Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why I Hate Drivers And Cyclists, Plus A Bonus Stupid Tough Guy Moment

These were done from other artist's works and from photographs.

Sigh.

There's an old Peanuts cartoon where (I believe) Linus cries out, "I love mankind, it's people I can't stand!" I'm the exact opposite. I can't look at a crowd without contemplating extermination but almost every person I've known I've been able to regard with affection and respect. If only I could make up my mind...


So yesterday I was walking to the comic store when I had an unpleasant experience. I walk pretty much everywhere. For reasons that will probably become clear to you I simply do not drive. Never have, most likely never will. And as a lifelong bicycle rider and pedestrian I've developed some pretty bad feelings about the whole idea of letting bald chimps control rapidly moving chunks of metal.

As a result, I'm pretty careful most of the time. So yesterday I was standing on a corner, waiting for the light to change. It did, I stepped into the street and immediately a car pulled directly in front of me, passing less than a foot from my body. I reflexively punched the passenger side window (thank god the car was so close -- I didn't have room to get in a solid blow and the last thing I need to do is pop another fucking knuckle) and the car whipped around the corner.

I turned to watch it and saw the driver pull over and start to park. At this point I'd entered into what I think of as a fugue state. This happens when I feel physically threatened and it might actually be a fugue state -- I haven't had it diagnosed. Sounds are very soft and language is just another sound and all that I'm thinking of is physics -- the movement of objects through space. The objects in question being my body and the source of the threat...

It's weird and disturbing to experience that condition. Afterwards it makes me feel like a shitty person because that semi-conscious state makes it difficult for me to exert responsible control over my behavior. It makes me feel as if I'm not really a person -- as if I'm just a potential event.

So when I see the car pull to the curb I turn and start drifting toward it. And as I approach the car pulls away from the curb and drives off and I come to and start cursing myself for losing it and cursing the driver for almost running me over.

A block later I've just started getting my nerves calmed down when the car pulls up next to me and the driver rolls down the passenger window.

"You wanna fight? You wanna fucking fight? Cause I'll get out right now if you want to fucking fight."

(Please note that at this point the engine was still running, which I interpreted as a signal of, shall we say, compromised intent. The gentleman in question might have had military or martial arts training -- but based purely on first impressions the idea of a fight between us was pretty damned silly. So he was actually showing a respectable degree of physical courage here, even if he did have to wind himself up to it.)

I lean in the window and speak in a clear, loud voice. Not quite shouting but not far from it. "You almost fucking ran me over, man. You just whipped right in front of me like you weren't even looking."

"I had the light!"

"No, you didn't. I was crossing in the crosswalk looking at a little green walking man."

"Well, you must have been looking across the street because I had the light."

I took a breath.

"Look. If it went down the way you say then I was wrong and I apologize. But it didn't. You weren't looking where you were going and you almost ran me over!"

"I'm a good driver! I look where I'm going!" He gestured to a child's car seat. "I have a kid!"

What that meant I do not know. Another deep breath, followed by the assumption of a diplomatic tone. "I didn't say you were a bad driver, I said you almost ran me over."

He deflated a little -- or maybe he just realized that he might not be acting the way he really wanted to, or that I wasn't acting the way he expected me to. "Well, if what you say happened is true then I apologize." Then he glares at me and gets excited all over again. "But you don't go fucking hitting people's cars, man!"

"Your car came this close to me, dude," I said, and held my fingers a few inches apart, then thumped my chest over the heart and made a panic-stricken face.

And the tension left his face. "Okay," he said. "Okay." And he held his hand out and we shook and he drove off.

I don't think he was a bad guy and I think he mostly believed what he said -- I hope that he had at least an inkling of the notion that I was in the right. I'm glad we talked it out and I'm glad that I was able to avoid being a complete asshole. I'm extra glad that I didn't get into a fight.

But.

This is the second time in the last week a careless driver has come close to hitting me in circumstances where I've clearly had the right of way -- the other one was a young woman with a cell phone whose expression of sheer terror when she looked up and realized how close she came to creaming me was quite gratifying in a mean-spirited way.

I am sick of it. And when the guy who almost ran me over made his statement about not punching cars I almost lost it right there. How am I supposed to communicate to a driver that they have done something grossly, life-threateningly negligent in a way that makes them actually take notice? If I hadn't punched his car -- and I reiterate, it was a purely unconscious reaction -- he would have had no fucking idea that he had come very, very close to killing or injuring a pedestrian. I honestly think he was more upset about my striking his car than about any other aspect of the situation. What the fuck, people? If you care that much about your car, if you don't want to know when you've made a serious mistake, you are defective.

Cyclists, while certainly less threatening, are far worse in terms of attitude and behavior.

One of the reasons I stopped riding my bike was that I was finding it tiresome to stop at a stop sign and have a series of cyclists zip past me right through into traffic.

Once last summer when I stopped at a stop sign a truck crossing the intersection stopped and the driver yelled out his window, "That's the first time I've ever seen a bicycle stop at a stop sign! That's beautiful, man!"

