Unteachable moment

July 16, 2013 § 22 Comments

I had just finished charging up Silver Spur on my ‘cross bike, newly equipped with very big, very urban commuter tires. My new training mantra is “make it an interval,” which means “pound whenever you can.”

We’ll see how long that lasts.

Although I didn’t know that I’d set one of my fastest times up the first portion of this beast (Strava segment here), on fat tires, no less, I knew I’d gone up it fast (for me) because my legs burned the whole way up. I crested the top and kicked into glide, gulping in the air and feeling the waves of acid in my legs dissipate.

I felt great.

Let’s get Jr. something he’ll be safe in

About a hundred feet before the ARCO at Silver Spur and Hawthorne, a Toyota ForeRunner blew by me with about six inches to spare, barely missing my shoulder with the mirror, then slammed on the brakes and made a hard right into the gas station.

I pulled up behind the car, which was about ten years old, and waited for the driver to exit. He hopped out and looked surprised — but only for a split second — to see me there.

“Hi,” I said.

“Hello,” he answered. He was about seventeen and wearing a floppy white t-shirt, saggy shorts, and flip-flops. You could tell he had just gotten up because after all, it was almost noon.

“You passed me with a few inches to spare and came pretty close to hitting me.”

“I did?” He tried to look concerned as he sized me up. “I must not have seen you.”

“Really? I was in the middle of the lane.”

“I’m so sorry, but it’s a good thing I didn’t hit you, right?”

“Yes, it’s a very good thing. You might have scratched your car if you had.”

“Yeah,” he said, uncertainly, then brightening as he understood how lucky he’d really been not to scratch the car.

“How could you not see someone in the middle of the lane? Were you on the phone?”

“No.” Then he threw away the pretense as he realized that I wasn’t angry and therefore no longer a threat. “Look, I have an issue with you cyclists.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, really. You guys get out in the way of cars and then we have to swerve at the last minute to keep from hitting you. It’s really dangerous.”

“Yes, it is. Are you aware that we have the legal right to be in the lane along with cars like yours, even cars that parents have bought for their somewhat selfish and spoiled children?”

“Sure, I know you have the right to be there. Look, I’m really sorry.” Everything about his tone, his face, and his posture said he wasn’t sorry at all, and that now he was annoyed.

“You don’t look sorry. You look annoyed, as if I’m bothering you.”

“Look, mister, I said I was sorry. You’re lucky I didn’t hit you. I had eye surgery the other day. I can’t see very well. When I saw you all I saw was a blur.”

“I thought you didn’t see me.”

“Can I just go inside and get my Coke? You’re harassing me, mister.”

“Really? You consider being spoken to in a civil tone of voice after coming close to killing someone ‘harassment?’”

“Do you want me to call the police?”

“I don’t want you to do anything other than pay attention to bicyclists in the roadway. They’re not all as skilled as I am. A little wobble and I’d be in an ambulance right now. But if you think the police will help facilitate this conversation, by all means call them. I’ll be interested to see what happens when they ask to see your I.D.”

Now he was paying attention, fully. “What do you want me to do? How many times can I say I’m sorry?”

“I want you to think about something.”

“Okay. What?”

“I want you to think about your dad.”

“What about him?”

“How old is he?”

“Forty-five.”

“I turn fifty in a few months.”

“Yeah?”

“Would you have done what you just did, and would you be speaking like you’re speaking right now, if it had been your dad on the bike?”

He looked at me. “No. But you’re not my dad.”

“I suppose we can both be grateful for that, right?”

He was uncertain again. “Right.”

I got back on my bike and rode off.

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