Monday, April 22, 2013

in which I discover the bicyclist version of navel gazing

Some months back the Contraption Captain won a prize at work (because he is the best engineer in the known universe) and the name of that prize was... a GoPro camera.  This weekend past he got around to mounting it to the front of my bicycle.  I know my chances of seeing another bicyclist stick his hand up a car's wheel well are slim, but I still feel like there is a lot of potential for fun in filming cars behave like cars meaning, film cars break every rule in the books and thumb their noses at the rest of the world.  Monday I took it out for it's first ride to the office.  Captain, Rapunzel, and I all bicycled to Rapunzel's school and then Contraption Captain and I bicycled to his work and then I continued on solo to my own place of earning the money to pay the bills.  

...and  Monday afternoon I had my first recorded freaking out at a car. I'd been doing pretty well at not frothing at the mouth at cars so I was mildly disappointed in myself but on the other hand it was (as is pretty usual) an undeniable good time.  The freaking out followed what I have come to see as a relatively common pattern that has well-defined stages of freakitude.

Stage 1.  

I see something that really pisses me off or I am threatened by a car but manage to keep a lid on things.  This time I was waiting at a left turn arrow, with one car in front of me and more behind.  To my left, waiting on the sidewalk for a walk signal, was a young boy with a bicycle.  The walk signal came on and he hesitantly walked into the street/crosswalk but was driven back almost immediately by a car turning right and ignoring him.  As I watched (and filmed it turns out) I saw car after car go by, not pausing to let him cross the street.  By the time he gets out to the road the walk signal is over and he retreats back onto the sidewalk and pushes the walk button again.  I am quite upset.  I want to help but I am in the middle of the road.  I should have probably found my way across the road to help him but when his light went red mine turned green and the cars wait for middle-aged moms even less commonly then little boys.  I pedal forward and we enter Stage 2.

Stage 2.  

I am threatened personally and scarily.  I am pedaling after car1 and a car from the opposing direction wants to turn right.  They elect to use the bicycle lane as a merge lane which is a shame as that is where I am heading.  Meanwhile behind me the car is facing this right turner and all of a sudden there is a huge honking as the two cars threaten and posture each other and now I am trying to get out of the car lane but the bicycle lane is full of car and I panic a little and scream my Conan the warrior scream and one car tears off and I can finally get into the bicycle lane.  I stop to collect myself.  

Stage 3.

The car2 stops also.  But it is not to apologize.  I'm in the bicycle lane, she's in the car lane.  She looks at me as if I were something she'd stepped in which in fact almost came true.  She says nothing.  I say something like "What the fuck is your problem, you drive like fuckall, get the fuck out of here, I want you in front where I can see what the fuck you're doing."  She blinks at me in a reptilian way.  I notice the white ear strings of her headphones.  One in each ear.  All of a sudden, I am incensed which means I am really really really mad.  I say "get those things out of your ears.  That's not legal in California."  She still hasn't driven off, maybe wondering what new tricks I have.  But she finally opens her mouth to say 

"These?  These have nothing to do with this."  

Stage 4.

I go from incensed to action.  I lunge through the open window of her car (yes, really) aiming for the headphones, I don't have the reach for it though and I connect with only air.  She is very very surprised and jerks back and I am happy to see that her "what me worry" expression has been erased.  She says "Don't you assault me! You're crazy" and I slap her car door really hard and say "You're a fuckup get out of here."

Stage 5.

She drives away.  I realize I filmed the entire thing.  I wonder if Contraption Captain will still love me if he sees me attempt to poach and stamp on someone else's iPod.  I turn off the camera. 

What happens much later?

I watch the video.  The first part I watch is the trip in to the office.  It is just me bicycling along but I have this weird experience, I adore it.  Look at that bicycle go!  Look at me pedal!  See that car cut into the bicycle lane?  I almost made that light!  It was probably the most boring movie ever and yet I loved it.  

And then we get to the trip home.  There is the traffic light. There is the boy trying to cross and then...  there is Alvin and the Chipmunks totally going nuts on someone.  It turns out that the GoPro doesn't have great sound pick-up and that goes extra when the camera is mounted on the bicycle handlebars.  So there is this very tiny high-pitched voice saying "fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck yooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooou......" 

Anyways.  If I can learn to edit a little, I will post short lovingly captioned video clips here for your edification.  But I'm going to spare you the 50 minute "day in the commuting life" complete with the long pause during which my bicycle sits around waiting for me to kiss Rapunzel good-bye and also the obscenity laden rant punctuated by my attempt to put my hand on someone else's headphones.  


  1. The woman probably wet herself when you reached for her headphones. I think we all have a breaking point and that was yours. I hope you got the plates of the cars and can report them.
    I feel bad for the boy too. I personally would love to watch your boring video, I might pick up some tips for riding in traffic.

  2. Why would a car driver use a personal sound system with headphones rather than the in-car stereo? I'm baffled. I have an extender bracket (usually for front lights) with two x-mini speakers and my phone attached to it to play music from my handlebars which allows me to weave to the beat (see previous post). It also allows me to hear car traffic and most importantly emergency service vehicles should they need to run a red light.

    Your 'boring' (but not really) videos would be welcome. And you go girl. I'm a big bloke and I wouldn't have had the courage to reach into someone's car to snatch out their headphones.