I know that if you get mad at someone who is, relatively speaking, holding a loaded howitzer you might get shot so it is important to control your temper. I know on some level that if I chew out a car driver they may abuse a bicyclist further down the road and I would not like that. I suspect that cars don't learn very much when shout questions about their sexual prowess and strongly suggest that no one wants to go to bed with them and so they drive like a douchebag to compensate.
I know I should (probably) get behaviors like this under control. I really do know this.
For awhile things went very smoothly! I had this great alternate route that was totally car free and you would be amazed at how peaceful and pleasant I was. I even slowed down a little so I could, you know, smell the flowers as I pedaled along. Once a bunch of old ladies decided to have an impromptu yoga class that covered the entire path. Did I get upset? No, mon ami, I was absolutely serene and I even walked my bicycle around them. It turns out that I'm not a walking talking volcano waiting for a chance to go all pyroclastic on people, I'm pretty easy-going right up until someone makes me think that my body is about to be smashed to pieces. Then I get upset. And if I get scared that my kid is going to be smashed to pieces? I get really upset.
So it is Christmas Eve day (yes, alas) and beloved older daughter actually has a soccer practice. We decide that we will all bicycle to the practice and that we will then go downtown and wander around until it is time to retrieve older daughter and bike back to our home for more low key cheerful festivities like wrapping presents and making cocoa.
Often with me I am doing ok and then some car is mean and I cope but the next car that steps out of line I really go off on. On this occasion, just outside the high school, a big red pick-up truck wanting to take a right on red gets mad at us for pedaling through and guns the engine as he passes, startling me. I don't like being startled.
We get closer to downtown. The town library is to our left and also a park. On our right is a cafe and bookstore and we have a big street to cross and then we are in the downtown proper. I tell you this so that you understand that I am not walking up an interstate here, I am in a totally ordinary place for a mom and her family to be.
There is no bicycle lane and so we are pedaling single file (because cars love it when we are single file, right? RIGHT?) towards a red light. Contraption Captain is first. Then beloved honorary daughter. Then my darling Rapunzel on her new red bicycle that looks totally frigging awesome. Then me, at the back watching my rear view mirror like a mother hawk. Did I mention that the light was totally red? It was red. No one was going to get much of anywhere. But what do I hear?
HONK. HONK. HONK.
What. Are you...are you...honking at...me?
You are honking at me. And my husband. And. My. Girls.
It's about to go down.
I stop my bicycle and I turn around in time to see the car behind me give it one last honk. I get off my bicycle and start walking towards the car. Contraption Captain tells me later that he saw all of this in his rear view mirror and thought..."uh-oh." I am aware of the kids and I know he has them. I know I am going to take care of this car.
I get to the car. It is no longer honking. Actually I think if this car could cross it's legs to avoid peeing itself it would. It is a very quiet car. I gesture with a hard knife-like motion of my hand that the window should be rolled down. The driver, an olderlady with giant black sunglasses pretends I am not there.
That is a mistake.
I do not want the car to stomp on the gas and go over me or push by me and hit my family so in a weirdly lucid moment I lie down across the hood of the car, my bicycle held delicately to one side.
Yes. Really. I mouth the words "put. down. your. window."
The window rolls down. I walk over like a cop ready to issue a ticket. The words hiss out of me as if I were a cobra and my voice is very low and very dangerous. I say. "What is your problem."
The driver knows she is fucked. She starts saying "you were right there in the middle of the lane making it impossible to get by."
I smile and it is not a nice smile. My low dangerous voice says "We are in the lane for people going straight because we are going straight. SHALL I call the police? Let's call the police. Let's ask them where we were supposed to be bicycling here."
The driver does not want to call the police.
I on the other hand love the idea. "Let's call the police! Let's tell them how you harassed my family, how you threatened us with your car, how you honked and honked at a red light because you wanted us to get out of your way! Let's call the police right now and talk to them about this!"
And the driver says, "I'm sorry."
And I love the words. But not quite enough to let her go because I can sense that she is sorry that a middle aged woman is chewing her a new one but is not yet sorry that she drives like a mean selfish monster. Her car is purring soft classical music. I tell her to turn it off. I tell her that I am out here, bicycling with my family, hoping to do a little shopping and that there she is is in such an incredible hurry to get to a red light that she has to lean on her horn and make me wonder if she is going to kill my beautiful daughters just so that she can get to her hair appointment thirty seconds faster. I tell her that I am ashamed for her.
She points out hopefully that the light is green?
I hiss "I'm. Not. Done. With. You."
Interestingly enough, the cars waiting for that green light behind her do not even breathe. For just this once I have everyone's undivided attention. I tell her to stop driving like a monster and I tell her that she will stop harassing bicyclists and that now I am going to pedal off with my family and if she knows what is healthy for her she will give us a great deal of space. And all of a sudden I am done. I back away from the car and I walk my bicycle back to where my family is waiting for the light to turn back to green. When it does we pedal quietly through the intersection with the now very quiet are far behind us. I tremble for another thirty minutes or so but in the end I am ok, and maybe I should be sorry for dressing down an impatient car. But. I'm not.