Saturday, July 28, 2007

Oh yeah! Well, your butt's ugly...

Before we head out to Alaska, I wanted to share one more cycling story, even though it may jeopardize this web log's status as a non training log blog. I was doing the ride yesterday that I like to call the Seven Lakes of Seattle, in which I ride around Lake Washington and Samammish Lake. I was heading west on 34th street towards Stone Way in Fremont, when -- you guessed it -- all of a sudden someone in a passing car yelled at me through an open window. Now, this has happened to me dozens of times over the years. Some people think it's hilarious to yell or throw things at cyclists. My reaction varies from doing nothing to calmly flipping someone off to cursing like a tattooed housewife. In this case, because I had been pulled out of a reverie while listening to a "This American Life" podcast, I shouted FUCK YOU!

So what's special about this incident? Well, let me tell you. The light turned red at the busy intersection of 34th and Stone. Over the years, I've fantasized about this happening, especially when people throw things at me or buzz me for no reason. In my fantasy, I get off my bike, pull the unsuspecting hilljack out of the open window, and punch him out. As I rolled up to this car, I wondered what to do. I was mad but not furious. In most cases like this, I calm myself down quickly -- too quickly -- and responsibly avoid confrontation, which can easily be interpreted as cowardice. That was in the back of my mind. Still, I knew I had to do something. So I pulled up to the car and looked inside. The women driving the car was a big ugly mess wearing a muumuu, and I didn't know whether she was the kid's mother or girlfriend or whore. The kid in the passenger seat looked like he was between the age of 17 and 30. I measured him up quickly. He was smaller than me, and right or wrong, I'm not afraid of anyone who's smaller than me.

"Hey, what's your prob-" I started to say, apparently deciding on the lecture route.

"FUCK YOU FUCKING FUCKFACE!," the kid shouted.

The mother/wife/whore apparently feared for her son/husband/John, and decided to take a sudden right turn at the red light. I told the kid using my angry voice that he was a fucking coward, but that wasn't good enough. Now was my chance to finally do something. So here's what I did. As the car pulled forward, I spat into the open back window. I don't know quite what to think of this. On one hand, it's childish and disgusting and maybe a little bit cowardly, but there's a different part of me that thinks this was exactly the right thing to do, and that even someone like Jesus would have spat in that situation. Gandhi probably would have just popped the kid outright since he was the quiet type. When the kid saw me spit, he twisted around furiously, shouted various fuck words, and acted like he wanted to get out of the car. The woman sped off.

In this description, I'm making it sound like I was calm, introspective, and maybe even bemused, but that's not the case. I was in a snit. Twitterpated. As I was trying to simmer down, I looked around and noticed I had an audience. There were about a dozen joggers and cyclists waiting for the light to turn green. They were all staring at me. Also staring at me were the passengers in one of those Duck Tour boats that float and drive around Seattle. The tour guide was saying something about the incident, but I couldn't tell what he was saying because Ira Glass was still talking in my ear buds. A few people in the tour boat were clapping for whatever reason. Maybe their applause was related to me or maybe it wasn't, but they were definitely staring at me. After what seemed like about ten minutes of waiting, the light finally, mercifully, turned green.


  1. AnonymousJuly 28, 2007

    When I was younger, I used to try to chase everyone down who offended me while biking. Eventually I grew out of it, but recently I seem to have grown back into it.

    Including this evening. I rode into the office to do a little work this evening, when some youngish person in the back seat of a suburban yelled at me. As usual, what they said was inaudible, but I gave chase. Two stop signs and a stoplight later, I could see that it was a family.

    "Time for a teaching moment," I said to myself and waved the suburban over. To my surprise, they complied. The father rolled down his window and I calmly spoke my greivance. Apparantly suburbans are so big now that people in the front seat cannot hear people in the back seat yelling at cyclists. Anyhoo, the parents said that they would speak with the kid. Then I pulled out my 9mm pistol and shot them all twice. Except the kid. I shot him three times.

  2. AnonymousJuly 30, 2007

    When I worked as a naturalist and field guide for middle school students in northern California a few summers ago, I made the kids scream encouragements out the van window to any bikers struggling uphill. I hope they were always interpreted as such . . . Do kids ever shout nice things at you?

  3. Gillian, I have had kids scream encouragement while I'm riding up a hill. In fact, during my last training ride in Seattle, a group of kids sitting on their back deck were yelling as I rode up a steep hill. "Go, go, go! Come on! You can make it!" The funny thing is that it wasn't that steep a hill. When I got to the top, I raised both arms anyway as they shouted.