Shouts from the road
Who doesn’t like a good shout out? It’s a positive thing; “a shout out to my homeboy Lance Armstrong gonna do the Grand Boucle again!”. It’s a compliment, a way to express your good feeling toward a friend. I’m here to say that these vocal missives can fall into the wrong hands; they can emanate from douchebags. Specifically, those ridiculously clever individuals who shout stuff to me as they whiz by in their cars/trucks/SUVs.
A few things are obvious. One, they haven’t ridden a bike themselves since they got their license. Otherwise, they’d realize that there is no way I could ever understand what they say with the wind going past my ears. The wiser ones among them just scream or shriek.
Second, they shout whatever it is when they are passing me at speed, with no chance of me catching them. I’ve come close a few times at (somewhat) busy intersections, but never a catch. Often they’re going in the opposite direction. I don’t think I need to state the obvious cowardly nature here (but I just did). This is probably for the best because with the adrenaline rush caused by being startled in such a douchbaggy way would likely result in assault charges and a broken frame pump.
Also, it’s a crime of opportunity. I doubt they leave their trailer thinking, “I’m going to create a loud noise as I pass some random cyclist. I need to run out for some smokes and a quart bottle of Bud.” They see me and react instinctively. And yes, it is a crime. Details in “Expected Outcomes”.
Generally the manifestations of their behavior is often a shout (as mentioned above). Just as common is blowing the horn. Recently (last Tuesday I think) I heard a new one. This douchebag actually had an air horn at the ready. That’s the first possibly premeditated one I’ve experienced. They had to have the horn in their hand waiting for someone to enter their field of view.
One exception stands. About two or three years ago, I got cat called by some young ladies in a convertible. Whether they thought I was hot or were being sarcastic is not an issue. I choose to believe they thought I was hot because, like the ride itself, it made me feel good.
The result wanted by these horn-honking douchebags is a simple one. They want to startle me to a degree that I lose control of my bike and crash. Therein lies the crime; using a vehicle to cause injury to another person. A twisted schadenfreude to be sure. A mentally healty person only takes pleasure in the misfortunes of others when they are deserving of it – that person has caused them harm in some way. I am a benign presence in the places this happens. I avoid main roads whenever I can, and am keenly aware of the traffic situation around me; it becomes second nature when you ride long enough.
The only positive here is that it reinforces the importance of good bike handling skills. Lately, the noise will startle me, but I don’t jerk the bike off of it’s path. The focus on proper technique pays off. I never lock my elbows; the flex allows you to absorb the natural flinch before it translates to the handlebars.
It would be naive of me to expect this to ever go away. Just one of these times I’d love to catch up to one of them at an intersection and see how brave they are when they can’t just stomp on the gas to get away. Besides, frame pumps are cheap.