Last weekend, I went for a couple of bike rides with friends. I did basically the same route both times, and both times, had at least one asshole motorist. And I was grateful it wasn’t more, because sometimes? They’re everywhere.
Here’s the thing. If we rode three across and took up the whole road, I can understand honking to let us know you’re coming, or even, maybe, laying on the horn a little out of frustration if we’re on a stretch of road where you can’t pass. But the people I ride with don’t do that. The occasions on which people in cars were rude happened when we were riding either in a bike lane, if there was one, or on the very side of the road, single file, where there was no bike lane. THERE IS NOWHERE ELSE FOR US TO GO, YOU JERK.
Reading this post earlier today about a woman who was yelled at for walking too slowly with her toddler (yes, seriously) made me think about the weekend’s rides, and about some of the thoughts that went through my head as a guy in a huge diesel truck gunned his engine while passing us or a kid in a crappy black car blared his horn as he drove past us (going 30 miles over the speed limit, I’d guess).
These people, these jerks, they have no idea who I am. Who we are. This is not a huge community — chances are pretty damn good that we know somebody in common. They have no way of knowing that I’m not their sister’s friend, or their kid’s first grade teacher. Hell, I could be the girl who recommended that great beer to you the other night at the bar 5 miles from where you just tried to scare me off the road. You have no idea.
The other morning, I stopped at the grocery store on the way back to my house after a hard swim workout and a physical therapy appointment. I was in a rush, hoping to get home in time to make coffee and a little breakfast before work, but I needed food for said breakfast (and lunch, and probably a snack or two), so, at about 8:50 a.m., I found myself in the express check out line behind an elderly woman with a cart.
She’d clearly taken advantage of deals, loading up on several of many of the same things. Four packs of yogurt. Six cans of soup.
Maybe she misunderstood the 10 items or less, I thought to myself. Maybe she thought it only meant 10 different items.
Slowly, she pulled more and more items out of her cart and handed them to the young man at the cash register, who smiled gently at her while making pleasant chitchat, occasionally flashing me an apologetic look.
“I’m sorry, dear. Nobody was in this line when I came up here,” the woman said as she turned to me with a sheepish grin, handing her third bag of salad to the kid.
I smiled back, but in my head, I couldn’t help thinking, Shouldn’t the cashier say something when someone comes up with a big cart like that?
Almost as quickly as the thought presented itself, I nearly slapped myself. Maybe this is the most exciting thing she’ll do today. Maybe it’s a big deal to go to the supermarket. You don’t know her, and you’re not in that big a hurry, you ass. You are not that important and the world will not end if you’re five minutes late. Shut it.
And then, she pulled out her checkbook. To write an actual check.
I smiled at her again, perhaps a little strained this time, as she took her cart full of groceries and started shuffling out toward the parking lot. As I lifted my basket up and handed items to the cashier, he said, “Thanks for your patience.”
I was about to say something along the lines of, hey, no problem, not a big deal, when he followed it up with, “That was my grandma.”
I blushed harder as I stammered, “Sure, you’re welcome. That’s great that she got to come in and see you.”
This was a hell of a wake up call. The next time I find myself biting back potentially hurtful words, I’m just going to ask myself who the person I would say them to might be. Someone’s grandma. Someone’s boyfriend. Someone dealing with a bigger struggle than I’m facing. Someone who probably needs a smile more than they need a talking to.
And maybe, just maybe some of those aggro drivers who think my bike and I have no place on their roads will think of that as well.