I’ve been riding my bike to work for about two weeks now. Most trips back and forth to work have been episode free. It’s one of the primary reasons why I’ve had so little to write about lately. The daily commute has been a treasure trove of material, and when that well runs dry what’s left? Well wait no more. Another drive time anecdote is coming your way!
It was a cool, crisp, December afternoon in Florida. I was traveling my normal route through the jungle that is Pinellas county traffic. My bike route takes me off the beaten path, but in Pinellas that just means that there are fewer than half a dozen traffic related fatalities on these particular roads. I was heading southbound towards Clearwater High School on a little two lane road known as Druid. I was coming up on an intersection and I noticed a truck coming the other way, pulling into the intersection at the same time, with his left turn signal blinking. Now I’ll admit to a little sexism here. I admit that I automatically assumed the driver of the big, manly truck was a man. It turns out that it was, but that’s not really important to the story, so I’ll move on. The next thing I notice about this truck was the driver. He obviously wasn’t happy about having to wait the extra 15 seconds it would take for him to wait for me to pass through the intersection. I saw him through his windshield, revving up for one hell of a rant. As we approached each other, he looks right at me, pulls up nice and close and shouts “get on the &*^%$#@ sidewalk!”
He gets all of this out just before we reach the closest point of passing. Something in my mind clicks. Suddenly I find myself changing. In that split second that he finishes and we reach the closest point in passing, I finish my transition from mild mannered, college educated father of one, into the cranky bicycle curmudgeon. I looked him right in the eye and shouted “&*^% OFF!” We couldn’t have been more than three feet apart, and his window was open, and I can shout really loud when I’m really angry. Somehow I don’t think it made a damn bit of difference.
Now you don’t have to be Dean Smith to know that I’ve got a bit of a match-up problem on my bike versus a truck. Getting into a shouting match with a moving, oncoming truck in traffic was not one of my finer moments. But it is kind of funny to look back on, even if it was a bit shameful. I just don’t see myself as the guy shouting at someone on the highway. It’s not like I have a long history of road rage. My right shoulder would be damn near useless if I swore that much in the car in front of Cheryl. Thinking of myself shouting at a redneck in a truck in traffic (yes, we do have a few rednecks in Pinellas county) just seems so incongruous with my self image; it seems ridiculous to the point being at least a little funny. Now there’s a video to have and show to the kids. “Look kids, there’s daddy acting like a raving lunatic on his bicycle. Isn’t he silly?”
So why did I do it? It’s not like it hasn’t happened hundreds of times before. Every other time I’ve just ignored the guy, or just gave him my most pleasant smile – determined not to stoop to his level – staying above the fray. (Well, I’ll admit that I usually hope that a nice smile will irritate the guy all the more, so I guess that’s not exactly staying above the fray, is it?) Anyway, today I snapped. Was it my blossoming cold? Was it the cool weather? Was it the cool weather reeking havoc on my already sensitive mucous membranes? Am I really that stupid to be riding my bike in chilly weather with a cold?