Tuesday, April 17, 2012

You're mean and loud and that makes me sad.

As I bicycled home today in my ratty tie-die yoga pants and one of my nice work-issued tee-shirt (thanks work, I'd probably be bicycling naked if it weren't for you) ...I tried to get in touch with my inner French woman.  I practised an insouciant smile.  I experimented with significant looks to the left and to the right.  I think I probably presented as more mentally ill than international but Rome wasn't built in a day, right?  Or maybe I should say the Eiffel tower wasn't built in a day.

I navigate the usual number of cars and finally turn onto the Elysian fields of my commute, aka Bicycle Boulevard.  Here the road is wide, the number of cars is small, and the bicyclists are variegated and peaceable.  We're like any other animal, if you put us in a cage that does not have enough room, we develop bad habits and argue with each other.  Here on Bicycle Boulevard the faster bicyclists can pass the slower ones, the mated bicyclists can ride side by side, the children don't need to be on sidewalks and the pretty bicyclists can pause and admire each other.

At the tail end of Bicycle Boulevard I meet up with the Contraption Captain.  We turn our bicycles towards home and with one eye on the traffic we start to sort through our days.  Engineering wins and losses.  The bug he figured out how to solve while still lying in bed this morning.  The persistent problem I finally put to bed on a router in Atlanta. 

The Contraption Captain has the bad cold I had last week and his head hurts so we adopt a slow and gentle pace.  We do not race towards the green light at the top of Sand Hill Road, it's tough to make under the best of circumstances.  Instead we wait at the red, close together in the narrow bike lane that has cars going straight on our left and the right turn lane for cars on our right.  Two more bicyclists pull up behind us.  We're all of us a bit tired and (I think) content and ready to do that last lap home.

I watch as a young man bicyclist on a steel road bike (I kindof like those skinny tubes) heads up the hill fast and strong in the right turn lane and then turns right onto the Alameda.  At the same moment the bicyclist turns and rides away I hear this:

"That's right, run another red light, you dumb prick!"

I look to my left.  In between the two lines of waiting cars is a big fat purple Harley Davidson touring motorcycle ridden by a dumpy looking white man with white hair.

I attempt my "You are beneath contempt, comme la limace gluante" look.  It is definitely not as satisfying as saying "I hate you, you ugly douchebag" but I think it is a good first step on my mission to take the higher more superior ground. 

The light turns green.  Dumpy (the dwarf who did not make the cut in the movie) takes off in a spatter of the wet fart noises typical of motorcycles that lack proper mufflers.  I think about the Dalai Lama.  Here's the message I would project into the air in front of Dumpy if I had the technology.

It's true, you are no longer a young man and it is painful to have grown so old and arthritic, to be so unlovable while feeling so deserving of love.  Your motorcycle, indeed none of your many material possessions have served to ease the dull pain in your heart that might be guilt over how you treated your children but might also be impending cardiac blockages that should get immediate treatment.


Give the motorcycle to a worthy or unworthy person, it does not matter which.  Learn to give away.  Buy a good pair of shoes and a staff.  Begin walking, stopping only to beg for small meals at roadside diners, perhaps in exchange for washing a few dishes.  Learn to forgive yourself for the suffering you have caused others.  Ask for forgiveness.  Listen to the new silence and the answer to "what is important" will come to you at last. 


  1. Nice article at bentrider online on women and cycling. http://www.bentrideronline.com/?p=6945

    1. Thanks for this article, I enjoyed it a lot. I especially like the below bit which I think is 100% true. I think that our bicycling salvation may very well lie with pretty young women pedaling along wearing chic outfits that match their bicycles and elegant maternal units pedaling with adorable children. These bicyclists are just so much more...likeable.

      Alas, I am not one of these nicer more attractive bicyclists..

      "This is not because they are somehow superior beings or better riders, but because seeing a woman say, pedaling in a skirt or pulling a child trailer, gives a different impression to drivers and elicits a different response. Whether rightly or wrongly, people could gradually apprehend that they are sharing the road not just with aggressive (sometimes rude) cyclists racing around in lycra, but with other, fully adult human beings engaged in the same routine duties as they are of going to work, getting groceries, and hauling kids around. That can only be good for all cyclists, including us lycra-clad types."

  2. Chafed,

    It's a nice post. Of course, instead of pondering how to remain calm you could just ponder some motorcycling safety statistics and wonder just how rational the man's choices are: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/it-may-be-fun-but-is-cycling-part-of.html