Saturday, December 22, 2012

your set-point wants adjusting

The weather:  pleasantly cool and damp
The time of day:  evening
The setting:  an intersection in a residential neighborhood, the traffic light is red.

The Contraption Captain and I are first in a line of cars.  Across from us is a large SUV ostensibly planning to go straight, aka the SUV has the right of way and I guarantee you I know all about not crossing the path of an SUV who knows itself to have first pass at an intersection.  The Contraption Captain and I are talking and periodically one or the other of us helpfully sticks a left hand out as a general signal that we plan to turn left when it is legal for us to do so.

I see the light for the other direction turn yellow and then red.  My body tenses.  The light in my direction is a short one and I need to be ready or the cars behind me will go right over me.  The light turns green.  Sometimes an oncoming car sees bicyclists and waits for them to cross, other times the car asserts it's right to go first.  Both are okay with me.  I pick up one foot and roll gently forward about 18 inches.  I do this to signal to the cars behind me that I see the green light, that I am indeed going to make a left turn.  The SUV accelerates and I put my still un-clipped foot back on the ground as I wait for him to pass.

As the SUV drives by he shouts out of his open window "WHERE THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE GOING?!?"

Now that the single oncoming car has (noisily) gone past, Contraption Captain and I pedal through the intersection, turning left, and then completing a second left onto the street that we live on.

To that SUV, in a conversational tone of voice:  "I'm going the fuck home.   And where the fuck are you going?"

I was genuinely surprised at the guy's anger.  I've watched cars at intersections since and they mimic my behavior.  The light turns green, they roll forward to be in a good position to complete their left hand turn.  Life goes on.  Lather rinse repeat etc. etc.

I guess the SUV driver was afraid that I wanted to commit suicide against his grill or driver side door to which I can only say, "If I get pasted to your grill it won't be intentional on my part."  Maybe he thought I was one of those entitled bicyclists the cars are always whining about and that I had been assuming that I would get to go first because of my pure awesomeness and my response there is "Experienced bicyclists assume nothing."

What was getting screamed at like for me?  Kindof ok actually.  I was surprised but it wasn't a scary experience.  I had a wall of cars lined up behind me which was going to make me hard to hit.  I didn't feel particularly threatened.

I know all about going nuts and screaming.  If some car veers towards me I am reliably terrified and occasionally shriek obscenities.  The weird thing about cars is that they do their screaming when they are in no greater danger than the slim possibility that someone might go through a light before they do.


  1. "Experienced bicyclists assume nothing..." says a lot.

    1. I sometimes wonder if city bicyclists end up with PTSD after years of unpleasant surprises.