I was in our building's underground garage cleaning the last of Montana off my motorcycle when I saw my neighbor coming. To remind you, I had never heard anything like an angry word from the man until he spoke to me about rude cyclists on the sidewalks, and uppity cyclists stopping next to him, then crossing the intersection against the red - clearly violating the law.
I thought at length about his and my previous conversation inside my motorcycle helmet during my trip. He wants me to do something about those damn sidewalk cyclists who scare him. But does he carry a cellphone in his car so he can report aggressive drivers to a hotline?
What can either of us do about abusers, motorized or pedal-powered?
I asked him if he reports those scary drivers and he said no. Our conversation quickly became confrontational. He says he's going to get a walking stick. If he's startled by a cocky sidewalk cyclist he'll put that stick in that cyclist's spokes.
You'll kill someone, I said. It won't be like Laugh-In, it'll be a call to 911 and you'll go to jail. They'll be getting what they deserve, he said.
I asked him if he thinks that in my years of riding bicycles and motorcycles I've been scared or offended by drivers. I've been hit by drivers, I told him. Not just had my feelings hurt. Have I shot anyone, I asked. Have I acted violently toward any one of those offending drivers?
I'd like to think, I said, that the driver was momentarily hostile or distracted. That the driver is not a lifetime, fulltime creep. And I don't want to go to jail. Not worth it.
It's not the law, and it's not the threat of injury, I told him. It's about YOU. Your feelings are hurt. You feel you've been taken advantage of, not treated with respect. So you want to hurt someone. It's YOU.
Fact is, he has not been hurt. He's only been treated with disregard, the same way cyclists are treated every day. He's been treated this way a few times, maybe several times, and he's threatening homicidal action, or at least mayhem. He's lost it, because of disrespectful cyclists.
I ask you again: As respectful cyclists who are not tinhorn sidewalk terrorists, what can we do to avoid being tarred with the same brush?
This is not a bad man, my neighbor, but he's pissed off and it's hard to blame him. If he's pissed off, thousands of his fellow prideful Americans are equally pissed off. Worse maybe.