I cussed at a garbage truck today. It was for a different reason than normal though. I ride my bike to work, and recently I’ve been suffering for an entirely new reason other than the fact that I’m riding a bike at all. I’m generally as emotional as your standard brick wall with poor role models, so what happened today was unique. Today, I yelled obscenities at a garbage truck while on my bicycle while we were both stopped at a street light. When I picture it in my head, I imagine a mouse yelling at a grizzly bear.
I’ve heard the term “road rage” tossed around by the news and friends who can afford cars. I did not, however, think it applied to people on bicycles because, honestly, what are they going to do to a car. But there I was, absolutely fuming because this hulking smell-tank had cut through the bike lane in front of me to get to a turning lane, only to be stopped by traffic. That’s the description I’d give to a courthouse using those car accident diagrams except instead of cars I’d use a little bicycle to represent me and a massive butt to represent the truck that nearly turned me into an angry pulp.
I think road rage exists largely because nobody in other cars can see or hear your fury. The raging driver is contained in their own little bubble of righteous indignation so there’s no threat to anyone, and the driver can vent. This doesn’t really work out on a bike–as I’ve learned. People can hear you when you’re on a bike because–and this should be obvious–bicycles do not have windows or walls or doors to innocuously host the rider’s rage. So the driver heard me call him something unpleasant, and there were consequences. Not violent consequences, but crushing ones.
He laughed at me. Sitting high on his smelly throne, this ham-bodied man with hair protruding randomly from his face in clumps of gray and probably smelling like old McDonald’s and used bandages, and he laughed at me.
I wanted to burn his house down. I wanted to weld the doors to his trash-wagon shut and tow him into a river. I wanted lightning to strike his favorite tree to picnic under, and then I wanted a pig to eat his face. My face twitched, and I squinted involuntarily, and my frown could have curled wallpaper, but he smiled and drove away.
There is another reason it is best to be angry in the safety of a car. If you are in a car, your rage is all your own. Your fantasies of doing violent crimes to the object of your fury can continue being fantasies, and those images may carry you happily through the day. If on the other hand, your rage is released into the world, and the object of that rage casually dismisses it, then you are forced to acknowledge the crushing fact of your cosmic impotence. I was on a bike, and he was in a garbage truck, and there was nothing I could have done to harm him.
It’s things like this that lead people to alcoholism or some other awful pursuit in which they can either distract themselves from their utter lack of control in the world or something that lends them some synthetic sense of power that depends upon the voluntary obedience of others. Of course, I ended up a teacher, how else would I lie to myself about having control in the universe.