September 11, 2008

A friend of mine has a friend who is a little bit of an athletic fiend.  He gets enthusiastic for certain sports almost in an addictive way.  Last winter he was completely obsessed with cross country skiing.  Usually it’s basketball.  Right now it’s road biking.  Since it is road biking, he frequently calls me to talk bikes or to see if I want to ride.  Lately there have been a lot of reasons why I have said no (sickness, wedding, other things going on) but yesterday when he called I decided I should probably ride with him.

It’s important to understand that although this is someone I generally like, he reminds me a lot of the TV character Larry David because of his inability to read social cues or conduct himself in an adult-like way during certain situations.  So, to protect his innocence, I will call him Larry for storytelling purposes.

Understand that while I am about to describe Larry, I am doing so purely so you can get the full picture and not because I have any particular judgments about what people where when they are exercising.  Larry shows up at my house at 4.30pm.  He has an old steel-frame bike with shifters on the down tube.
He is wearing old, faded ski tights from the 1980’s, white cross-trainers, an Under Armour shirt, and an old cycling hat (on backwards like they wore them in the LeMond days).  As I take in the scene, waiting for him to get ready, I watch him put on an enormous fanny pack which completes his outfit.  It occurs to me that there is room for another bike in there but I resist asking what’s in the pack.

As we leave I tell Larry that I don’t want to ride with him in the future if he chooses not to wear a helmet.  I take my usual self-important stance on helmets, citing the three people I know who would be dead if not for their bike helmets.  Larry tells me I’m a fascist and that he likens himself to an extreme athlete.  Larry says he is the cycling equivalent of climbers who free-climb at El Cap.  I point out that he is a bad example to children and he finally concedes that this is a good point.

Less than two miles into our ride, two motorcycles blow by us precariously close.  Ordinarily that was one of those situations where I would be frustrated for a while afterwards and would then let it go and get on with my ride.  Well, ordinarily I don’t ride with Larry.

Larry turns around to see a third motorcycle flying towards us and starts gesturing at the guy.  The guy pulls up alongside us and Larry starts cursing at him and threatening him.  They are both stopped and yelling at each other.  I am sure that this motorcyclist (who is wearing a helmet, incidentally) is going to kill Larry (who is not wearing a helmet).  He is revving his engine like he is thinking of revenge and I am getting increasingly uncomfortable.  I have no desire to be in any kind of battle with this man and I am trying to seem like I am on the edge of all of this.  I watch as Larry starts to grab at the guy’s license plate and scream at him about taking it.  Larry is 59.  I am sure in that moment that he is going to die an early death.

Eventually, things die down and Larry runs across someone’s yard and into their house to call the police chief.  The vision of him still straddling his bike with the front wheel INSIDE these peoples’ house on their top step is just too much.The other two guys on the motorcycles loop back around and drive by closely again at probably 80mph.  By body is pumped full of adrenaline and I am furious at Larry for provoking these angry men.

Eventually we get out of there and continue our ride.  Larry is all victim and I am so angry at him that I do a very rare thing and actually speak my mind on the issue.  I tell him that he unnecessarily provoked the guys, that he took the low road and tried to resort to violence, and that he had made the road less safe for the next bicyclist these guys came upon.  And not to mention, there was a young child watching as he was trying to rip off the guy’s license plate.  Larry disagrees and tells me that he has a responsibility to teach those guys and to stand up to them.  I note that he did not teach them anything except that he is an easy target.  I point out that I felt that my own safety was threatened by his actions and eventually he hears me a little and apologizes.  The rest of the ride was a total waste in my mind because I was so angry and Larry was so determined that he was in the right.

Eventually I bail on the ride and go home.  GB asks me how the ride went and I say “you know what that ride was?  Grist.  Grist for the blog mill”.

2 Responses to “Grist”

  1. Marit C-L Says:

    Yikes! I am so happy that YOU are okay. Good for you for speaking your mind – things like that can be really tough sometimes. I feel the same way… usually not wanting to “stoke the fire” or start a confrontation.

    The sad thing is that Larry will probably never change, and in spite of giving him the helmet talk and speaking your mind about his antics later on, he probably will STILL play himself off as the victim.

    Do the safe thing and ride with people who wear helmets and don’t provoke motorists! 🙂

  2. Danielle Says:

    I totally love what you said to him. Right on!

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