Despite lacking basic human feelings and emotions, I'm surprisingly a very nice person. I discovered this last week on my way to work when I attempted to tell off a wayward driver who nearly sideswiped my sweet ass on Connecticut Avenue.
The spar started when this bitch started tailing me and honking. I'm not sure what she expected me to do as, unfortunately, my 1980 Peugeot is not a hover-bike (I know, I'm as surprised as you are). After turning quickly and giving her a rather poignant snarl of disdain, she decided to nearly take me out when she proceeded to narrowly swerve around me only to slam on her brakes at the red light causing a near-collision (as I was clearly planning to scofflaw that sh*t and barrel through last minute, because I'm skilled like that). Anyway, not only was I forced to slam on my brakes, but I literally ran into the back of her car, barely escaping major injury to my person and my bike. Understandably, I was a tad irked. And by "a tad irked," I mean "more angry than a pudgy little German boy whose computer games aren't loading fast enough." (OK, maybe not that angry...)
Anyway, while that whole experience may sound overwhelmingly negative (you know, nearly getting killed and all) there is a plus-side to this kind of incident: Cycling allows you free reign to flip the bird, scream expletives at people and generally act like a jackass. It's cathartic and lovely. Think about it, that kind of behavior gets you fired at work. On a bike, it makes you a badass.
Unless you're me, of course, which brings me to my point. I'm too f*cking nice.
What should've happened in this situation is me keying her car. But no. My Midwestern upbringing would not allow it. Instead, after gaining my composure, I simply swerved around to her driver's side door, knocked on her window to get her attention and enunciated with great effort the words, "You're a dick." Now, this would have been slightly awesome if I didn't add one more word to that statement of fact -- "ma'am."
"You're a dick, ma'am."
Yeah. All of my accumulated badassery (even if there wasn't that much to begin with -- thanks Minnesota) vanished at that very moment. In fact, I'm pretty sure the pedestrians, including the children, crossing the street in front of me reacted with shock followed by laughter. "Did she just say 'ma'am'?" I swear one of them asked.
Yes. Yes I did. I said, "You're a dick, ma'am."
What was I thinking?! I mean, seriously, it's like reading a Shakespearean sonnet and adding "or whatever" at the end. It's retarded. I'm retarded.
But more than that, I'm disappointed. If there's any group of people with whom it's not just OK, but almost required to verbally spar and swear at, it's obnoxious drivers -- and that goes not just for cyclist-driver sparring, but for driver-driver and pedestrian-driver, as well.
For some reason, and I think this phenomenon is especially prevalent on the East Coast, it's perfectly acceptable, and sometimes even encouraged, to completely lose your composure on the road. I never really knew of the satisfaction of flipping a really good bird to a driver until I moved out here and started bike-commuting.
Growing up in Minnesota (the last place I used a bicycle on a regular basis), I never had a lot of drivers creepin' up on my sweet ass, honking incessantly, cutting me off and dangerously slamming on their brakes. Then again, I was 14 years old and it's bad form to cuss out a child, unless, of course, that child is a really angry German video game nerd (see link above) or doing "hoodrat stuff with this friends." Then it's fair game.
But drivers -- especially East Coast drivers -- are always fair game, which is why I'm feeling like an epic failure right now. I lost the game. Although I'm pretty sure after several practice sessions, I've perfected my bird-flipping skillz, my verbal assault smack-downs are clearly in need of some work. What's next? I'll see you in hell, sir? Dammit.