I suppose when it all comes down to it, the incident last night on 4th Street can be rationalized as nothing more than two blowhards blowing. But it was more than that. It was me doing everything wrong. It was me not practicing what I’d been preaching. And that hurts. That defeats. I’m better than that. Smarter, or so I’d thought and hoped.

I’d crossed La Brea heading east on 4th and had the quiet residential stretch of the street to myself. I’ve written before of the bad condition of the roadway from the gutter on out about four feet and so I was riding in the middle of the lane. There was still plenty of room for cars approaching from the back to go around, but not enough apparently for the vehicle approaching me from behind in a hurry. He started laying on the horn almost a full block back and before I know it there I am standing before this very scary ridiculously tall dude who’s just unfolded out of the white subcompact in the middle of 4th Street between La Brea and Highland  offering me “one hit” before he rips me apart.

My crimes — I mean, besides being on a bike in the street — would be what I did after he completed his introduction by yelling the obligatory “Get out of the fuckin’ middle of the road!” as he pulled alongside me. I had the audacity not to do as he had demanded and then further tell him to shut the fuck up.

That exchange is typical and usually ends there with the driver speeding off, but in this case the driver slams his white hatchback to a stop and instead of riding away I ride around the front to the driver’s side pulling up to continue the stupidity. That’s Mistake No. 1, because when I ridiculously try to point out I have a right to the road he merely disputes that and repeats his loud demand and then jerks the car forward and to the left closer to me. In reaction I tell him to go to hell and slap the window, half in anger and half because his car’s encroaching.

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That’s Mistake No. 2 and I immediately regret it. Because he immediately gets out. I don’t regret my reaction  because he scared me. Hell no, I stood my ground. I regret it because I crossed the line. I know better. I failed. I gave him cause. Odds are if I hadn’t touched his precious matchbox car the altercation wouldn’t have gone past verbal. Or at least one could hope.

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But now it did. And when I say gets out. What I mean to say is this giant mohawk-topped beast unfolds from inside a car obviously not designed to contain such a mass of primate. He slams the door and cantilevers his head and shoulders over me betting correctly that I wasn’t expecting a 6’9″ motherfucker to step out and up.

Then he graciously offers me first hit before kicking the shit out of me, which he’s apparently now entitled to do because I smacked his transport.

I stand my ground and tell him I don’t want to hit him, and he snorts and says “That’s motherfucking right you don’t, pussy!” and turns to check the car to see if my slap has cracked the glass. He turns back to me crouching to my eye level and glaring at me maniacally while rubbing the stubble on either side of the strip of hair on his head before revealing something nonsequitorially surreal:

“I drive rental cars for a living!”

That shuts everything up for a second, which is a good place for me to point out that while he was inspecting the vehicle I took the opportunity to retrieve the pepper spray off my bike mount with my left hand while also lifting the stun gun off my belt with my right and flicking the power switch.

“What the hell does that have to do with anything?” I ask but he ignores my question and comes back to the task at hand: murdering me. Those are his words: “I’m going to murder you!”

And that’s when I should have sprayed and stunned and sprayed and stunned and put that motherfucking sonofabitch onto the ground and taken the keys out of his car and called 911 or just gotten the fuck out of there.

But I did none of those things. I just stood there. Was I frozen in fear? Was I foolishly holding onto the last shred of belief that this wouldn’t go beyond words? Was I needing him to strike me first in order to strike back? Did I not want to hurt him even though he deserved the literal and figurative shock of his life? Why did I go against my frontline “everybody’s gotta gun” credo of keeping it cool. And when I saw it escalate to the razor’s edge of no return why did I fail to bring it in any way shape or form and defend myself?

These are questions I’m going to be asking myself for a long, long time.

I won’t lie, no one’s better at beating themselves up than I am and I’ve already spent a restless night thrashing myself and putting my wife and our pets on edge while I mulled whether I’m the world’s biggest puss loser or if I shouldn’t just say fuck it: biking’s not worth it if you can’t keep your shit contained. Because it’s not about the assholes, they’re everywhere and there’s  nothing you can do about such kneejerks who operate from base ignorance and aggression. It’s about me. It’s about me finding the strength to turn the other cheek. To let it go. To answer insults and intimidation and hate and demands that I get out of the fucking road with a friendly wave from my rightful place on the fucking road. But I digress.

Seeing that I wasn’t up to his challenge he then puffed up and bellowed all the demeaning things he could. He called himself a “ghost” and said repeatedly that I had no idea what he was capable of. No idea! I found that rather interesting with me holding pepper spray and enough voltage to make him squeal.

In the end after admitting that he’s never lost a fight and other such weirdness such as how he pays taxes for the roads and I don’t (he was genuinely surprised when I told him I owned and operated a vehicle, too), he finally decided to “cut me a break and let me off — this time!” And segued into some psychotic rant about how dangerous it was out there and how he was just looking out for my safety.

I manage a snicker through the nerves and adrenaline and tell him he has a weird way of showing how much he cares.

“Dude,” he said missing the irony totally, “there are Mexicans… from Mexico, and the first thing they do when the sun goes down is go out and get a 12 pack and they’ll fucking run your ass over.”

“Is that so? Just Mexicans? From Mexico?”

“You know what the fuck I mean so stay out of the fucking road! It’s for your own good!”

“We’re just going to have to agree to disagree on that point.”

“Dude, then just be careful who you front because you just have no idea who you’re messing with.”

“No arguing with that,” I said. And to validate his point I stepped back and raised both hands showing him the pepper spray and the stun gun.

“What the –!” Then he asks quickly “You got kids?” I tell him I do. “Well go home and hug them tonight and be thankful!

I thought about engaging the decidedly frightening zap of the stun gun just to bring the point home that he’d made a wise choice in stepping back from the point of no return, but instead I just put my arms down watching him put two and two together. I shake my head and suggest he do the same with whatever he has at home to hug.

He pfffffts and stays lost in a thought somewhere.

Still stupidly trying to educate the incorrigibly ignorant I ask “Can I tell you something?” and that snapped him back into focus.

“Nah man… I’ve gotta go pay my internet bill,” and he folds himself back up into the car.

Rental cars and internet bills, I’m not making these quotes up, people.

“Well, then do me this one favor: after you square up things with your ISP go google something: CVC 21202.”

“I’m not googling shit!”

I say it again.

He slams the door.

“Just stay out of the fucking road!”

“No, I won’t. So just go the fuck around.”

And he drives off.

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I return everything to its previous place and take a deep steadying breath before getting goingdown the very middle of the street. Hard. Putting the adrenaline into action instead of standing there and buzzing from the stuff. Not surprisingly I catch up with him in the middle of Highland waiting for its northbound traffic to clear. Before he can sound off I laugh like we’re best buddies all of a sudden and yell “I’ll beat you to Western!”

And he chuckles. “You know what I’m saying, right?” he says and guns it across.

“I know what you’re saying is wrong!’ I yell after him.

Even with him rolling through every stop sign from Highland I wasn’t more than a block behind him in the middle of the road like it was all mine. At Rossmore is where he turned left, same as me. He beat the light at 3rd Street and got out of my sight.

It’ll take a lot longer to get him out of my mind.