Threat Successfully Diffused Defused

I’m southbound on La Brea, pedaling in the curb lane. There’s a parked car between me and Wilshire Boulevard so I work my way to the left edge of the lane and as I get there a sedan in the center lane passes me and I see there are four males in it — all of them wearing identical redshirts. Maybe they’re carpooling to work or a job site. Or a parole hearing.

The light at Wilshire is red and as they come to a stop in their lane I pass them noting both front and rear passenger-side windows are down as I come a stop in mine. At the green I get going across the intersection and by the time I get to 8th Street they’ve pulled abreast of me and slowed slightly and I’m getting a sense something’s up. Keeping my focus ahead of me I brace for anything from a “Get off the fucking road!” to having something thrown at me, but nothing happens until the driver hits the gas and the four bust out loudly laughing and they pull ahead. Then the passenger riding shotgun sticks his arm out the window with his fingers splayed wide yells out “Honk!” a couple of times as he makes ass-squeezing gestures with his hand.

One might argue that perhaps it wasn’t about me. That maybe I wasn’t the subject of their moronic attentions. I’d counter that given the arm’s-length proximity of my rock-hard gluts to their soft-serve intellects, it’s hard to imagine the display being meant for anyone else but me. Either way, I smile at the buffoonery, mostly in relief that that’s all there was to the encounter.

But that’s not all there was.

See, when people in cars pass and do something negative to a cyclist they do such things mostly because they’re undeniable assholes, but also because they assume their gas-powered conveyances can carry them well out of reach of any retribution. Often though, they end up racing away to be stuck at a red light down the road with the cyclist catching up to them.

And in this case, sure enough, there was a red light at Olympic and I was able to catch and pass them once again. As I did, I was helpless to prevent myself from coasting past and returning the favor by making my own version of an ass-grab accompanied by a “honk!”

Red shirt riding shotgun didn’t find such one-upping funny in the slightest. In fact, he’d been eyeballing my approach in the sideview mirror and when I immitated him, he yelled “Fuck you!” And his buddies all huckled and guffed it up appropriately.

So I stopped and turned and according to my continuing and mostly successful passive-resistance efforts to “Go Ghandi,” what I should have said was “Sorry man, I thought you’d find that funny” and then silently endured some insulting expletive-rich variation of him telling me he most certainly did not.

But what I said instead was “So I guess that shit’s funny when you throw it, but not funny getting it thrown back at you?” And right there at the red light — very quickly for what turned out to be a beefy fellow — he opened the door and got out of the car telling me something about how hilarious it’s going to be kicking my ass. And I hadn’t even used a foul word or called his mother a fleabitten skidrow whore.

So in my best WTF expression I asked “Really?” And he said “Yeah motherfucker, really!” even though the driver and passengers clearly hadn’t signed up for the fun to come and instead were yelling at their escaped cohort to “Get back in the fucking car!”

“Well then, hang on a sec,” I said holding up a finger while dismounting my bike and moving it out of traffic. Lifting it onto the sidewalk I called out over my shoulder “Should I call for paramedics and police first or do you want me to wait until after?”

“What the fuck?” was all I heard as I set my bike down, unsnapping the pepper spray from its mount on the frame and removing the stungun from the backpack side pocket I carry it in. Thumbing its switch to the on position I heard the door slam and I hoped he’d done that after listening to the driver and getting back in, but when I turned to find him a stride away from the car and coming for me.

Unlike the encounter in February with the 6’9″ Mohican where I found myself in possession of both the same defensive weapons but was mysteriously unwilling or unable to use them despite having my life threatened, this time I stepped directly toward my would be ass-kicker and even though I was too far away for the pepper spray to do any damage I loosed a cloud at him while simultaneously discharging the stungun.

Have I told you how loud that stungun is when the sucker goes off? I’d forgotten. Well let me tell you, it was loud enough to get that sonofabitch to execute the goofiest pirouette and beat it back to the car where he failed to yank the passenger side door open and when it wouldn’t cooperate he then ran around to the driver’s side.

I guess he thought I was coming after him, but I was just standing at the curb enjoying his hasty retreat. He discovered that much when he finally looked around wide-eyed in fear that he then tried to hide behind a bravado he summoned back from the relative safety of his barricade.

“Fuck you, you pussy-assed bitch,” he yelled. “I don’t need that shit to fight.”

“Neither do I,” I yelled back. “But they’re sure good for stopping fights before they start!”

In the time it took for the light to turn green and the cars stuck behind him to start honking I shook my head and thought to myself “You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” In the meantime the driver slapped at his passenger over the increasingly aggravated honking reiterating my would-be ass-kicker’s need to get in the fucking car. He complied, cussing me out as he hugged his way around the perimeter of the car. I drowned him out and spooked him again by discharging the stungun once more and he veritably dove into the front seat, the car bolting forward before he even had a chance to slam the door or call me a chickenshit one last time.

As they sped away across Olympic I made an ass-grab gesture and yelled “honk!”

UPDATE (7.16): Joking and bravado aside, having stewed in the aftermath of this incident all day I got home still pretty flabbergasted and bummed. I’m relieved that I didn’t hesitate to demonstrate the weapons at my disposal and that they were enough to derail this punk’s motivation to assault me. I’ll keep on riding on, but I confess: this incident served as yet another disappointment that made me question whether biking in L.A. is worth such stupid hassles like this.

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Will Campbell arrived in town via the maternity ward at Good Sam Hospital way back in OneNineSixFour and has never stopped calling Los Angeles home. Presently he lives in Silver Lake with his wife Susan, their cat Rocky, dogs Terra and Hazel, and a red-eared slider turtle named Mater. Blogging since 2001, Will's web endeavors extend back to 1995 with, a comprehensive theater site that was well received but ever-short on capital (or a business model). The pinnacle of his online success (which speaks volumes) arrived in 1997, when much to his surprise, a hobby site he'd built called VisuaL.A. was named "best website" in Los Angeles magazine's annual "Best of L.A." issue. He enjoys experiencing (and writing about) pretty much anything creative, explorational and/or adventurous, loves his ebike, is a better tennis player than he is horr golfer, and a lover of all creatures great and small -- emphasis on "all."