I admit it. I was already pissed off.
I was riding on as perfect a SoCal day as I have yet seen in nearly two decades as an Angeleno. Sunny, windless, mid-80s, cruising up the Santa Monica section on Main Street on the back end of a 32-mile ride, just a stone’s throw from the beach.
Unlike the blow-out induced hike earlier in the week, this ride had gone of without a hitch, reaffirming at the deepest levels of my being why we live in L.A., and why I ride.
Then just as I was about to pass an SUV parked on the side of the road, I started to get a funny feeling that things were about to go to hell fast. Nothing I could put my finger on, but it caused me to take a good look at the vehicle on my right.
No turn signal. No brake lights. I couldn’t even see if there was a driver behind the wheel.
But sure enough, just as I was about the pass the car, it lurched out from the curb, entering the lane as if I wasn’t there.
I swerved hard to the left, nearly crossing the center line, and yelled out a warning. Then yelled again. And again a third time, before the driver finally responded and let me pass.
As I rode by, I took a good look at the driver, and saw an expression that chilled me to my sweat-soaked chamois. Not the look of remorse that most drivers would bear under such circumstances. Nor the angry expression we’ve all seen too many times. Or even the blank, uncomprehending bovine gaze of a driver who has no idea what’s going on.
No, this time I saw the face of a man who knew exactly what he’d done. And didn’t care.
The moment I passed his vehicle and pulled back to the right, he gunned his engine and lurched around me. Then less than half a block away, he swerved back into the bike lane to pass another car on the right, before running the next red light and disappearing around a corner.
Needless to say, I was shaken. And shaking.
And I was pissed.
So I was in no mood to turn the other cheek a mile or so down the road, when I saw a pickup truck put on its turn signal and pull into the right lane to make a turn — without ever checking his mirrors to see that I was already there.
Fortunately, I was prepared this time. I grabbed my brakes, let him pull in front of me, then swung around to his left and pulled up next to him at the light.
His window was open, and he was looking the other way, preparing for his turn. So doing my best to keep my voice level and my anger under control, I leaned in and said, “Next time, check your mirrors first.”
And then the most amazing thing happened.
He turned around, revealing a young African-American man, and gave me one of the biggest, friendliest smiles I’ve ever had directed my way. And apologized profusely — and sincerely.
Taken aback, I mumbled something about how it was okay since I’d seen his turn signal, and just try to be more careful next time. He gave me that same smile again, nodded, and made his turn.
And I rode home, my mood restored, and thinking what a nice guy I’d just met. And I realized it’s true.
A soft answer really does turneth away wrath.
Something I might want to remember next time that I piss someone else off.
Hardrockgirl experiences a perfect Sunday riding through the Westside, while Gary celebrates his victory over a clueless cop an unfair ticket. LABikeRides and Streetsblog LA alert us to the upcoming Tour de Ballona II. A councilperson in Mad City, where it’s against the law to get doored, tries to put the responsibility back where it belongs. An Alaskan cyclist writes about the joys of riding at –15F (remember that next time we bitch about our 60 degree cold spells). Finally, the esteemed, and newly minted, Dr. Alex returns to blogdom with a meditation on cycling, activism and eternal summers. Welcome back, Alex — and when you’re ready to run for office, I’ll gladly manage your campaign.