Sat 10 Jan 2009
Earlier this week I dusted off that bike story from the archives, now let me tell you this one:
It was without doubt the single most infuriating and vengefully satisfying bicycling encounter with asshats in a car and it happened a looooong time ago. It was the summer of 1991. I was going through a divorce and had lost my job as a Sparkletts Man a few months earlier in March and had pretty much foundered in depression inside my apartment in south Glendale until I ran out of money and had to move in with a friend who lived in in his mom’s house that had a spare room I could use until I got my shit together.
So I loaded up a U-Haul truck, stored most of my crap at my mom’s in Sherman Oaks and settled in to my temporary digs, which were not to far away from the Sepulveda basin recreational area and its miles of off-street bike path.
One day with nothing much else to do (other than try to get my shit together, which I wasn’t having much success in doing) I hopped on my trusty GT Timberline, pedaled down Burbank Boulevard up over the 405 and wiled away the day rolling around the vast the place. This included a visit to Lake Balboa, still under construction and at the time a big empty hole in the ground whose bottom made for awesome off-road riding.
Eventually I headed home, and after coming back over the 405 on Burbank I headed down the hill and across Sepulveda, where not half a block in and much to my surprise I was hit by something from behind that tumbled against my shoulder and turned out to be a large plastic soda fountain beverage container. It bounced off me, vomiting its contents and dropped to the asphalt. My shirt and shorts were soaked.
Managing somehow not to fall down, the next thing I discovered was a blue Jaguar sedan speeding past me, and there was a teenager leaning out the back window laughing at me as it went, with two others in the front. The driver launched a middle finger out the open sunroof. Needless to say I shook off the shock and gathered myself and did my level best to catch up, but the car beat the next light and I didn’t. And by the time I got going again and rolled across Kester Avenue the blue Jaguar sedan was no where to be seen.
I pulled to a stop on on the sidewalk to regroup and calm down a bit, but I couldn’t. Never before — or since — had I been the victim of such a reckless and direct assault. I seethed, full of adrenaline and a hatred-fueled desire for some violent payback. The soft drink felt like acid on my skin. I wanted retribution, but what could I do? Tip over the trashcan at the bus stop to my left? Pick a fight with a motorist filling up their tank at the gas station on my right? No, there was nothing to do but let it go and pedal on home to a shower and a change of clothes.
So that’s what I did. I took a deep breath, tried to blink the red out of my eyes and continued east along Burbank glowering and inconsolable, practically daring anyone to do anything that might give me an outlet.
Approaching Van Nuys Boulevard, and passing the Kentucky Fried Chicken on my right, I cast a quick glance into the parking lot, and almost reflexively yanked the Timberline up the driveway apron to a stop on the sidewalk. There in the back was a blue Jaguar. The blue Jaguar.
I rolled over to get a better look at the empty vehicle. It was locked up tight except for the sunroof, which was still open wide. I felt the hood, it was warm and I heard the engine ticking. It had just arrived.
I’m not ashamed to say I was openly gleeful in thinking of the ways I could exact my revenge. I could key the paint, dent every dentable section of its body, shatter every piece of glass, slash the tires and the leather upholstery. I thought about doing nothing and calling the police. I thought about going inside the restaurant and putting the punk threesome into a world of hurt.
But instead I chilled. Got my bike rolling and came slowly around the back of the place to the front where I found the culprits seating themselves at a table on the other side of the glass, about to enjoy a meal and probably joke about the cyclist they’d just soaked and scared the shit out of.
I stopped and stared, almost clinically, trying to deduce details. They all had dark hair, and looked to be 16, tops. Slight and short builds, pimply complexions. Dressed similar in jeans and tees. Probably lifelong south-of-the-boulevard Encino brats. It took a minute but eventually the one closest to me looked out the window and saw me. It took another second to register who was staring back at him, and in a doubletake his eyes went huge and he made a terrified “holy shit, look!” grab at his buddy whose eyes also flew to full open. So did the third and for a few moments the trio of fuckers squirmed in their seats in this comical slithering contortive dance not knowing whether to break for it or stay put. I crooked my finger, inviting them to join me outside, but they stayed put and eventually that odd choreography gave way to uncomfortable stillness and furtive glances as they tried to pretend I wasn’t there. They also tried to eat but suddenly none of them was very hungry anymore.
So while they picked at their food I just got right up against the glass and stood there straddling my GT and stared with this big grin until one of them got brave and mouthed a “fuck you” at me, to which I slammed an open palm against the plate glass that made them all jump.. Then I walked the bike over a a nearby payphone and invested a quarter pretending to reach the police. I made a big show of it and afterwards coming back to them I continued the one-way conversation with the irony of chickenshits eating chicken. I played eenie-meenie with them trying to pick which one’s daddy owned the Jaguar they drove.
They were mortified. I was serially ecstatic.
I left them to take a few turns around the eatery. And after a few rounds of that I came back to where they were still basically paralyzed. So to get things going I told them I’d be waiting by the car for wahtever came first: either for the police to show or for them to grow pubic hair and send out whichever one of them threw the drink at me.
“Fuck, cops!?” the kid closest to me yelped, fully suckered by my bluff. I rode away.
