Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Just Fucking Apologize

What makes it so hard for people to just apologize when they screw up?

Even when cars almost kill me, all I want is an apologetic, spooked look conveying, "Oh my god, I totally didn't see you, I am so sorry." I want to know that my heart wasn't the only one that leapt throatward and is now beating like a crackhead. Seriously, that is all I need--because that look instantaneously conveyes that the driver recognizes they messed up, realizes the harm they almost caused, cares that they almost hurt someone and will try not to do it again. Done and done. I didn't get this look after a near collision this morning.

On the ride to work today a car passed me and then immediately, upon seeing a parking spot, slammed on its brakes while crossing my path. I didn't hit it, but I was not at all pleased. I lost all of my momentum braking to avoid a collision, so I had absolutely no reason not to stop and have a friendly morning "why did you almost kill me" conversation. I pulled alongside the vehicle and motioned for the woman to roll her window down. She obviously saw me, but deliberately didn't make eye contact--her passenger kept giving me nervous looks though.

Hey ladies, here is a clue: You are parking. I have a pretty good hunch that you will shortly be exiting the car, so this childish "if I don't see you, then you don't exist" game doesn't work as well as you seem to hope. Also, I am not deterred by awkward situations--I thrive on them, so if you hope discomfort will force me to leave, well think again. Additionally, waiting me out is futile--the stubborness runs strong in this girl. Think pitbull jaws. So I stood there in the street staring at the two women in the car as they parked, sat there, talked to each other, sat there, slowly gathered their purses and stuff and exited the car.

"Did you see me"
--"What?"
"Did you see me when you cut me off?"
--"You're not hurt"
"Luckily, and no thanks to you. The question was if you saw me."
--"You're not hurt"
"I'm not hurt because I was paying attention and was able to slam on my brakes, check traffic and manuver around you to avoid hitting your car as you cut me off."
--"See, you're fine."
"Don't you care that because you weren't paying attention or weren't thinking you almost caused an accident?"
--" "
"I am not trying to fight with you, but I want you to understand that you need to pay attention and think about the other people on the road."
--" "
"Why don't you care about what you almost caused to happen?"
--" "
________________________
End of story. The women just refused to respond and wouldn't look at me.

I had a similar encounter, that I posted at Oil is for Sissies blog. I have only encountered this response twice--both from women. Most people are perfectly willing to apologize or discuss this type of incident, but this silly "you're not hurt, therefore I did nothing wrong" bullshit has only been spewed by women. Interesting. I'll have to pay more attention in the future.

I need to develop a different strategy for dealing with this type of jackassery in the future. My u-lock comes to mind as a way to get people's attention. Not to actually hit their cars, but to threaten them into paying attention to me. This is obviously much safer in this scenario than when the people are inside a vehicle with its engine running. I know that even armed with a u-lock and steeltoes, I don't want to threaten an asshole driving a weapon. I can always spit on cars, especially since the phlegm in my lungs would create a loogie that cannot be ignored. This just seems lame though--I am not an animal that spits on others. Plus I really want drivers to drive safely and respect bicyclists and I don't think spitting or alluding to violence really conveys that message.

It's just really frustrating to have so many people on the road treat my life so casually and then behave as if I am overreacting when I expect them to care that they almost injured another human being. As much as I enjoy conversing with motorists, I don't usually do so angrily. Several of these conversations are quite pleasant and educational for the motorists. I do get tickled when they try to tell me what the biking laws are, though. Ummm....I'm a lawyer who bikes--this argument is mine. Maybe that is what I can do when people don't take me seriously--drop the attorney-bomb and threaten to sue them for assault, negligence and recklessness. They won't know that is bullshit, but it might scare their heads out of their asses.

Anyway, a few blocks later I became part of biking caravan. We came upon a car that was stopped in the bike lane and all had to slow down considerably to manuver around it.* The first rider stopped to yell at the couple inside. Then the second rider followed suit. The third snaked to the right of the car and yelled from that side, too. I added my "get out of the bike lane" to the chorus. It was precious--the motorists looked completely bewildered and somewhat frightened about the bikes that seemingly came from nowhere to call them out. The passenger was gesturing that it was OK, because they were making a right turn up ahead. Hilarious. This interaction lifted my mood considerably after the first encounter.



