March 25, 2010
"Oh, you can't follow the signs like everyone else, can you?" The man yells at me across the three lanes of Union Avenue, a one-way city street that works its way through downtown Pasadena.
The light has just turned red and I am on my hybrid bicycle, methodically rolling in circles in the far right lane, just in front of a few cars. Unfortunately, I'm not one of those masterful urban riders that can stay upright on their bike, remaining perfectly balanced while waiting for the light to change colors. But since I'm determined to remain in my toe clips between lights, I roll in tight circles instead of taking a foot off the pedal.
Surprised by the yelling, I turn to see an older gentlemen, a fellow rider, sitting on his bike and glaring disdainfully in my direction. He is dressed in half biker outfit, half mountain man outfit, an anomaly that I can't help but notice with fascination. His shirt is a tight fitting jersey material with bright colors, so the vehicles coming up behind will take notice. His pants are of the heavy cargo nature, with bulging pockets and cuffs so wide you can barely see his sneakers. He wears an old helmet, one that I might have seen my Father don when I was a kid. His thick beard and wire-rimmed glasses make him look older than he probably is. I'd still peg his age at sixty-four.
"Huh? What?" I say confused, half wondering if he's actually talking to me.
"Oh, you're too good for the law, are you?" He shakes his head back and forth in a look of disgust. His eyes mock me. They seem to reveal something deeper, like a universal anger with young people.
I look into the cars idling between him and myself and peer into several drivers seats, begging someone to give me a look that says, "I know, right, that guy is an idiot." But it seems it's just him and me out here on the street, a different fraternity altogether from the car people.
"Huh? What?" I ask with my eyes narrowing together, my face scrunching up in complete state of bewilderment.
He laughs back, deriding my inability to assess the situation.
This is the longest light ever.
I have no idea why he is scolding me, why his demeanor is so harsh. Did he mistake my silly riding circle as a precursor to cycling through the red light? Did he notice my no-hand-signal lane change a few blocks ago?
"I'm stopped, waiting for the light." I say almost apologetically and immediately I wish I could say something much bolder and more spirited.
"Oh, so you're one of those guys who knows it all!" Maybe all you need to know about this man is that he starts every sarcastic rant with a drawn out "Ohhhh." The kind of "oh" that requires you to wave your palms back and forth.
The opposite crosswalk is finally counting down. I watch it tick from ten, nine, eight and as it winds down, my anger ramps up. I want to yell back something fierce, something that will shut this guy up. I want to rebuke his public display of contemptuous madness. I want to ask him if he's the bicycle police, and start that question with an "oh." I want to zing this guy so bad that he won't mess with another rider again. I want to do it just as the light turns, so I can ride off victoriously.
"Huh? What?" THIS is my anticipated zinger.
As the light turns go, I can hear my sixty year-old foe giggling as he pulls away.
We ride together, on opposite sides of the one-way, for one more block until I make a right turn towards the library.
Prompt 1 of the workshop...