Well, waiting by the car got old quick, and turned into waiting on the car. When they still hadn’t sent my attacker out after a couple minutes spent gathered at the door of the KFC and talking amongst themselves in what looked like a “You go! No, you go! No, you go!” dialogue, I climbed up onto the the Jag and grabbed a seat on the roof with my legs dangling through the sunroof and my feet kicking back and forth against the seats.
When another minute passed and none of them had even remotely gotten close to growing any balls I got down and starting with the front passenger-side tire let the air out of it. The psssssssssssssssssst of the air escaping was almost cathartic. When that still didn’t budge them, I let the air out of the rear right tire. Finally, by the time I’d gotten the stem cap off the left rear tire, one of them came stumbling out practically crying that his dad was gonna kill him.
I asked him if he really thought I had any sympathy for him in such a predicament. Then I asked, “Are you the meatbag that hit me with the drink?”
He didn’t answer. Instead of asking again I pushed down on the stem valve and the pssssssssssss sound got him talking.
“No, I was driving!”
“So you’re the douche who gave me the finger?” He started to deny it, but stopped himself and just shrugged a defeated confirmation.
I let the rest of the air out of the tire. Now the punk was really crying and had the audacity to accuse me of not being fair.
“OK, let’s talk about fair for a second seeing as you’re the jackass that laughed and gave me the fuck-off salute after your buddy in the back thought it was a fair to throw a loaded drink at me,” I said. “Kid, if I really wanted to be fair I could drive a screwdriver through each sidewall instead of just leaving you crying to daddy to call the auto club. Got it?”
“Now we could just wait for the police or you could send out the motherfucker that soaked me. Keep me waiting and you’re gonna have four flats and then I start breaking glass.” He was hustling inside even before I finished. In the next moment the door flew open and a different punk came out, veritably pushed. He stood there shaking in fear. If he was five feet tall I’d’ve been really surprised. I almost felt sorry for him when I yelled at him to come over and he slowly made his way across the lot toward me.
About 15 feet away, he stopped.
“Payback is a motherfucker,” I said.
“What are you gonna do?” he asked.
I was honest with him that I hadn’t really thought it through, that part of me wanted to pound him into the pavement, part of me wanted to see him arrested, and part of me wanted to see him suffer as I did… and that’s when I had my answer.
“Here’s what’s gonna happen. You go back inside and buy the largest drink they have, then bring it back out to me.”
“Don’t make me repeat myself or the fourth tire’s done.” And he turned and jogged back inside, where I watched the three of them confer for a bit. Then the tosser went inside out of view and the third kid — the one that had mouthed “fuck you” to me through the glass back when’d just begun to ruin their day — came out and called me an asshole from beside the door.
I invited him to come over to me and say that, but he stayed put. So I let the air out of the fourth tire.
“Look!” he implored over the air escaping. “We’re sorry for what happened!”
“Sorry is the cheapest word in the dictionary.”
“Nah,” I countered. “You’re just sorry you pussies were such massive idiots to stop less than half a mile in a straight line from what happened.”
“Well you don’t have to be a dick about it.”
“That’s sound advice coming from a prince of dicks such as yourself.”
He started to argue out some more but I cut him off by striding towards him with a booming “What the fuck is taking so long with my drink order?” And he scampered back inside as if the interior of the place was some sort of sanctuary. When I got to the door and flung it open the driver and the loudmouth scrambled to the seating area and the tosser was standing there a few feet from me with the drink in his hand. I swear he was about to wet his pants.
“Come on then!” I yelled and headed back out to the Jag.
He followed me back out, again stopping about 15 feet away from me.
“Bring me my drink.”
He stayed frozen where he stood.
“Dude. Just bring it here.”
He looked behind him at his two friends who’d now come outside and were standing wide-eyed by the door and thn started walking toward me. When he got a few feet away he held the drink as far out in front of him as he could.
“Here,” he said, the ice inside rattled from his trembling.
I moved slowly so he wouldn’t freak and run, and when I got close enough I accepted the cut from him. Peeling off the lid without hesitation or high drama I just flung it on him. Most of it splashed him square in the chest and dribbled down his shirt and jeans.”
He gasped and braced, arms out like Christ on the cross and his two delinquent friends cringed and moaned.
“Now we’re even,” I said, and he nodded before trotting away from me to his friends.
Turning to get my bike I pitched the cup through the sunroof, prompting the wheelpunk from behind me to say, “What an asshole!”
I barked out a sarcastic laugh and got on the Timberline.
“Now why’d you have to go and say a thing like that?” I said, rolling out into the lot. “Because if you really want to find out what kind of asshole I can be then keep giving me lip.”
I told them there was nothing stopping me from going home and filing an assault report on a blue Jag, license number blah blah blah and how then they’d have to explain to their parents why the police are at their front doors to arrest their asses.
“But as it stands now if you could manage to shut the hell up, all you have to do is cry to daddy about some crazy dude letting the air out his tires, get it?
They nodded densely in unison.
“So think about that while you’re making me out to be the bad guy, and I’ll think about whether or not I want to see your sorry asses in court. Deal?”
Still with the nodding and wisely silent, I put them behind me and headed home.