*There was a right turn ahead and several cars in queue with their blinkers on to the right of the bike lane. This car however was smack in the bike lane wedged close between parked cars and the traffic lane. Often in this area cars pull out of the slow/stopped traffic lane to drive in the clear bike lane, usually to make a right turn, but also to merge back in at the next intersection like a jackass. I would bet any money that this car had driven in the bike lane for quite a while to get where it was. Anyone who makes a right turn has to cut across the bike lane, but not here. The bike lane normally has solid lines, with dashed lines to indicate where cars should cut. Amazingly the dashed lines correspond with the "No Parking Past this Point" signs to allow for a turning lane to the right of the bike lane. Followed accordingly, a car never need be plopped in the bike lane--they should only cut across it momentarily. I love street planning--it's like ballet. Too bad so few follow the choreography.

5 Comments:

At 12:10 AM, Blogger Dave Morris said...

As a motorist, I am equally perturbed by those who refuse to acknowledge their mistakes with a wave or shrug. Just show the offendee that you realize you just did a bone-headed thing. A nod. Anything.

Almost as bad... when you slow down to allow someone into your lane, wave them in... and they don't give you the "thank you" wave. You just want to whip around them and get in front again.

Enjoyed reading your blog.

 
At 1:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't want to start a flame war or anything. But I always think of that Jack Nicholson line from 'As good as it gets' when he's asked by his adoring female fan: "How do you write women so well?" and he responds in classic asshole fashion "I think of a man. Then I take away reason and accountability." Anyway, the accountability part is what strikes me about your experience that women tend to not readily acknowledge their mistakes. Who knows what the reason is, or even if it's really a phenomenon. I seem to recall an incident back in high school when riding in a car driven by a female classmate. She was driving like a maniac and nearly had an accident and seemed unfazed by it. When I pointed out that her driving was likely to cause an accident, she said, "That's what insurance is for." Ooookayyy. I'll be getting out right here, thank you.
Jim

 
At 12:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I firmly believe that when people get behind the wheel of a car they develop a completely different personality AND they become willing to risk not only their own life, but also the lives of others.(ok, ok, I know this is a generalization that doesn't apply to everyone). I see people doing this kind of stuff whether I'm driving or on my bike. It sucks not only because it's dangerous but also because I get upset and my blood pressure goes up and so even if they don't kill me on the spot, they are killing me slowly.

Ok, I'm just ranting about cars, I know. I drive one too sometimes and have really been trying lately to keep a smile on my face and not get caught up in reacting to stupid stuff people do. Been trying that on the bike, too.

My wife got me a bumper sticker that says Why Am I The Only One Who Knows How To Drive?

Mark the fender guy

 
At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out this guy's blog. I thought about you when I saw the photos of winter commuting. Also, I thought the one with "What was that bump?" was cute.

http://bikelanediary.blogspot.com/

Mark the fender guy

 
At 1:06 AM, Blogger jojo said...

I won't go femi-nazi (I hate that wonderful term is attributed to Rush Limbaugh) on anyone for bringing up their observations and thought--I am not a PC dictator.

I actually am trying to remember differences in the way men and women respond to confrontation. I must say that many, MANY people don't seem able to take responsibility for their actions or emotions, and that it certainly isn't exclusive to women. The manifestations of this underlying immaturity may be different between the genders. Think of all the excuses, denials, blame-shifting and other passive-aggressive, wussy behavior people demonstrate.

Add this type of behavior with laziness (tardiness), wrap people in a powerful steel cage that provides both security and annominity and then put them in an unpleasant, highly stressful, boring situation and Presto! The volatile, blameless driver!

I will confess that I can't wait for the inevitable altercation with a vehicle sporting a "pro-life" bumper sticker. That will be too much fun.

Nice image Mark.

 

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