by Terry Plotkin
A Thin Line
I am riding my bicycle out to the end of the street in a residential neighborhood and come to a stop sign. An old guy, who looks like Dick Cheney, is in a small red car approaching from behind. I pull out into the road to make a left hand turn. There is big steel plate in the road, no doubt covering a hole, directly in front of me. I choose to go around the plate to avoid the bump and the potential slipperiness that might ensue from riding on steel. All these decisions, like most things when on the road, are made in a fraction of a second. The man in the red car follows for the second it took for me to get around the steel plate and before I could pull over to the right side of the road. The Dick Cheney look-a-like lays hard on the horn as I am going around the steel plate apparently enraged about his one second delay. He then goes by me and stops at the next stop sign. Another split second decision: I decided to go after him. So often I run into road rage and do nothing about it. There usually isn’t the chance with both people in their cars moving quickly down the road. This time I was determined to confront it.
I stopped by the driver’s window, “Why did you do that? Why did you do that?” I said in an animated voice.
He yells back through his closed window, “Because you cut me off!”
“I was avoiding the metal plate. What you did was dangerous! I’m a bike rider!” (One of my pet peeves is how a significant minority of car drivers don’t get what the bike rider has to deal with.)
The Dick Cheneyesque man expressed himself with his middle finger and drove off.
A mellow bike ride in a neighborhood on a summer day turned into THAT in 30 seconds.
At first I was glad I confronted him, then I thought the whole incident a little funny, but when I woke up at 2 A.M. I thought perhaps I didn’t handle myself well. Getting angry, even when justified, seldom accomplishes anything. I certainly didn’t get through to that guy. Later, a friend said I should have just cursed him out and be done with it. But that would have achieved nothing, and I seldom feel good when I take the low road. I could have done nothing, and the guy would have gone on his ignorant way to rage at someone else at the next perceived provocation. And then I reasoned, would I have confronted him if he was a burly, tattooed young guy in a pick-up truck? I might have thought better of that. After all, he might start a fight or pull out a gun. Self-preservation is usually smarter than being right.
And then there is the disturbing fact how quickly a person, most people including myself, can become angry. And sometimes there are no good solutions to people and their inappropriate behavior.
I guess the best solution to a no win situation like this is what followed after the incident: By coincidence I was riding my bike that day to town to go to a Yoga class where the attempt was made to bring myself back to center and let it go. At least most of it anyway.