My friend David and I have made it something of an irregular tradition to walk to Tommy’s for lunch every few months, and schedules conspired to allow us to do that today, joined by his brother-in-law Mark who was in town to participate in Sunday’s CicLAvia.
So after we got our burgers and fries and drinks, we settled into a section of counter near the end, and conversation included my TAP card travails and, of course, CicLAvia, which apparently caught the attention of an elderly gent a few feet away, who approached after I mentioned coming back to downtown via the Blue Line that day.
He stepped toward us saying how he heard me mention the Blue Line and that it’s his firm belief that bikes have no business being brought on the trains.
I held myself back from saying something impolite and instead curiously inquired as to why he was so firmly against the acceptable and encouraged practice. He replied that cyclists already have a form of transportation at their disposal and they shouldn’t be crowding up the train cars.
Wide-eyed at such an idiotic statement, I started to point out that by his logic walking was a form of transportation, so why wasn’t he an equal opportunity hater in feeling the same about all those pesky pedestrians loading up the trains, but realized I was in a battle of wits with an unarmed geezer.
And the fact is, there is a kernel of truth buried deep under his bullshit. MTA rail cars are really not designed to accommodate anything but passengers, and I don’t think they ever will be. One needs to remember that back in the early days of our reconstructed light rail system, bikes were not only allowed on trains during limited time-frame windows, but you actually had to be registered and carry an MTA-issued picture ID card that had to be presented upon demand.
We’ve come a long way since then, baby. But it’s been an uncomfortable integration.
Today sure, a couple cyclists with consideration can position themselves out of everyone’s way, but it’s still awkward, at best. Add more cyclists and compound it with the inconsideration that is too often demonstrated in blocking aisles and doors and seats, and to a degree I can appreciate where this grumpy old man is coming from. I could just imagine him on the Blue Line on Sunday with a train car overloaded with raucous bikes and riders coming to or going from the event, and all he can do is get progressively grumpier as the trip went along.
But instead of commiserating with him, I asked him next if he felt the same about bikes and buses. And he was quick to say they had no place there either. When I mentioned the bikes are stowed outside the bus, that didn’t matter to him. He just shook his head vehemently, spitting out some more generalized negativity that concluded with this doozy:
“Bikes are the reason for everything that’s wrong in this city.”
I stood stunned for a moment, trying somehow to understand how someone could wholesale equate cycling to “everything that’s wrong…” to the city’s struggling economy and to its crime and to its homelessness and to its school drop-out rate, and its gridlock. How does one even begin to counterpunch such a ridiculous haymaker? People with more patience and smarts might know, but for me there is simply no way or reason to continue a discussion or debate with so spiteful an intellect of such a small caliber.
So I didn’t. Instead, I wished real hard to myself that I never be so hateful and stupid about anything if I’m fortunate enough to get to be this kook’s age, while out loud I brought it to his attention that by insulting and demonizing cyclists as a whole he was in fact insulting and demonizing me — to which he replied that he didn’t care and restated that all of us are inherently detrimental to his way of living (or at least what little living he’s got left).
With that clarifying point of order out of the way I then admonished him for making such a despicably baseless judgment and criticism, adding that though I was personally raised not to make such uninformed criticisms, he and his insults were making it hard for me not to formulate one about him. Raising my voice well over his and in no uncertain terms I insisted that in the interest of stopping his senseless jawing so that he could return to gumming the remainder of his Tommy’s burger, he vacate my vicinity as quickly as was physically possible for a man of his years.
That caught him off-balance, and some flustered words fell out of his mouth whose syllables quickly broke apart into gibberish, before he realized we weren’t ever going to be friends and complied with my directive to cease and desist being audibly inane in my specific direction.
David, Mark and I hung around long enough to finish our meals and for my hackles to lay back down, before taking our leave to ruminate on the walk home the fact that no matter the issue, some people will find a way to magnify it out of proportion and hate on it all the harder.