I was accelerating down York Road toward Lower Glencoe on my bike the other day, helmet on, heart filled with glee. To my left the sunlight was filtering through the trees, creating a richter-tape of jagged tree shadow printout on the road: glorious. Immeasurable freedom of the senses is found in accelerating freefall velocity at forty plus miles an hour. Yet I purposely remained in the right margin of the road, though Maryland State traffic law clearly maintains that a bicycle is just as much a vehicle as a car, and therefore, technically, I had and have the right to be riding on the road. Now, mind you, the right margin of York Road is not unlike the surface of the moon, pockmarked and cratered, not nearly as nice as the newly paved asphalt of the main road. However, for the sake of both boundaries and safety I remained in the rough. Imagine my surprise, then, when I heard a rather corpulent four-by-four come upon my left rear, and subsequently its invasive honk, or more precisely, the glaring ugliness of the driver manifested in the sound of his staccato horn. I jumped like a dog for a biscuit: no easy rebound of the central nervous system when one's feet are clipped into her pedals which are still turning at over forty miles per hour. Further, I surprised myself: I ignored him. "I'm not in his way," I mused, remaining very cool and logical. "Why did he honk? Surely he'll pass me, now," I thought.
I thought wrong.
Now, nearly alongside me (I could see the truck was a hefty white four-by-four Dodge Ram), he honked AGAIN and leered down upon me. That did it. So much for cool logic. I did what any red-blooded cyclist does when she is infuriated: I gave him the finger.
He pealed out in front of me, his truck screeching as he briefly accelerated, then screeching again as he brought the truck to a halt about one-hundred yards in front of me on the steepest part of the downhill yet and directly in my way.
I could try to go around him, but of course, he could still tangle with me. After all, the simple,inexorable laws of physics dictate that when and if an accelerating bicyclist on a bicycle has some sort of, er, let's say, "interaction" with a driver in a truck, the truck and therefore its driver will always win.
I could simply stop, but again, at forty miles per hour or more, the chances of flying over the handlebars were about fifty-fifty. And indeed, for she who is clipped in, Confucius say "she who stop bike short with hands take bike along on her feet...heheheh, vewwwwyyy twickyyyy...." ...but not an option.
I was so angry (and all of the above had flown through my head in about five seconds) that I slowed deliberately and consistently over about seventy-five yards, brought my bike to a halt and unclipped in about ten (seconds).
During that ten seconds, the driver exited his truck, slammed his door shut, and stood beside the door with his arms folded. I found myself rapidly approaching the O-K Corral at high noon. I saw that this man had on a wife-beater t-shirt with fully tatooed arms, and from his posture, he seemed bent on bullying and intimidating those who dared to cross either his path or him. Pity the fool.
Understand, the audial effect of the sound of a pair of bike clips, under ordinary circumstances, say, walking into a store or across the gym floor to a stationary bike, is a sort of a dull, annoying "clomp clomp clomp." However, on this particular occasion, when first one clip hit the road with a sharp, metallic "cling!" and then the other, "clang!," it was nothing short of a scene from "True Grit." ...and into the saloon she goes, spurs resonating on the bar room floor, hands on hips, and says in a low voice, "Apparently this road ain't big enough for the both of us..."
Indeed, I spoke first. The words tumbled and crescendoed out, peppering him with an unexpected phalanx of verbal bullets: "HOW DARE YOU? JUST HOW DARE YOU? WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? HONKING AT AN INNOCENT CYCLIST! AND NOT ONCE, BUT TWICE! WHEN YOU DO THAT, IT PUTS FEAR INTO US, AND WE CAN CRASH! IT MAKES US JUMP! STATE LAW SAYS I HAVE JUST AS MUCH RIGHT TO BE HERE AS YOU, BUT I DEFERRED TO YOU, STAYING IN THE MARGIN! WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU? WHY DID YOU HONK? WHY?"
He shifted his weight uncomfortably from one foot to the other, uneasily cocking his head with uncertainty, unprepared for this unforeseen meeting of aggression with aggression, seemingly decided that no woman was going to talk to him in this way, regained his false bravado, clenched both his fists, took two steps toward me, and rasped, "I was tryin to warn ya, sister!"
It was the two steps toward me and his clenched fists that put me over the edge of any last vestage of self control. I exploded in full-blown rage. Perceiving his latest maneuver as a direct physical threat, I astonished myself by taking four steps forward toward both him and his truck, and again, there was the warning, slow, deliberate, metallic "Cling! Clang! Cling! Clang!" of clips hitting asphalt. I leaned toward him ( I was only about ten feet from him at this point), and I said in a low, yet resonant growl of a voice that I didn't even know I possessed, "And does this make you feel like the big man in your big truck? Is this what makes you feel strong and powerful, like a big man? Because you don't know who you're honking at, mister."
"Look, bitch! I honked to let you know I was coming up on you! I could knock you out right here, right now, n' I don't need my truck to do it!" Yet he didn't move.
Seeing that he remained inert, I took full advantage of the situation and began a fresh verbal assault upon him quite unexpectedly again. "TRY IT! I DARE YOU! AND AS WE STAND HERE, WASTING TIME ARGUING WITH REGARD TO YOUR IRREFUTABLY MENACING AND ILLEGAL, HARRASSING ROAD BEHAVIOR, A MINIMUM OF FIVE-THOUSAND BARRELS OF OIL A DAY ARE LEAKING INTO THE GULF OF MEXICO; OIL THAT OSTENSIBLY WOULD BE USED TO MAKE GAS TO FUEL THAT MONSTROSITY WITH WHICH YOU THREATEN ME WHICH IS SOON TO BECOME OBSOLETE. LOOK AT THAT TRUCK OF YOURS, DUDE! GET A FUCKIN' GOOD LOOK AT IT, BECAUSE IT IS THE WAY OF THE PAST. IT IS GOING TO GO BYE-BYE, AND SO ARE YOU! AND GET THIS: ME AND MY BIKE? YEAH! WE ARE THE FUTURE!
He didn't know what to say. He stood absolutely dumbfounded.
"NOW GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE! RUN ALONG NOW!" I shouted.
His evil eyes suddenly lit up with deluded pleasure at an unforeseen possibility. "You don't have a license, do you? Huh, bitch?"
Eliminating any remaining space between us, I clipped directly up to him, looked him straight in his eyes, and I again responded quietly, slowly, and deliberately, as if I had never yelled at all, " You're right. I don't have a license. But you do." I gazed intently at the license plate on the back of his truck. "And if you don't leave immediately, I am going to take my phone from my saddle bag and I am going to call the police. And they will track you down like a dog in the street. Bow wow wow, yippie yo, yippie yay. You're done. You're so done." I glared at him silently for a couple of seconds, then turned crisply and began to walk sharply back to my bike, my clips still sounding out their wild west warnings.
Defeated, he rapidly and wordlessly got into his truck, slammed the door shut, and peeled out.