Learning. Pedaled to lunch. Pedaled to a movie. A Separation. Hard to watch. Very real and very painful. Leaving the theater, pedaling on a busy narrow two lane, two-way street. Sharrows and signs Bikes May Use Full Lane all up and down the street. Signs. I’d gladly trade them all for a little civility.
Approaching a red light, I came to a stop in the right gutter behind three cars. The road is narrow enough that even as I waited in the right gutter, there was no room for a car to be beside me without coming within six inches of my left foot. The car behind me did just that. I extended my left arm with an open hand and gestured toward the ground to my left, four times, without turning my head or saying a word. My intended message was a little room please. The three occupants of the car started yelling at me (helmet mirrors are cool–I feel like a submarine captain scanning the surface for potential dangers). The light turned green and they passed. I waited for Lacey to catch up (she was stopped behind three or so cars behind me) and asked her to wait as I watched the car with the yellers recede out of sight.
As soon as they started yelling, I was scared out of my wits. I couldn’t make out a word, but their tone was of a character that I had not witnessed before. At least not directed at me. Maybe in the movies. I felt good that we were waiting in front of a fire house with all the fire fighters out. When I was sure the car was long gone, we turned right. I told Lacey how sketched out I was. She asked what the people were yelling at and I said I thought it was me. I am ashamed to admit that she has suffered through this sort of thing with me more than once. Dozens of times.
We pedaled in silence to the end of the street. It was a dead end. We walked our bikes down a steep grass embankment to get to a busy street with an off-street multi-use trail running alone the side of it. We pedaled on it until it ended, then pedaled on the streets in single file without a word until we got home.
It was a wonderful day that could have continued to be wonderful had I not made that gesture. The fear is receding, but it is not gone. It is surely bigger than is warranted, or maybe not. One doesn’t know, and it is real for me just now. Eating at my stomach.
I’ve worked so long to not yell at cars. I have gotten really good at keeping my mouth shut. I have continued, though, to make gentle gestures when I feel it is helpful. Not often. It is rarely warranted. I’ve done it maybe four times this year. I think that is going to be my next project. No gestures. I am going to pretend I am in a bubble, like a car, and unable to communicate with anyone ever. Just to be safe, I will swallow my fear and anger. So that I can enjoy pedaling. I owe it to myself. To Lacey. To Frida. You have my word.
Thanks for listening. I am feeling a little better already. A beer would be nice, though. Be well.