Last night I had an encounter with one of those rude drivers that we all love to hate. The gf and I were biking South on Mass ave, two abreast, in light traffic. We weren’t taking up more than half a lane. If you measured from the parked cars to my left elbow, we took up maybe 4 feet: about the size of a bike lane. So the cars are just passing us on the left without difficulty and at low density. Most people can imagine what happens next – the beep. Not the beep beep of a friendly hello, but an all caps e-mail of GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY. Perplexed, I watched as a Prius passed us at 40ish mph without difficulty. There was no traffic in the left lane. No bottle neck. The Prius was beeping just because…she had to switch lanes? I don’t know.
Then, like page out of my revenge fantasy diary, the light turns red and she’s trapped. I turn to my gf for permission to engage: permission granted. The hunt was on and I knocked on the Prius’ passenger side window.
“Pardon me. I was wondering why you honked at us.”
Her eyes widen and she defensively explains some bullshit that’s muffled through the windows. Whatever; she’s just complaining that we were riding two abreast. I can smell her fear.
“I can’t hear you. Can you roll the window down.” Not that I care what she has to say. Did I just want to take her barrier away?
She becomes more agitated, and makes lane semaphores, in further explanation that I was taking up a whole lane.
“We’re legally allowed to take up a lane. We didn’t do anything wrong.” My gf backs me up by saying “That’s the truth”
She tries to explain something that I can’t hear, so I hit her with the crazy eyes, accompanied with the manic smile. The light turns green and I stay right at her window. Smiling.
She erratically accelerates and take a swooping right down the wrong side of a street. Had there been traffic in the street that she turned down, she would have been in a head-on collision.
Did I just win?
I’m not sure why I did this, or what I hoped to accomplish. My original goal was not to freak this woman out, but rather to hold her accountable and rip off her mask of automotive anonymity. I wasn’t intending on giving her the manic smile, or the crazy eyes, but hey that’s what happened. I’m a weird guy. I didn’t want to be aggressive – I intentionally used overly polite language. In the end, I think that it was the loss of anonymity was truly terrifying to her; it was the equivalent unmasking some internet troll.
If anyone else is hit with a similar situation, I think that we can learn from this. We don’t need to give a middle finger, or call them assholes. I think that all we need to a polite tap on the window and an inquiry into their actions.