the crazy guy on the train

One of the fun things about riding mass transit is that you occasionally get to interact with the mentally unstable. I remember when I had first moved here, my friend brought his girlfriend up and spent the weekend here. We decided it’d be neat to take the train into the city and see the sights. Not 15 minutes into the train ride, a woman walked onto the train talking about how she had Bill Clinton’s baby, and the priest wouldn’t give her back the thousands of dollars he took. “Welcome to Atlanta” I whispered to John.

For months now, near the Sandy Springs station, there has been an interesting ad in one of the tunnels. There is a series of lit posters, that when the train passes, it plays like a small animation. You see some swooshes, and then a Speed Racer logo with a theater release date. It’s kinda neat, but also fairly surprising upon first sighting.

A couple days ago I was sitting on the train, and I watched it go by, and noticed the guy sitting at the window look back into the cabin with a “that was weird” expression on his face. I smiled and nodded my head, with a slight chuckle, as to say, “Yeah, pretty crazy huh?”

The guy had a quick look of shock on his face, and suddenly turned his face back toward the window.

So then I wondered if maybe he hadn’t seen the Speed Racer ad. Maybe he was just looking out the window, turned his head in, only to see a guy staring at him, smiling and nodding as if you say, “I’ll wear your skin as a hat.”

This makes me laugh. It makes me laugh like when you’re in class and you know you shouldn’t be laughing, but you can’t hold it in, and the pressure only makes you want to laugh more.

So let’s recap:
Complete stranger staring, nodding, smiling. Then he starts sputtering short snorts of laughter.

I’ve become the crazy guy on the train.

conflict and resolution

Last night’s ride home from work was a little more interesting than most. Generally I have easy rides as far as dealing with cars goes. I think I’ve only had one guy honk at me, and most people just pass me by with no issue.

But last night was a little different. I got in my first “discussion.”

I was riding along the road, and as a car passed me, the driver said, “Get on the %&$*# sidewalk!” He finished his sentence and sped away, very passive aggressive. But he sped away towards a red light, and so I began to weigh my options. I knew I would be passing him, so I had to decide if I would say anything, and what it would be if I decided too.

Well, I’m a road rage junkie, so of course I decided to say something. But in the genuine interest of bike/car relations, I knew it wouldn’t be anything too aggressive. The lane was a straight/right turn lane, which means I have to stay on the left side of the lane, rather than the right, so right turning cars can pass me and turn safely. This conveniently put me on the driver’s side of the man’s car. So I pulled up next to him, dismounted, and I said to him, “Sir, it’s illegal for me to ride on the sidewalk.” This is true. Georgia Law says anyone over 16 years of age needs to ride their bike on the road, and follow all traffic laws. Sidewalks are actually very dangerous for cyclists, since most motorist aren’t looking down the sidewalk for oncoming cyclists, they’re looking down the street for oncoming vehicles. If you don’t believe me, next time you’re at an intersection leaving a neighborhood, check and see if you’re in the crosswalk. It’s ok, I do it too.

Back to the subject at hand:
“Sir, it’s illegal for me to ride on the sidewalk.”

“I don’t give a %&*$#@!”

So at this point I realize I’m not dealing with someone who thinks I’m in the wrong. I’m dealing with someone who feels he owns the road, and it’s there just for him. Seeing as there is no way to use logic with people like this, I ended the conversation with “I’m sorry you feel that way.” I then pulled the rest of the way up to the stop line, and waited for the green light.

The light changes, the driver next to me lets me pass in front of him so as to return the the right side of the road (since it’s no longer a turn lane) and I continue on. A couple cars pass, and then the man comes up on we once again. This is one of the joys of passing traffic, if there’s a jerk, you may deal with him more than once. So the man pulls up beside me, but rather than speed passed like the rest, he does his best to get in the last word, but all I can make out is “on your tombstone.” I reply with “You have a good evening” multiple times in what was honestly a less than congenial voice. But as I’m saying this, I notice a person in his passenger seat. It was teenager, maybe 17 or so years old, I imagine his son. He was white as a ghost. He kept his head forward, avoiding eye contact with me. Poor kid. At this point, I wanted to say something about making his son proud, but again, I wanted to keep this as civil as possible and come out with a “bikes have the right” stance, not a “well you’re an a-hole” one.

So he finally speeds away, and the stretch of road ahead of us is long enough that he looses me. So I continue along, fairly bummed out, with this paranoid feeling that everyone on the road hates me.

I get into the left turn lane, and stop at the stop line waiting for the light to turn green. To my right, in the straight lane, a large white SUV pulls up beside me. “Are you turning left?” I’m already on edge, so I immediately think, “Oh great, here’s another one.” But looking at her, she’s smiling, so I disarm and reply, “Yes, thanks for asking!” Since, for the most part, riding a bike in traffic is like being in a mall full of mimes. No one communicates with each other. It’s almost surprising to hear a voice on the road. She then starts to kind of babble, saying something along the lines of “trying to help you out” and that she’s proud of me. The light turns green, we go our separate ways, and I can’t help but feel like it was a sign that not every car on the road is driven by a bike hater. It was a nice way to end the ride.

But thinking back, she did say something along the lines of “you’ll get all muscular.” Which, while odd anyways, also means she currently thinks I’m not muscular. Hurumph. What a jerk.