Sunday, July 27, 2008

A provocative story...

Received yesterday from my Denver friend B (M is his wife):

On Thursday night M and I were on a 10 mile ride to a meeting with friends and back. Most of the ride we rode down S. Pearl from I25 south towards our destination at Hampden. When we got to Harvard Gulch we had to cut back over to S. Logan Street.

There were lots of cars parked on the southbound side of Logan and it is one lane in each direction. At the top of the hill we were passed by a very angry driver in a small white souped-up Subaru with fancy wheels and tires and a loud muffler.

As he accelerated around us he must have been doing 45 to 50 in a 30mph zone. There is a laser speed sign there because speeding is a problem with the rush hour commuters traveling through the neighborhood.

He honked and yelled at us. As luck would have it he was immediately caught in traffic at a red light and we traveled down the hill passing him.

As I passed I flipped him the bird and said “smooth move a--hole.”

He yelled, do you want to “talk about it,” as he accelerated through the now-green light at Hampden. He cut in front of me on E. Jefferson, immediately jumping out of his car and running to me. He continued to scream and yell for a few minutes. I let him vent and only engaged him minimally.

As I started to ride away I was repeating his license plate number over and over. He said “What are you doing?” I said, “ Memorizing your plate, a--hole, so I can report you for road rage.”

He jumped out of his car screaming, “NOBODY calls me an asshole!” He chased me down about 100 yards and tackled me while I was still clipped into my pedals. The chickensh-t had his car keys between his fingers. He got in a few good shots before I got on top of him.

Several witnesses came running up. I said, “Call the cops.” The cops got there in about 3 minutes. M was really freaked out and had ridden to a nearby bookstore (where friends of ours were) to get help. The cops took witness statements first, then handcuffed him and put him in the car. I pressed charges and he was charged with assault. Fire trucks and paramedics were called because of the blood from my scratches and cuts. I am sore, but ok.

I guess I will see him in court in September.

I am not sure how I feel about the whole thing. I guess he could've had a gun, etc. etc. It could've been worse. I just don't like feeling vulnerable and just riding away. It doesn’t sit well with me.

I have never walked away from a fight. I have had my nose broken more than once. I have never been a “you should see how the other guy looked” kind of guy. I always won. I wasn’t too emotionally involved in this, so I didn’t have the urge to just stomp his a--. I just held on to him til the cops showed up. I guess I have too much to lose these days.

M is still upset and having bad dreams about this punk. Fortunately she is out of town for the weekend with her friend Pam.

I rode for 25 miles this morning early. I will see you on the ride in the morning.


Most of us, says the blogger, will condemn B for contributing to this violent incident. If he'd just kept his mouth shut and his finger down, it would have been over after the driver "honked and yelled."

B's life, as you may have perceived, was not always so civilized. He is wired to react, to get back into faces that are shoved into his. He "won't be laid a hand on," as someone used to say.

The driver is a bully. No telling how many cyclists and pedestrians he has terrorized. No telling how many he would have terrorized in the future, had not B stopped him. Certainly B could have turned him in via some Hotline; might work, might not.

No telling also if the driver would have hurt someone tomorrow or next week. He won't hurt anyone tomorrow unless he slugs his cellmate.

Had the driver been a schoolyard bully, terrorizing our children, our attitudes would be totally different. We'd condemn those who did not speak up, did not protect our children, did not try to stop the hostile behavior before it escalates.

I am not defending or recommending B's actions. I'm suggesting that we pretend that there are no bullies or bad people, though we know there are. We place the responsibility of policing them on folks who aren't there when the thing happens. We accept no responsibility at all. Not our job.

Is B-style behavior appropriate? Nope. Is our behavior effective?


jthurber80 said...

One of my school's regular riders -- a history teacher -- got mad when a driver cut him off and shook his fist at the car. The car stopped and the driver pulled out a gun! The bicyclist wasn't quite sure what to do but (fortunately) the driver said a few choice words, got back into his car, and took off.

I get cut off by automobiles occasionally and I just give 'em a huge, toothy grin (sort of like Alice's Cheshire Cat). The worst thing I do is stick out my tongue at the car. So far I suppose I've been lucky and nobody has taken a shot at me!

yankee_dollar said...

I regularly get hassled on the way home but most jokers don't realize I can go about 30mph for the short distance to the sub most of them turn off into. I've thought about squirting superglue into their locks after they smugly waddle into their Mchouses without a second thought. So far I've been able to wait a day or two and cool off and haven't done anything drastic yet. Usually the wankers are adolescent or middle aged males-and aren't very clever. It really doesn't take much to cripple an SUV though-a thin line of civilization is all that separates us from anarchy.

Khal said...

Not sure what to say.

Part of me wishes your friend had gone ahead and "stomped his a--", just as a visceral thank-you for all of us who have to deal with that kind of motorized moron from time to time.

But fortunately, Maynard, your friend is a level headed guy. Turning the thug over to the cops is the right thing. Wiping the pavement with the guy's mug might have led to charges against your friend. But the wheels of justice turn slowly indeed, and this clown may not even care if he ends up in the Greybar Hotel.

Keep us posted.

Khal said...

Maynard, perhaps, being a writer, you can turn this into an essay of sorts. My concern is not so much with this incident and how your friend responded. Its the bigger picture. The roads, streets, and sidewalks are public space even if motor vehicles are private property. One would not expect to go into a public library or City Hall and behave badly with impunity. Why do people think they can behave badly on our public roads and byways? Not sure it even occurs to people that they are displaying terrible citizenship.

Richmond Roadie said...

Holy Crap! Part of me wants to cheer him on, I've had my share of run in's with dinks over the years.
Sometimes I'd like to yank them from behind the wheel and do a WWF "pile driver" on them.

However, part of me worries that this dink could've plowed this brother cyclist over with his car, in a fit of rage. Civility and common sense are at an all time low in this country.