Thursday, June 28, 2012

Don't tread on me.

Monday I stayed home sick, it was a day two of a migraine thing where a sizeable part of the problem is that I'm just so so tired out from illing.  After slumping around for much of the morning and improving a little I got lonely and decided to bicycle out to meet the Contraption Captain for lunch.  Was he available?  Yes.  Check.  Good.  I'm on my way.

Bicycle lanes in my area generally run nonchalantly along on the right side of the road.  There are a few exceptions.  In some cases, a bicycle lane will turn to a dashed line as it encourages you over to the other side of the road where the lane continues.  Weird but true.  More commonly the bicycle lane will disappear into a right turn lane and reappear in the middle of the road as a bicycle lane for people going straight.  All of these situations have a common point:  the bicyclist must traverse the car lane to return to the bicycle lane.  We do this (surprise) by signalling and then crossing over to our lane when it is safe.

You would not think this would be such a big deal.  The bicyclist is not travelling in the car lane, they are just moving from a bicycle lane that is disappearing to the replacement bicycle lane in the middle part of the road.  We don't stop traffic so much as request a short yield.  And mostly it is not a big deal.  Frequent car commuters know these bicycle crossing spots as well as the bicyclists themselves, they slow down almost without thinking and the bicyclist hurries in front of them and then the car continues on it's way.  VoilĂ .  Easy. 

Mostly easy.

So Monday my bicycle is portaging me, my migraine headache, and my medications for the migraine (that I ate so these are inside me making me a little jittery) up the bicycle lane.  There is little traffic.  I am remembering a book of Greek myths where Gaia is described as falling in love with the sky and I am thinking it would be easy to fall in love with the California sky, that perhaps I am already a little in love with it's soulful blue expanse. 

The California sky has the quality of a lover because it is always beautiful, and because it may look the same to someone else who is not in love but to you, who love the sky, it is full of endless and miraculous variation.  In other words, I am minding my own business and hurting no one.

Also I am watching the traffic.  I need to cross from the bike lane on the far right to the bicycle lane in the middle, as I am going straight and the bike lane vanishes into a right hand turn.  Ahead the light is red so no one is in a rush.  I stick out my arm and signal that I wish to cross the car lane.  Behind me there is a shiny black BMW SUV.  I watch it attentively.  It is not precisely slowing down but it is not speeding up either.  I can't be sure that it is really going to let me cross.  It is big and black and imposing and I am just a bicyclist hoping to meet her husband for lunch and so I hesitate because it is not obvious that it sees me and I love life and want it to continue without inconveniences like a broken back or fractured skull. 

I am just deciding it would be safe to go when the BMW SUV loses patience and steps on the gas and passes me close so that I can feel the tiny wind from it's side view mirror.  I have time to see the angry words coming from the angry slit of a mouth on the past-her-prime woman driver as she mutters evil words at the bicyclist who was too afraid to jump immediately in front of her giant chrome grill. 

"That's my secret, Captain.  I'm always angry."  - Hulk to Captain America in The Avengers

I look at that ugly mean face staring at me and I give it the middle finger.  Now the BMW SUV is stuck at the red light that she was in such a hurry to get to.  I'm in no special hurry at all so instead of going straight I fall in behind her.  She looks in her rear view mirror.  I jab my middle finger at her some more and mouth FUUUUUUCK YOUUUUUUUUUU.  My entire body trembles faintly.  The light turns green and I follow the SUV easily and almost immediately she is at another red light, waiting to turn in to Stanford Mall.  Yes.  This old hag couldn't pause to let me cross in front of her because she was making an extreme Neiman-Marcus run.  I'm sitting behind her and she looks like she might be having second thoughts.  She's slightly slumped in her seat.  My voice carries nicely through her open window when I yell "YOUR PROBLEM IS THAT YOU NEED MORE PLASTIC SURGERY."

BMW SUV decides that they will not turn into the mall here after all, they will continue on straight.  No problem.  This is the joy of being an almost roadie with a bad attitude.  I can pace that car easily as it circumnavigates the goddamned Stanford Mall.  I follow the BMW to the next turn-off where I helpfully yell "Jabba the Hutt called!  His wife is missing!"  She hops back out of the left turn into the mall for the 2nd time and I follow her to the next turn-off at which point I lose interest and when she goes straight again I wait for the turn signal and get back on course for a nice lunch out. 

I wrote this on Tuesday and here it is Thursday.  I didn't post it because I guess I am not entirely proud of myself.  I'm not entirely sorry either.  I thought about what pushed me over the edge.  Lots of cars buzz and scare me and I don't react.  I think it was the way she gave me those couple of seconds to cross, watching my arm stuck out hopefully, and then forced her way around me and then the straw was the angry words directed at me for my timidness, as if to say, "How dare you be cautious of your life when I have a push-up bra to purchase at Nordstrom's."   


  1. I don't blame you one whit. I was at a crossing once as a pedestrian, and this old man was revving his engine impatient for myself and my friend with her baby buggie to cross. I could see his mouth moving, probably obscenities at us, so I gave him the finger as we walked across. He was so livid he put his foot down and excelerated towards me.

    He had no intention of running me down, he was just trying to intimidate me and make me jump out of the way. I stood dead still and blocked him so my friend and baby crossed safely. I then looked at the driver again this time with a smirk before crossing myself. My last sight was of his passenger (wife?) screaming in his ear for being so blasted stupid and impatient.

    I don't think I have ever given anyone the finger before or since, but I'm afraid I have a real thing about not letting a bully get away with anything. And he was certainly a bully.

    1. My favorite part is the wife screaming in the ear. My second favorite part is you having the cojones to stand him down, you go tiger!! Woohoo, non-car people, take back the roads!

  2. Oh my I had brain freeze there. I meant to have typed "accelerated" - Oppps.

  3. we don't call it shallow alto for nothing...

    maybe she kept changing her mind about turning into the shopping center because she was heeding your comment about needing more plastic surgery, and was changing course to rush to her surgeon.