And that's when I realized that one of the reasons drivers get so squirrely at intersections is because they're expecting me to just shoot through and they don't know how to deal with someone on a bicycle who at least tries to obey the law.

There's been a new trend I've noticed lately -- cyclists talking on their cell phones. Sometimes they're in traffic, sometimes they're on the sidewalk. They never wear helmets. Why can't we just harvest their organs now before they get all bruised?

Why aren't I allowed to club cyclists on the sidewalk right to the fucking ground? Why don't they call out or ring a bell when passing from behind? You know who's the worst for this? Bicycle cops. Go figure.

It seems as though everyone on wheels has a sense of entitlement. They all think they're special bunnies and everyone else is wrong. Wrong and IN THEIR WAY.

I'm at the point where I don't really believe in good drivers or cyclists anymore. No matter how nice a person you are the odds are pretty good that when you are operating a vehicle you are going to act like a jerk every so often -- but when being a jerk means threatening the lives and well-being of the people around you, well. That's a little past carelessness. People aren't fit to drive and the death toll on the roads bears this out.

It would be just ducky if there were enough pedestrians to be able to organize and politicize -- but there aren't. There just aren't.

So all I can do is hate. Look at you in your cars and on your bikes and on your skateboards fucking risking lives for the sake of a moment's convenience or a sense of power or entitlement or territory or out of sheer stupidity -- hell, I don't know what motivates the steaming monkey-mass as they steer blindly with one hand while sucking down a coffee and yapping on their cell phone.

Just know this. No matter how I might feel about you as individuals as contributing factors in this situation I hate you and I fear you -- and one of these days you'll probably run my ass over.

6 comments:

Zachary said...

Up here in Alaska, man, we have the worst cyclists. You know, the guys and gals who won't wear something that doesn't say "REI" on it, and have bikes that cost more than cars but can be lifted with your pinky finger. They piss me off to no end. They don't use the sidewalk, even when it's empty. They don't use the shoulder. They use the STREET. The LANE. They hold up traffic, they flip drivers the bird or yell at them for trying to somehow go around them to escape a 10-or-15-miles-per-hour stall.

They're worse on bike trails. Lots of people, LOTS of people use the multiuse trails in Anchorage, especially, as you can imagine, in the summer. Well, these hardcore bikers (who turn into hardcore skiiers when snow starts falling) don't signal when they're approaching. They pass you any way they want, either from the left or the right, by telling you or not. They yell at you for being "in the way" when you're just walking on the trail. It's multiuse, assholes!

Every summer there are little wars in the Op/Ed section of the paper being drivers, pedestrians, and fucking bikers. It's very much an us vs. them scenario, but it wouldn't have to be if bikers just acting like pricks. Ride on the shoulder, you idiots! Let pedestrians know when you're approaching them! How hard is that?

You can tell which side of the "debate" I'm on.

Sean Craven said...

Gotta say, I don't want 'em on the sidewalks -- bikes belong on low-traffic streets. And as you say, they should not be getting in the fucking lane.

I hear you about the multiuse trails -- have you ever run across the self-righteous jackoffs who like to bike on hiking trails? I've never had one of those worthless shitheads ever admit they were in the wrong no matter how ridiculous the situation was.

After forcing you off the trail they always respond to, "Uh, excuse me, this isn't a bike path, did you see the signs at the trail head?" with curses and insults as they Pedal Away. Lipping off while in motion... there should be penalties.

Of course there are times when cyclists are among the sinned-against. Part of our local public transit system has an elevated set of train tracks, under which are two paths, one for bikes and one for pedestrians.

Sounds perfect, right? But the pedestrian path is always empty and the bike path is filled with people pushing their fucking BABYCARTS!

It's the sense of entitlement. "Oh, I am a physically fit non-polluter." "Oh, I have am a good parent out walking with my baby." "Oh, I have an expensive sports car."

I hate 'em, I hate 'em, I hate 'em!

lonesome-cowgirl said...

Well, I used low traffic streets all the time in Chicago but out here in Oakland there are too many hills where I live to make low traffic streets a viable alternative. So I have to subject myself to the dangers of riding on high traffic streets all the time because I have no alternative. I do not run red lights but I do "pause" instead of stopping at most stop signs, especially if no one is coming for obvious reasons. Bikes are not supposed to be on the sidewalk, it is dangerous and cars backing out of driveways, etc are not expecting a cyclist on the sidewalk. I am perfectly happy to be on the street and ecstatic to use a bike lane, if there is one available. I have had so many drivers ride up on my rear or yell out their window because they don't want to share the lane. That's just too bad. I can't feel sorry for every alpha male on the road, I would never get anywhere!!! I agree that most people should not drive large metal vehicles and SUV drivers are usually the worst from what I've seen, drinking coffee, texting, dialing numbers, no eyes on the road in front of them. Humanity is lazy and hopeless for the most part. Just try to watchout for yourself the best you can. I prefer walking as well but sometimes its just not the best option for me.

Sean Craven said...

Oh, man, I know I'm going to sound like a dick here but when you talk about sharing lanes with cars on busy streets that's exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about.

The statement, "That's just too bad. I can't feel sorry for every alpha male on the road, I would never get anywhere!!!" kinda raised my hackles.

