Thursday, November 1, 2007

Message in a Bottle

A couple nights ago I had the urge to go out for a ride. I had been around the house most of the day -- home sick from work. I get antsy when a day passes and I realize I haven't engaged the open sky or the sunlight. It was too late for light, but I wanted to get on my bike. April said she didn't mind, so I headed out and meandered my way to Franklin and Nicollet -- to a 10 o'clock beer store -- for a brew. (We have some weird liquor laws in this town that you have to head a few blocks out of your way to buy beer after 8pm.) My plan was to leisurely pedal back toward home, stop off, enjoy the beer (a New Belgium 1554), collect some thoughts and head for the house. The night was warm and breezy -- it was almost overkill to have on a long sleeve jersey -- a treat for late October in MN.

When I ride now, I sometimes feel as if I invite weird confrontations. It's not like I fight with drivers or resort to slamming a U lock on someone's hood, but things happen. Maybe I am too sensitive to issues that other cyclists just brush off. Things irk me. Perhaps I need the t-shirt that plays on the popular horror line, the one that reads: "I see stupid people."

The thing that ticked me off this particular night happened just as I pedaled away from the beer stop on Nicollet. Intending to head south, I stepped off the curb, checked traffic and started pedaling. I went about 50 meters when a bus whizzed by. My eye instinctively looked at the bus stop only 20 more meters ahead and I saw people waiting. "The bus is going to pull in," I thought. And sure enough it did -- fast with a hard jerking stop, the way city buses are prone to do, totally cutting me off. No problem. I looked left, went around the bus and took my intended right just in front of his windshield. By this point I was pretty pissed. I gave the driver the long lingering finger as I completed my turn. He looked straight at me, nodded his head and chuckled. He didn't give a shit, obviously didn't think what he did was wrong and most certainly will continue to treat cyclists like they have no right to the road. By this point I seriously contemplated getting off my bike, removing my U lock and putting it through his fucking windshield. But I have filters. I don't do things like that. Instead, I spend hours, mull for days about the "right" way to handle those sorts of situations.

Nine months or so ago I was cut off worse by a bus that almost drove me straight into the curb at a stop. I took down the bus number, noted the time, streets and route. I submitted it all via email to Metro Transit. I was shocked. Someone replied promptly the next day asking if I had more info. The person claimed they did not have a bus that runs the route I was describing. He'd do more checking into the matter but without the driver's name he couldn't hope to get far. I never heard from the lying bastard again. I didn't bother with bus numbers the other night.

I did my best to shake it off and keep heading for a peaceful place to stop off and enjoy some quiet time. Unfortunately, despite good lighting and ample reflective clothing I was almost run off the road not five minutes later by some yahoo pulling out from the curb. When I finally rolled up to a beach on the southeast edge of Lake Harriet, clicked off my lights, plopped down in the sand and uncapped my beer, I was elated. I felt the brisk, warm breeze blowing directly off the lake and tried not to fixate on the events of earlier. But it didn't do any good. My problem -- I just don't get why people can't treat others with basic dignity and regard for mutual survival, let alone cooperation. I'm an idealist, an often bitter, pissed off idealist, but still an idealist nonetheless.

Motor vehicles are like ass-hats. It might be popular to wear an ass-hat. Lots of other people wear them. They're cool because so many other people wear them, too. You're not an adult until you're freely parading around in your ass-hat. It's a status thing -- there are genuine ass-hats with real fur and extra (authentic) ass-hair. Ass-hats with climate control and surround sound and a GPS beacon to let you know exactly where that ass has been. The ass-hat grows on you, literally. It changes how you think. People even occasionally ask, in a derogatory manner, whether that ass-hat has given you 'shit for brains'. Sooner or later, a sad realization dawns. Something smells. You look everywhere -- beneath the fridge, in that dank closet, behind the toilet -- to no avail. Then, bam! "Holy shit!" you gesticulate as you pass a mirror, "I have two flabby butt cheeks on my head!" The ass-hat's gotta go. It makes so much sense to you now that you've taken it off for a few hours. You can think; you can breathe; life is good. But what about all your other friends who are still into the ass-hat thing ... will they still be your friends? And, besides, the ass-hat, it made you feel good in a lot of ways like eating comfort food. There's no need to feign an artificial air of intelligence, or even common sense, when wearing the ass-hat. Yeah, that's the problem. It's all those other people who don't where ass-hats. You just can't let them get to you anymore. You pull the cheeks of the hat down a little further. And carry on.

1 comment:

Andy said...

I feel you, bro. I was almost run over last night on my commute home as I attempted to turn left onto a side street from another side street. You've inspired me to write about it 'round the corner at Axlenoise's pad.

Ride defensively. Automobiles give the weak-minded an euphoric sense of entitlement, and that's dangerous.

On a lighter note, I'm really happy that you shared info about the 10 o'clock liquor store in town. I had no idea Minnesota would even allow such a thing. What's the deal with that?