Zen and the art of bicycle commuting
In the span of five days, I …
• was riding to the gym and was surprised to see a woman in a car tight on my rear wheel. Just before I reached the parking lot, she whipped around me and turned right just in front of me into the gym lot, forcing me to jump on the brakes or get hit. I was locking my bike as she walked by. I couldn’t resist. “Did you not see me?” I asked. “Or were you trying to hit me?” She walked past without so much as looking up.
• was riding back to work one night and saw a Jeep approaching rapidly from a cross street to my right. We neared a four-way intersection — I had right of way; the Jeep had a stop sign — and I realized the Jeep was going way too fast to stop. Again I jumped on the hooks; at the last second, so did the driver of the Jeep. It skidded to a halt maybe two feet from me, and in the heat of the moment I unleashed a torrent of invective that would make the Urban Dictionary turn introspective.
• was riding to work on a lovely afternoon when I approached the intersection at Seventh and Mass. My light was green, but a group of four pedestrians on Mass. decided to cross against the red, right in front of me. More brakes, another near miss. One of the peds — the third one — sarcastically said, “Oh, you go ahead.” Again, I couldn’t resist. “Gee, thanks,” I said with even more sarcasm. “Thanks for letting me go through a green light, moron.” Except, I didn’t say moron.
I bring up these three incidents not because they’re unusual, but because they’re not.
And I’m not asking for sympathy, but maybe forgiveness.
Now, I’m not trying to get all Zen-y, but the thing about all those instances is, I saw all of them coming. I knew the gym woman was getting peeved behind me and figured she was going to pull something; a right hook seemed likely. I saw the Jeep speeding toward me; the only reason I didn’t become a hood ornament wasn’t his superior braking skills but my own evasive maneuvers. And I saw the look in the pedestrians’ eyes when they saw me approaching, and I could see when they made their decision to proceed in front of me.
Why, then, did I respond with confrontation and bad language? Sure they were boneheaded, maybe even illegal, moves, but … so what?
In no case was I ever in any real danger. (OK, the Jeep run-in was a little close, but I had left myself an out). So I can’t really blame adrenaline.
Did I hope to educate? Punish? Try out a few new colorful word combinations?
Truth is, I guess I just reacted.
But no more.
From now on, I plan be at peace with those I encounter on my rides.
No more raised voices or colorful language. No confrontation or explanation. No flying fingers or shaken fists.
Unless somebody really torques me off. Then &^%$ them.