Is it only alpha males you're inconveniencing -- or are they the only ones who give you shit about it? Are you actually inconveniencing them or are they just being assholes?

It's hard to tell from what you've written and I always assume the worst of everyone in situations I don't actually witness.

Coming after your 'no alternatives' position it gives me the impression you're placing convenience above the safety of yourself and others, regardless of what's actually going on.

In my experience if you go a block or two over from a high-traffic street you find a low-traffic street. Maybe we have different definitions of what these terms mean...

If our society had any kind of rational attitude toward traffic there would be safe and useful bike routes everywhere -- but there aren't.

For someone who for whatever reason isn't in a car this forces us into making hard decision. When making those decisions it's important to remember that we aren't just putting ourselves at risk. We're putting everyone around us at risk.

I wound up sucking it up and giving up vehicles entirely -- not that I turn my nose up at getting a ride. Of course I'm a nut whose prone to extreme reactions...

I totally hear you about SUVs, though. It used to be that Volvo drivers were the most lethal scum on the roads but SUVs put 'em in the shade. It's sick but funny to read about police departments buying fleets of these things when they know damn well what kind of death toll they're reaping.

I'm sorry to be a dick about this, but I really do hate most behavior on wheels. Vehicles make it too easy and convenient to put our own momentary desires ahead of courtesy and safety. I'm not saying drivers and cyclists are assholes -- I'm saying that humans have asshole tendencies and traffic allows us to freely express those tendencies.

Hell, I love the missus but she's a terrible driver. Thinks, "Well, I didn't see them," is an adequate response to almost running down a woman pushing a babycart. Routinely gets pissed at drivers doing the things she does.

It's that sense of entitlement that drives me nuts, the way that people are constantly excusing their own lapses and then raging at the lapses of others. I had to opt out of the whole game in order to avoid feeling like a hypocrite.

That frees me up to be self-righteous twenty-four fuckin' hours a day. Which should give me a stroke any minute now, but that's a different story.

Dave said...

Wow, I went though a similar event this morning while walking to work. I live in Montreal, and I believe this city has the most aggressive drivers in the world. They are extremely hostile towards pedestrians.

I was waiting at a red light when finally it turned green for me (the little walk sign flashing). I KNOW that the cars wanting to turn cant for a good 15 seconds cause they dont have the right yet, they only have a green arrow, not a flashing green light (I drive sometimes in that area so I know this)...anyways, while Im crossing, a mini-van inches up towards the crosswalk, and gets very close to me...I mean really close...and as soon as I cleared his bumper (by an inch) he presses the gas and goes right by me (I still have the right of way). So as an instinct, I punch the guy's window as hard as I could.

As Im walking off, I hear 2 guys shouting at me (they sounded italian or egyptian or something)...they parked their car in THE MIDDLE OF THE INTERSECTION...so they could come after me and one guy spit at me...the other one was trying ti intimidate me by pushing me...I didnt back off, but I wasnt direspectful or aggressive. I just held my own.

Anyways, they were mad as hell, and one guy looked like he wanted to beat me up. I just kept on repeating "I had the right of way" and "you almost hit me man"...one of the guys said "just look where you're going" in a mocking tone. WTF...uhhh, I have the light, maybe?? The RIGHT OF WAY?? They gave up and went back to their cars when other motorists starting honking at them for blocking the crosswalk + intersection.

Serious, Ive been driving for so many years, I believe strongly that something has gone wrong in our society....there's no respect anymore, and people DO feel entitled...and it shows up in traffic and on the street.

Look at the behavior of people in chat rooms, where there is anonymity and no accountability...people cursing at each other, making threats, etc...just because they are safe behind their computer miles away from the other person, they feel they can say what they want and get away with it without any real serious face-to-face retaliation.

The same goes with people in their cars...they are the Gods of the Road...they dont care about anyone else but themselves cause they are perfectly enclosed in their cage of metal, safely protected from the outside...hidden behind tinted windows. I made a vow to myself that I will continue to let these assholes know that they cant drive the way they do and put other people's lives in danger because they have some power trip (vehicle vs man). I will punch and kick and do whatever I want to their vehicles if they ever become a threat to my safety. It surprises them, they dont expect it...and they remember it. The next time they are tempted to cut off a vulnerable pedestrian, they might think twice before doing so. I hope one day a pedestrian opens fire on one of these s.o.b's. (lol, just jokin'). :)

Anyways, I get you...I hate the drivers of today aswell...

Bruce said...

Today,we are proud to announce the launch of the new wedding support service sell ffxi gil,packed with features sure to sell ffxi gils delight adventurers across Vana'diel looking to exchange eternal vows with their beloved!Responding to player demands for greater customization,the new service will grant brides and grooms freedom in choosing location,timing,dialogue,and sell Final Fantasy XI Gil more for their ceremony,allowing them to create a truly memorable event all their own.Information on all the features,including in-game sell ffxi gil item vendors and wedding certificates,can be found on the new wedding support site,so head on over sell ffxi gils and get started planning the wedding of your dreams sell Final Fantasy XIGil!