“Keep It Weird” has been one of Austin’s slogans for a while now. I’d like to report to you that the tradition is alive and well. Except these three interactions weren’t with Leslie, the former bearded and homeless celebrity drag queen who was famous for wearing a g-string around town. Once I was behind him walking downtown on Sixth Street. Burned into my brain that I can’t ever unsee were his ass cheeks adorned with the words “APD (Austin Police Department) Kiss My Ass.” Pretty weird, but also pretty harmless.
I titled my Strava ride, “Gullible Girl, Pedantic Pedestrian, Douchebag Driver – Really!?” because, a) I’m all about ample alliteration, b) it was descriptive, and c) why the hell not? Anyway, before we go to Exhibit A of the idiot parade, I will add this little disclaimer: Normally, I wouldn’t call a young woman a girl, but at my age (still advancing rapidly, if the hair in the drain is any indication), a college co-ed is a girl to me. I don’t mean it pejoratively, except for the fact that in her case she was like a pack of light bulbs with a few of them broken. I also generally don’t engage in name-calling and use words like douchebag (which by now is not gendered, like bitch is used for guys, too). When someone is literally trying to kill me with their car, I make an exception for words like d-bags. And remember the childhood verse? “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me.” To that add “Cars leave scars.”
First up in the cavalcade of cerebrally-challenged cuckoos was a group of three young women college students. They were picking sunflowers while partially blocking the sidewalk I was biking on. I had to ring my bell and slow down. To bike on that street would be suicidal, so I don’t do it. I had to slow to a stop, and on a whim, I said (I thought rather whimsically), “Ma’am, I’m the sunflower police and you need to step away from the sunflowers.”
She was clearly surprised and then said I was scaring her, as if flower cop was a real thing. Really!? I felt sorry for her, so I said some things like I was kidding, I like them too, and maybe would get some on the way home. But then another said, “Have a good bike ride.” As if to shoo me off, like it was their sidewalk and they had every right to block my path. I didn’t have a good comeback for that, so I gladly took the hint and left before my IQ start plunging just by osmosis. Public education in ‘merikuh, amirite?
Idiota Numero Dos was a guy not too much further down the same sidewalk. He was a walker who wouldn’t move to his right so I could pass him. In America, everybody except his specialness, moves to their right. We looked at each other in a sort of Mexican standoff, doing that little I go to my right, he goes to his left, back and forth dance. So I just stopped. Then out of nowhere he proceeded to lecture me on how to bike and walk. Like, “With a bike, you just lean to one side or the other.” Really!? Wow. I had no idea. I was clearly dealing with an expert in public spaces, and probably a certifiable genius. Well, he was certifiably something.
Of course, if there had been a protected bike lane on the road, I would have used that. But there isn’t, and it’s a very fast and winding road, so it’s very unsafe to bike on, so no one does. Also, I always yield around pedestrians, call out “On your left!” or use my bell. Most of the time people have headphones in and are oblivious so I don’t bother.
“There is some confusion as people are taught to walk against the direction of traffic when on a street with no sidewalk, but for shared bike/pedestrian paths it’s a good idea for everyone, whether they are walking, biking, rollerblading, etc, to stick to the right side and then pass on the left.”Bike East Bay Education Director, Robert Prinz in SFGgate
Surprised and annoyed but keeping my cool, I said, “I tried to go around you twice but you’re blocking me, and now you want to argue about it?” I mean, come on, man. Really!? I actually know how to bike and walk. I recall saying something about “I know about biking, I’m basically licensed to be a cycling instructor.” That didn’t phase him. Seeing that this delightful exchange was not going to end quickly and having many miles to go before I slept (well, it was only 15 miles), I mounted back up and was on my merry way. Except I was cursing this pale imitation of Oz’s Scarecrow before he grew a brain. It occurred to me too late that if I had totally gotten off my bike, I would have been a pedestrian, too. Then he would have to go around me. What a weirdo! But not in a wonderful way.
Lastly, a car nearly right hooked me. The sun had gone down, so my lights were on. I was heading down a pretty fast hill when a side street was approaching. I sensed the car turning and the lights along with it, so I glanced over my shoulder. I could see what was coming and stopped in the middle of the side street. The driver stopped for a moment and looked at me with an evil eye, as if I was the one in the wrong. I was not wrong. In Texas, it’s first come, first serve, and if you’re not first to the turn or whatever, you have to yield. It’s Drivers Ed 101, Day 1.
While I was trying to get out of the way, she tried to go right through me. So I moved up a bit and blocked her and gave her the evil eye right back. She stopped, not being a total psychopath. I may have uttered a few choice words which I doubt she heard. I think one of them was “Really!?” Finally, tired of it all, I moved out of the way and she sped on. A driver who was trying to go straight on had been patiently waiting behind the offending car. I was now back in the bike lane and she pulled up beside me and said, “I saw want happened. Should I go whoop her ass?” I was surprised by the solidarity so didn’t have a response except a weak, “I guess, if you want,” but she took off. But she confirmed I was not the offender.
Anyway, not seeing me while making the right turn I could possibly understand, even though I have a very bright blinking rear light, high viz yellow helmet, and even a reflection “slow traffic” triangle on the back of my backpack. You know like, tractos and buses have. So she saw me the first time, but then trying to hit me a second time? Really!? REALLY!?!? To quote George Costanza, “We’re living in a society here, people!”
Really. We really are. People need to start acting like it. People — we can do better. We need to do better. Me too, apparently, by not making an obvious joke, not riding on the right side of a sidewalk, or by being in a bike lane when cars need to turn. Jeez Luis! I’d take having to look at Leslie’s bare buttocks over having run-ins with any of these idiots any day. But I lived to write this blog and to ride another day. I’m sure tomorrow there will be a whole new crop of bright-eyed brainiacs driving while texting on their cell phones and doing all manner of other stupid shit.
Yay, for Austin, Gold Level Cycling City! But extrapolating from this trio of turd-headed, lame-brained, stupid people, we’re no better than anywhere else. Thus concludes today’s rant.
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