Monday, April 9, 2007

Cars are for Cowards

Amid all the sunshine and happy thoughts yesterday I had completely displaced some incidents that happened while commuting last week. Twice within one day (last Monday) I had a driver and a pedestrian insult my manhood. Now, I'm not really too concerned with such words. They are interesting to note nonetheless. The driver yelled at me: "Get on the fucking sidewalk, dingle-dick!" Later that evening (like 11:15) on the Greenway some prowling ne'er-do-wells yelled at me "Hey, faggot!" as I pedaled by them. Both of these instances elicited the finger from me. It was cooly done (graceful pause, hand lingering high and proud for emphasis) as I'm gliding away. I consider it an experiment. I am legitimately trying to discover the best way to react to this sort of harrassment; because, let's face it, it takes the patience of a bodhisattva to do nothing at all. And I have a long way to go on that path.

I'm still collecting data. Suffice it to say that I have already stumbled upon what I consider to be one very significant discovery. Most perpetrators of harrassment do so only in the company of others. And most often they are men doing the harrassing. (I think I've only had two women get huffy with me on my bike.) The dude in the car had a woman in the passenger seat beside him. The chap walking who yelled at me was accompanied by two other folks (one man and one woman, I believe). This suggests something of power. If people think they can claim it, there's no joy, no release, no "Power Orgasm" if you will, if they cannot display it. This is helping me mull an oppression theory not unlike those espoused by certain psycho/social theorists. When a person feels oppressed they will project the resentment onto others whom they perceive to be weaker or beneath them. Of course, lashing out directly against the source of the oppression is far too repressed a notion to act upon. However, denigrating others becomes a symbolic substitute. And put-downs are most satisfying when it can be done in the presence of comrades or allies who will witness your fleeting and false sense of power. Simple stuff; we all know it from our painful socialization in grade/middle/high school. It is a bit disconcerting though when you see the same sad dynamic being perpetuated by "adults".

Last Thursday a friend and I were waiting at a stoplight on the ride home from work. The left turn light across the intersection cycled and a car proceeded to turn through. As it rolled by us and accelerated up the hill the driver leaned across his buddy in the passenger seat to hold up his right hand toward us. All the while he stared luridly at us through dark-tinted sunglasses. Presumably he was flipping us off. But he was wearing mittens. Dave and I were both extremely puzzled. I guess the kid understood. He looked to be high school or college age, but was already exhibiting the role that shared hate plays in American male homosocial bonding. That part I'm certain he doesn't understand. We got a good laugh as the light turned and we pedaled away.

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