Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Some Personal Milestones (okay... and a bike rant)

I'm about to turn 40. Meh.

But you're only as old as you feel! So by that measure, I'm about 8.

Another milestone: for the first time ever, I saw a fellow bike-rider I recognized, while I was riding up the west side bike bath and he was going the opposite way. I only know him from the world of bikes. He works right near my apartment, so we often lock our bikes to the same "no parking" sign, but I'm only there at night, and he's only there during the day. Works out really well. On mornings when he's early to work, or when I'm running a bit behind, we might bump into each other and exchange friendly greetings. But the other day was the first time we'd ever seen each other actually riding the objects that caused us to even meet in the first place. We recognized each other and waved. It was rather nice, I must say. Bicycle fellowship. A fine thing indeed.

If you ride a bike in NYC, you are automatically my brother. If you drive a car, you are my brother, but you are also an asshole. Sorry. That's just the way it is.

Of course, riding a bike occasionally turns me into a bit of an asshole. Why, just the other day, I gave a guy the finger. I can't remember the last time I gave someone the finger. Maybe as far back as high school.

I was riding home from work, up 10th Avenue. It's a particularly nasty stretch, from 33rd street up to 42nd street. Full of potholes and uneven pavement. And super congested because it leads to an entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel and it's near Port Authority Bus Terminal. So during the evening rush, there are about 4000 buses clogging 1oth ave, all trying to get either into the tunnel or into the bus station. It is... unpleasant (mostly from having to inhale their collective exhaust, though also from a traffic-flow/not-getting-squished standpoint) but I've gotten used to it and I just go bombing straight up the middle of the road, buses be damned.

Now, on the evening in question, I was feeling a bit tired after a long work day, so I was riding at a fairly leisurely pace. At one point, the buses had thinned out a bit, and there was an actual passenger car behind me, in the lane to my right (I was riding between lanes, as usual).

I occasionally swerved a bit, to avoid especially large potholes, sand-traps, canyons, open manhole covers and, of course, the land-mines left over from the last chimp-war. I never swerved all that much, being careful to leave room for vehicles in either of the lanes flanking me to pass if the way was clear for them to do so (it almost never was). The driver of the car behind and to my right must've thought that I was going to swerve all the way in front of him, so he honked at me. Twice.

Now, in the grand scheme of things, that's not such a horrible thing for a person to do. So the fact that it filled me with so much rage might not make sense to you. But under those exact circumstances, it was incredibly annoying. I mean, even if I hadn't been there at all, the guy could only have gained a single car-length, max. He still would've been hemmed in by the rest of the traffic and wouldn't have gotten to his destination any sooner. But he felt the need to honk at me, to blame me, as if I was somehow slowing him down.

Had I been able to communicate with him verbally, I might've said something like...
"How DARE you honk at me? You bring your car into MY town, into MY neighborhood, adding to the congestion, the noise, the air pollution, the GLOBAL CLIMATE CRISIS, burning your gasoline -- the purchase of which supports terrorists, both foreign and domestic -- and you have the GALL, the AUDACITY, to honk your horn at ME, a guy commuting home from work on a bicycle!?! Are you insane, or just a goddammed mutherfuckin idiot pig? From now on, you will take the train into town, and thereby not commit any of the infractions I just mentioned, you will save money on parking, you will walk and take mass transit from place to place and gain heightened appreciation for the life of the city which you will no longer be defiling, you will be able to hold your head up high, a true member of the human race, and then I will embrace you as a friend. Until then, get the fuck off my streets you useless, craven piece of shit."
But since I was riding ahead of him on my bike, focusing mostly on not getting crushed by a bus or two, and since he was behind me with his windows rolled up, spoken language was not an option. Instead, while coasting briefly, I turned my head back and made withering eye-contact with him through his windshield. Seeing that he had my attention, he honked again and made a shrugging gesture. At that point, I basically had no choice but to give him aforementioned "finger." I did so while thinking all the things ranted above (not quite as satisfying, but better than nothing).

But I needed a little more. So to really rub his face in it, I decided to swerve in front of him, slow down (only for a moment, just long enough to register) and then leave him completely in the dust. I poured it on, cut back and forth across a few lanes, found an opening and sped off up between the lumbering vehicles, through a red light or two and was gone. "So long suckas!"

And yes, that definitely makes me a bit of an asshole. But man did it feel good.

No comments: