13 November 2010

Speechless

Today is my dad's 65th birthday. Happy birthday, Plain Ba! We lured him up here to celebrate and we had a rockin' good day that involved the twins sleeping until 6:30 a.m. (late!), breakfast at Grand Central, college football on TV, a bike ride (me and the kids), and dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory. After dinner, we sent him on his way home with a six-pack of homemade chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting and lots of sprinkles; we'd hoped he would spend a couple of more nights with us, but he had to get home to view the last Formula One race of the season with his racing buddies, live on TV at 4:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. That's dedication.

It was an Oregon day today. It was chilly, and it rained nonstop, never hard, usually barely qualifying as rain, in fact, more of a steady mist. I started to get cabin feverish around 2 p.m. and decided to head out for a bike ride with Maddie. Then Riley decided to come along, so we were a full load on the three-bike. The twins are imprervious to cold and damp and I was happy to get the fresh air. We had a lovely ride of 6 or 7 easy miles. There was one lost (and found) scarf along the way plus two stops: one to pick "wildflowers" (some kind of flowering weed?) and one to admire a lovely flowering garden. We sang some songs and waved at other bikers and it seemed to be refreshing for us all.

Oregon is a very bike-friendly town. I bike commuted to work for a while when I lived in Boston, and I regularly had unpleasant interactions with car drivers, ranging from a complete lack of awareness of my presence to a complete lack of understanding of bicycle rules of the road to outright hostility that I'd have the right to be on the road in the first place. Sometimes it was a combination of those three things. Here in Portland, I've encountered very little of that type of behavior. Some of that is due to the large and ever-expanding selection of well planned bike routes around the city (a mix of dedicated bike lanes, bike boulevards) and a higher than typical general awareness awareness of bikes on the road. Some of it is that there's just less congestion in the areas in which I ride, so there's less chance for a negative encounter. Some of it is just luck, I suppose.

Our route today forced us to spend just two blocks on a somewhat narrow and somewhat busy somewhat major street. Some people were getting out of their street-parked car as we went by; I checked behind me (no traffic) and then moved out to go around them as they got out of their vehicle. I was well within my lane, and was not in violation of any laws. They people in the car waved at M&R, who are like little neighborhood ambassadors on the back of the bike. A vehicle was approaching in the oncoming lane, which barely registered for me since I was not in any way impeding its passage and was about to take a right turn off the main drag anyway. But the oncoming vehicle slowed, the window came down, and a gruff male voice yelled, "STUPID BITCH!" before the SUV picked up speed and continued its journey.

He was clearly talking to me. The people who had just waved at Maddie and Riley exchanged puzzled looks with me, we turned, and it was over. I don't even think M&R noticed. I am sure I was not disobeying any laws, and I have no idea what the guy was even thinking. Am I stupid for riding a bike at all? For riding it on the street? For having kids on the back of the bike? For wearing a helmet? For being out in the rain? For existing? Who knows. There's certainly no reason at all that a complete stranger in a car should be able to judge whether or not I'm a bitch.

It's probably just one of those instances of car/bike hostility. He probably has no ideas what the rules of the road are for a cyclist. That certainly doesn't make it right to yell derogatory jeers at someone. It would be easy to shake off if the guy hadn't yelled such a thing at me with my children on the back of the bike. I'm glad they were focused on other things.

My life contains many instances of the good of humanity. It's so disconcerting to be reminded of the bad and the ugly.

12 comments:

kathleen999 said...

Before I lost about 80 lbs, people would actually take the time to slow down in their cars on the side of the road where I was walking and inform me that I was fat. In many different ways. Also, that I was a bitch and other assorted nice nouns. I have no idea why I attracted this kind of attention. My husband thinks it's because I am tall and blonde and men were attracted to me (the yellers were 99% men) yet upset because I was overweight (huh?). So they felt the need to insult me...yeah, I don't get it. The explanation I thought of by myself is that these guys were idiots and I think that probably applies to your nice guy today. Don't try to find a reason. Even if he told you the reason he yelled at you, it would still be a stupid reason, so who cares?

I think it's great that you all bike together and I'm sure it is fun!

Leslie said...

Maybe he was from Boston??? ;-)

Alayna said...

Wow, that is just completely uncalled for. I'm so sorry that happened. That person was probably either unstable or just having a bad day and looking to take it out on someone, but randomly yelling at an innocent biker is no way to do it. It sounds like you guys had a wonderful bike ride other than that, and I'm always so impressed with how the twins do in all types of weather!

Anonymous said...

I so admire your ability to acknowledge that the guy was being a jerk and to not allow it to impact you in a negative way.

(I, too, like to ride my bike, but usually I am able to be on a bike-only venue, which is utterly relaxing.)

But it's when I am in my car, and there is always the occasional person, not always a man, who will pull in front or merge improperly, and then give you the backhanded flip-off. Makes me crazy ... I am still trying to learn to not feel somehow assaulted by that kind of stupidity. I think it's always a conscious decision we have to make to mot take responsibility for the negative actions of others ...

Leslie

Megan said...

It's so jarring when something like that happens, at least it is for me. I'm glad that Maddie and Riley were occupied such that they didn't seem to notice.

I'm also glad you're blogging so much! :)

Dr. Smak said...

Last fall I was able to spend a week plus in Europe, mostly France & Swirzerland. We spent a lot of time on bikes, which at first was nerve-wracking and I rode very tentatively. There are so many bikes, mopeds, smart cars, and other odd wheeled forms of transportation over there. The refreshing thing is that the car drivers treat everyone else like they have as much right to the road as they do. It had much less to do with the bike paths and much more to do with driver awareness.

My guess is that most car drivers there have also had extensive experience with being a bike rider on the road. Perspective helps us everywhere.

On the jerk who yelled at you: one of my funniest memories of my tween is that when she was 8 or so we were watching a movie (don't ask) where someone dropped the f-bomb a half-dozen times before ending a sentence in "ass". She gasped and looked at me and said He said ass!". Maybe it didn't hit the twins' radar.

Nina said...

That's so uncalled for. On so many levels. GRR!

My husband and I just visited Portland (me for the first time, him for the second) and we loved how bike and pedestrian friendly it was. Coming from LA, car culture heaven, it was really a refreshing change. But inevitably, there are a-holes ('scuse me) everywhere.

Christie said...

Dang. Wonder what bug crawled up that guy's arse. Glad the kids didn't notice.

Olya said...

What a jerk! I am glad the kids did not notice...

I had a similar experience a month or so ago. We were out walking in a park with a friend, with my three kids (a 5.5-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a 2-year-old) and her one (1.5-year-old), and got yelled at by an old guy on a bike because my kids were in the middle of the path and he could not get by fast enough.

Why do people have to be so mean? *sigh*

Sam said...

At least he didn't call you a bikehead. :)

Joy said...

I did a lot of city biking when I lived in Chicago, and there are two thoughts that come to mind. 1) in many cities there are bike messengers who, I think, are ruining it for the rest of us. this is because they are often edgy risk-takers, darting in front of cars, riding the wrong way, etc., and some drivers assume that all cyclists will act unpredictably. Also, inexperienced cyclists will wander, fail to hold their line, get doored by parked cars and scare everyone, ride slowly and unpredictably, not signal, and generally piss everyone off if traffic is heavy. They, too, make some drivers think we're all like that. 2) some drivers just don't want to share the road, and they think that they have to pass you with 10 feet of room, and so they decide you're in their way. Many grew up in in ? God knows where? suburbs? Pleasantville? where they think bike riding is for kids in cul-de-sacs or on sidewalks. I have had drivers, many times, yell at me to "stay on the sidewalk," which is hilarious since sidewalk biking is completely illegal and dangerous. The rude dude in question may have decided that all bicycling is dangerous (ironic - it's dangerous because of HIM) and that if you have your kids with you, you're a "stupid b---" because of that. As a beleaguered and often terrorized cyclist, I sometimes retorted to my most radical counter-insult: "Suck my dick!" which has a hilarious effect on male harassers in cars, but is obviously ten kinds of unsuitable for use around kids. can be fun though.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

What a jerk! And for Kathleen999, those guys were jerks too.

Productive comment, I know.