fight back :)

    1. Thanks for this, it cheered me up quite a bit. I am seriously considering the camera. I mean, I couldn't possibly look any dorkier than I do already. Whatever I do in these situations, and I've tried screaming, being silent, and even smiling and waving...turns out wrong.

      But bicycling is always very right. So I go on.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I rarely have this type of encounter but when I do, my inner-French girl assumes control. As you might expect, my inner-French girl knows that this individual is beneath contempt and "baahr-ring". Simone, for that is her name, turns to him, cooling appraising him from behind her sunglasses. She deliverately purses her moist, lipstick covered mouth and blows him a kiss. She then, having lost interest, turns away. Her action has communicated to the asshole a singular message: YOU DON'T MATTER. The asshole by nature lacks sexual confidence, the very issue to which his idiotic behavior reflects. Simone has simply reminded him of his inadequacy. Cruel? Yes. Justified? Absolutely. Fun? Kinda.

    1. I need an inner-French girl. I strive for this kind of behavior but fail at least %50 of the time. My particular weakness - car does something rude/scary in drive-by format. I catch up to the car who had assumed the rudeness was a one-off. I proceed to attempt return of fire.

      I'll work on finding my inner French woman. Certainly my French friend, Mathilde, the ballerina/engineer with impeccable taste...would never show the kind of vulgar behavior I display when I'm upset.

      le sigh.