August 23, 2007

The Empty Space

I originally started this story with a bunch of loquaciously poetic crapola about the beautiful Southern California weather and how the clear blue skies seamlessly melt into the clear blue water and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda. When I read it back to myself I actually felt nauseous. It was essentially ten pounds of hooey crammed into a five pound blog.

So I erased it and decided to get right to the point. The point being stupidity. More specifically, let's talk about the jackass that sideswiped me a couple of days ago while I was riding my bike.

Let's first set the record straight - many Los Angeles drivers are stupid. It's the nature of the city. Living with stupidity is part of the sacrifice you make to live in this weather. Pile on to the fact that this was one of the last summer days of the year, and the stupidity factor increases dramatically. Let me try to paint the picture for you...

Imagine the beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway crammed to the gills with non-stop weekend, beach-going traffic. For the sake of setting a standard, why don't you assume that all the drivers have average intelligence, just as a baseline. In a normal world that would be fairly reasonable conditions that one would feel could be a safe cycling environment. A little nerve-racking, but safe enough. However, in order to create a more realistic Los Angeles environment you need to make a few minor adjustments.

First, take 20% of the drivers and feed them all the drugs and alcohol they can get in their system without them passing out. OK, now put them back behind the wheel. Next, take another 20% of the people on the road and siphon all the brains out of their head until they just stand there clueless, with a blank, robotic stare. Great, now put them back behind the wheel too. There you go, that best represents a sunny summer day on the Pacific Coast Highway.

Your chances of survival have just dropped dramatically. But it sure is pretty scenery.

So here's the scenario... it was mid-day on a summer Sunday and I was riding down the aforementioned Pacific Coast Highway along the Malibu beaches. It's a popular place during a popular time of year. There were a lot of people parked on the side of the road to my right and even more driving down the highway to my left. Needless to say, I was being extra careful. One of my biggest biking fears is being tagged by a randomly opened car door. I feel like it is almost inevitable that this will happen eventually. It seems not a matter of "if", but of "when". So I pay special close attention to what is ahead of me when I'm riding by parked cars.

About 2 hours into the ride I was coming down a slight hill, rolling along at about 25 miles per hour. I was riding fairly slowly and was very alert during this part of the ride. Mostly because I was stressed. I knew something bad was going to happen and I was hoping I could get off the damn road before it happened.

A few feet to the left of me was the four lane highway. A couple of feet to the right of me was a line of cars parked by the beach. As I scanned the parked cars for randomly opening doors, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a very large white vehicle moving past me on my left. It wasn't moving very quickly, perhaps they were looking for a parking space. It was an enormous car. Like an Escalade or something.

Apparently, just as the Escalade reached my side, the driver saw the empty parking space for which he was seeking. Unfortunately there was one thing that separated the SUV from the parking space: me.

Let's stop here for a second and take a pop quiz. Put yourself in the Escalade drivers position. Having just passed by a bike rider and wanting to get into a parking space right in front of both of you, which of the following would you do:

A) Slow down, wait for the bike rider to pass, then safely pull to the side of the road and back into the space

B) Honk your horn, yell obscenities at the bike rider and throw a half-filled Burger King cup at him until he stops to let you in. If he gives you any lip, shoot him.

C) Ignore the bike rider completely, you don't know him anyway. Just close your eyes, turn the steering wheel and pull right into the spot. If you feel something under your tires, don't worry, it's probably just a speed bump.

If you selected Option A, you may be normal. If you selected Option B, you're probably one of the many gang-bangers in this city who are just looking for an excuse to shoot somebody - and wearing lycra is a good enough excuse. If you selected Option C, you may have been driving the Escalade that side-swiped me. In which case, you're a dick.

Just as he passed me by, the Escalade driver turned the steering wheel and began to cut me off. I jammed on my brakes hard. My heart rate probably shot up, cause I could feel it in my throat. I'm no doctor, but if I remember the Operation game board correctly, I'm pretty sure that the heart is not supposed to be located in the throat.

My bike started skidding towards the car, which is always a fairly nerve racking experience that involves lives flashing in front of eyes. I began yelling. I yell a lot at stupid drivers when I ride. I yell very loudly because sometimes stupid people are hard of hearing. There may even have been obscenities uttered. I sometimes use obscenities for dramatic effect.

Something like, HEY! HEY!! WHAT THE #$*&! ARE YOU DOING?!?!, could very well have emerged from betwixt my lips.

The driver did not slow down or stop. He kept moving and kept cutting me off. I squeezed my brakes harder as my rear tire fishtailed on the road. I couldn't swerve to my left, I'd be riding right into the oncoming traffic of a busy highway and that's a bad thing. I couldn't swerve to my right because I'd slam into a parked car - and if I were lucky enough to miss the parked cars, I'd fly over the side of the cliff instead. My only hope was to veer slightly towards the right and aim for the edge of the empty parking space where the SUV was going. Hopefully I could squeeze in there and stop before he ran me over.

I headed for the empty space, all the while trying to maintain control of my bike. I really needed to slow down to a stop before I ended up splatting against the side of the SUV, but since the Escalade was cutting the turn very close there was not a lot of room for me to fit in-between him and the parked cars. This looked like disaster.

I yelled, I screamed, I braked. I think I may have prayed a little bit too..... and then it finally stopped. I was leaning against the side of the SUV. Or, rather, the SUV was jammed up against me. I got sandwiched in like a head vice. The entire left side of my body was crammed against the side of the Escalade while the right side of my body was jammed against the parked car. I was stuck. Had he cut the turn any closer, I would've been squished by the moronic driver.

WHAT THE #*&! ARE YOU DOING?! I decided to yell again for special effect.

Physically I was fine, mentally I was in disbelief. How can they let such stupid people on the road? How is this possible?

I squeezed myself out of my jam, had a few choice words with the driver (who, by the way, seems to have been part of the 20% that had all the drugs and alcohol in their system) and continued nervously on my way back home. Needless to say, I took it very slowly and cautiously.

I tried to relax and concentrate on my surroundings. But it's tough out there on a busy road when you don't know who is driving and what substances they may have ingested into their bodies.

As I continued riding, I thought about this dramatic event and what I could learn from it all. I carefully pondered my grand takeaway that would leave me a much better person. But I didn't come up with anything good enough to provide a solid conclusion to this story. So I figure I'll just end it with some of the poetic hooey that I tried to start it all with.

It was the type of beautiful day that ends up on thirty-five cent postcards. Where the clear blue skies seemed to stretch on endlessly into the distance until they melted ever so seamlessly into the refreshingly blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean. It was as if God had an extra few buckets of blue paint and a burning inspiration to wow. It was awe-inspiring. Virtually poetic. It was one of those days that was beautiful enough to make you almost forget all of your worries. Almost.

3 comments:

CVSURF said...

Ouch! I know your pain about PCH. I just love the ones in Encinitas that pull up next to you to yell obcentities and start edging you towards the parked cars. Plus the ones in Solana Beach who pull their surfboards off cars and swing them into the bike lane.

1HappyAthlete said...

Uggghhh....Glad to hear you're ok!

Andra Sue said...

Oh my...what a crappy end (middle?) to an otherwise beautiful day. Glad to hear you made it out unscathed!