This happened on my morning commute, and I don’t have any real reason to post it or big lesson to learn, I guess I just want to get it off my chest.
This morning I rode the bus to work as usual. At one point in the commute, I noticed a cyclist, a thin man in a neon yellow reflective jacket with a salt and pepper goatee who looked to be in his 40s or 50s, riding in the right lane in front of the bus. He was riding in the middle of the lane, not off to the side like I see most cyclists do, and our bus driver (also in his 40s or 50s) honked at him.
I remember thinking, “dude, I know it’s not fun to be behind a cyclist but don’t honk at him. That’s not cool,”
and then, “aaaand this is why I ride my bike on 2nd street, not 1st. There are bike lines there. Lots of them. It’s great. Try it for next time?”
The bus passes the biker, and a minute later, the bus pulls up to a stop light. The biker pulls up along the driver side of the bus and starts banging on the driver’s window! Wtf??? The bus driver must have opened the window because a second later, we hear them start cussing each other out. The biker said something first, and then I heard the bus driver yell something about “you shouldn’t ride in the middle of the lane like an asshole!” and the biker responds with “I have a RIGHT to ride out here!“, something something, more cussing, blah blah, “I’m gonna call your boss!” “Yeah you do that!”, and then the light turned green and the cyclist rode off and the bus driver swerved around him, making it a point to cut it close, and we rode on.
Moving along, right? No. This scene repeated itself three more times in the next few minutes. Each time we pulled up to a stoplight, Angry Cyclist pulled up to the driver’s window and started screaming again. And then, again, the light would change, the cyclist would defiantly ride in the middle of the lane, and the bus driver would taunt him back by passing him closer than need be.
Who the hell do you think you are cutting me off?
You’re riding in the middle of the lane like an a-hole! You’re not a car!!
You’re never gonna drive a bus again after today!
Yeah, how do you know?
If you cut me off one more time I’ll drag you out of that bus and beat your f***in ass!!
Well I’m right here, tough guy. Go for it. You won’t, you’re all talk!
And on and on and you can imagine the rest.
By the last time this happened, there was some kind of weird release in the bus, because all the other passengers finally reacted. Not in any meaningful way, but everyone kind of let out that incredulous, exasperated half-chuckle we do as we roll our eyes and shake our heads at what an idiot someone is being.
Maybe other people are used to seeing this kind of thing every day, but I’m not. I ride the bus every day and confrontations between anyone are surprisingly rare, at least in my experience.
And I’m sure some people just find drama like this entertaining, but it wasn’t entertaining to me. It actually made me extremely uncomfortable. Mainly for three reasons: First, it’s worth noting that I absolutely, positively, completely hate confrontation. Second, the two men were stalking each other on the road and the situation was very clearly escalating. It also made me angry how idiotic and reckless they were being. Not only because they were dragging dozens of innocent bystanders into their stupid pissing match and possibly putting us in danger, but don’t these guys ever read the news? People have been murdered by complete strangers over road confrontations just like this.
And third: there was just something about that cyclist, something in his voice. His voice had a cold, hard, angry edge to it. Like, you can tell when it’s just some disagreeable guy getting frustrated in the heat of the moment and losing his temper. But this was an angry person. You could just hear it, there was a deeper rage that charged his voice. And the fact that he willingly, almost eagerly escalated this confrontation….he bothered me. A lot.
There’s just something really disturbing about hearing someone with such cold-blooded anger in their voice say to someone “I’m going to drag you out of there and beat the hell out of you.” I mean…whoa.
They were both totally irresponsible, reckless idiots in this situation. It was both of their faults. But for some reason I can’t explain, I was much more angry at the biker. I shouldn’t have been, especially because I’m a runner and occasionally a biker and not a driver and I know what it’s like out there, and because the cyclist was right, he did have every right to ride in that lane. But I was angrier at him anyway. He was the one who escalated the conflict. Or maybe I instinctively sided with the driver because I was inside his bus, I don’t know. Or maybe it’s because I really did not like that cyclist. He made me mad because he wouldn’t just shut up and let it go already (I almost hoped he would ride by when I got off just so I could give him the stink-eye myself), but he also scared me. That anger.
Every time these things happen, I always wonder why adults can act like this and I always hear or tell myself the same responses: Some people have anger issues. Some people are just jerks. Not everyone has good impulse control or manners. And it should make sense to me, but at the same time, it will never ever ever ever make sense to me that even hotheads can’t take literally one second to stop and ask themselves “is this worth it?”
There’s just too much at stake not to. And the answer is almost always, NO. It’s not worth it to have the last word, it’s not worth it to “show them”, it’s not worth it to “win”. As some wise soul once said, “you never regret taking the high road.”
I’ll conclude with this: we think of road rage as primarily an affliction of car drivers, so I can’t help noticing the irony that the worst road rage incident I’ve witnessed did not involve a single car.