Tuesday, July 13, 2010

double heckle

I've been heckled twice in the past two days. Disconcerting!

The first heckle was as articulate as the second one was incomprehensible, but both were uncalled for.

Heckle 1

The first happened in an intersection at 13th & Franklin, north of Cheesman Park.

What you can see in the photograph below is me, northbound, and a silver car, southbound, sitting at the traffic light like the good law-abiding vehicular citizens that we are. This photo also captures another cyclist blowing through the red light and looking quite tickled about it.

The cyclist may or may not have been naked.

I observed the cyclist go by, and continued waiting for the light to change. When I noticed the opposing light begin to change, as shown below, and after noting the lack of cross traffic, I started getting into my saddle and started inching forward. (I had forgotten to downshift approaching the stop, you see, and I knew it would take me a minute to get rolling.)

By the time I had entered the intersection, my light had turned fully green, and as the driver of the silver car also entered the intersection himself, he called out his window to me--both of us, mind you, in the intersection--"You actually let him influence you. That's sad!"

Referring, I believe, to the naked and grinning cyclist who ran the red light, and thereby, I believe, implying that I was submitting to some kind of peer pressure and running a red light.

Were this his assertion, then by his logic, his dumb ass was also running the red light. But the light was green, and-- gah!

It was a statement at such odds with reality that I couldn't even open my mouth to say anything until the car and I were practically a full block away from each other.

I continued to ponder it the whole way home, wondering what I would have said to him had I been given an opportunity to respond.

Heckle 2

This one happened at MLK and Franklin. (What's up with Franklin, right?) I was using the aforementioned MLK bike route to get home after work and was on the part of the route where the bike lanes gave way to some sharrows.

This is a two-lane one-way street. I was riding on the sharrows, and as I approached Franklin I looked behind me to check the traffic, because I was planning to change lanes and turn left onto Franklin to continue my ride home.

Behind me in my lane was one car, and in the passing lane next to our left were two cars. I realized I'd probably have to take the next left instead due to having to wait for at least those two cars to pass, and possibly the one behind me.

You know, elementary traffic maneuvering stuff.

The two cars to in the passing lane passed, and then the one behind me laid on the horn, kind of straddled to the two traffic lanes, and started to pass me.

I started to shake me head at the driver, hoping to convey the fact that he was in error, that I was doing nothing wrong, that I was disappointed in and a little embarrassed of his behavior.

It was a loaded head shake.

As he pulled up along side me, I made eye contact with him, hoping to really drive home the full effect of my poignant head shake, at which point he leaned in and kind of shook his fist a little and yelled, "Mufuckin shit ass, here!"

In answer to which I scolded him lamely, "No! That's wrong!"

I was referring not to his grammar and diction, but to his overall response to the situation.

He sped on and turned right at the next block, eager--I assume--to get out from under my scornful gaze and sad head shake.

And so that was the trifecta of Angry Motorist responses. I got a honk, a low grade buzz (he was half in my lane), and a cussin. The only thing missing was having something thrown at me, which thankfully I have never experienced.

Still, I was about as mad as I've even been after a traffic encounter, and I commented to myself that if I didn't flip him the bird for this--and I did consider it--then I'm just not a traffic birder. I am a head-shake-of-disapproval-er, which is far more lame, but which is probably safer in its lameness in that it will probably always fail to incite further action from an angry motorist.


Mike said...

This post made me realize that it's been a while since I've been hassled by motorists while on the bike. Still, if you'd like a step up from the sad head-shake but are a little too classy for bird-flipping, consider adding a thumbs-down to the sad head-shake. This move was pioneered by a friend of mine some years ago as we passed a protestor with a sign we disagreed with, but he just couldn't bring himself to the anger and immaturity that a different digit would have brought.

MandG said...

I had a horrible traffic incident in my nieghborhood last week, undoubtedly brought on by the fact I'd recently been bragging about how bike-friendly the motorists are in my 'hood. I reacted in exactly the way I *shouldn't* have, by cussing the guy up one side and down the other. I couldn't restrain myself. He stopped, got out of the car and yelled at me for not stopping when in fact, I WAS stopping but had to change my plans and swerve out of the way because he was turning into MY lane and coming right for me. (while on the phone) Even when I pointed out that his car was sitting in MY lane in the exact spot I would have been stopped in, thus had I stopped I'd be under his car, he still yelled at me for not stopping. hrmph.

Cap'n Unclefather said...


I'm kind of in love already with the idea of a thumbs down. It's not an anger response; it's a counter-judgement!

Consider it added to my bag o' tricks. Thanks, dude.


Man, how did that interaction resolve itself? I'm glad you're okay.

That's exactly the kind of scenario that I fear. Motorists are already given to impulsive/angry reactions when behind the wheel. I fear engaging any motorist to the point that might, for a percieved lack of a means of expression or of an outlet for frustration, decide to nudge me with their vehicle.

Or stop and get out. Stopping and getting out is already such a committment to conflict that it could easily escalate into a physical altercation.

I was just saying to a co-worker yesterday that drivers--including myself when I'm behind a wheel--are given to such responses because they have no means of communicating or interacting with other drivers.

In a car, you stare at the rear end of the car in front of you. It's a pervesely dehumanized and dehumanizing experience. Other vehicles move without the accompanyment of body language or facial expression; you can't merge with inflection.

You have no means of expression whatsoever besides the blandly declaritve turn signal (which, if not accompanying an actual turn, becomes a loathsome lie!); the agressive, interjective car horn; and perhaps the undecipherable flashing of your headlights.

You're deaf, dumb, and blind in a car, and it makes you a little crazy. I think that frustration is subconscious, and is the source of most angry driver reactions.

Accordingly, I try not to respond in like anger to a hecklesome driver.

Of course there's a difference between a heckling driver and a dangerous driver.