At some point in the not-too-distant future I suspect Outside will be publishing my latest bloviation, and once they do that you can be sure I'll be back here to rub it in your face.
In the meantime, I return to you from a morning road ride in which I was, for the first time in my life, the victim of Fred Rage:
No, there wasn't any actual physical "violence," as you see above, nor did he throw my bike over a guardrail:
He was, however, very, very angry, and here's how it went down.
This morning I sent my respective children off to their respective schools and had a little time to myself. As any cycling parent knows, this is an exhilarating moment--so exhilarating that you don't know what to do first, and you immediately find yourself negotiating with three powerful impulses:
--To take a nap;
--To take a quiet, peaceful dump;
--To go for a ride.
With insufficient time to do more than one of those properly, I went with the last one.
I figured the best bang for my buck time-wise was to go for a good old-fashioned road ride. By far the most popular road route around these parts is to head over the George Washington Bridge and up Route 9W. I do this very seldom nowadays, opting for the less Fredded-out routes on my side of the Hudson, but I was feeling nostalgic for the days when I'd subject myself to the indignity of a paceline and cling to the back of the 1/2/3 field in the park races.
Plus the Fred Factor over there is generally much lower on weekdays, and so I figured what the hell.
Anyway, everything was going fine, and I was enjoying all of the things that make 9W great: close-passing luxury cars; riders in aerobars who shout "On your left!" even after you've made eye contact with them and moved over; giant flashing signs exhorting cyclists to BE SEEN, as though we somehow don't exist entirely in the physical plane and can tune into and out of it at will like the Cheshire Cat...
But it was on the return trip over the GWB where it all went pear-shaped. (Or Fred-shaped.)
If you're unfamiliar with the GWB bike path, it's got all these crazy right angles and doglegs in it as it wraps around the bridge supports, which means oncoming cyclists tend to pass each other rather closely. Having been through this rigamarole a gazillion times, I'm more than familiar with the routine, and at the first little zig-zag I kept to my side and passed an oncoming rider without incident. However, after passing, he let out a mighty scream, like a Viking who's just returned to his longhouse from a bathroom break only to discover an enemy has slaughtered his family and then left a semen deposit inside his pointy horn helmet.
"That's weird," I thought. Perhaps he had a near-miss with the rider behind me, I figured. Putting it out of my mind, I continued on, only to find the enraged Fred now bearing down on me from behind.
"DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU DID BACK THERE!," he screamed, or words to that effect, it's hard to remember, or frankly to care.
I assured him I did not.
What followed was a deluge of shouting and invective from which I eventually deduced he was under the impression that I'd almost run into him due to some sort of ostensibly reckless maneuver on my part. I was, quite frankly, stunned, inasmuch as we'd simply ridden by each other on our respective sides of the path without so much as a visible wobble. Indeed, I might even have been angry if only his accusations weren't so patently absurd.
The first thing I did was invite him to return back to the spot with me so he could show me what he thought I'd done wrong. On the way, I also asked him if he'd be willing to conduct a video interview with me on the subject, because goddamn it I'm a bike blogger first and foremost and this was comedy gold. Sadly he declined, and I didn't force the issue, because he was clearly unhinged and sticking a phone in his face was bound to push him over the edge.
As I suspected, returning to the scene of the crime offered no new information, and the fact remained that I'd been going one direction, he another, and that we'd both passed each other with no contact whatsoever. Nevertheless, he maintained I'd done something wrong somehow, offering as evidence the fact that he rides over this bridge nearly every day. I countered with the suggestion that perhaps he should consider riding a different route, as clearly this one was driving him insane. I also asked him to contemplate how it was that I'd been riding over this bridge for decades now and had never, ever had a single encounter like this one.
This is not to say I was in any way hostile. Far from it. In fact, I daresay I handled the situation rather adeptly and diplomatically--especially since he shouted "FUCK YOU!" to me repeatedly, which are fighting words when hurled at pretty much anybody other than a "woosie" like me. I credit my savoir faire in this situation to the fact that as a bike blogger I have 10 years of experience talking down to clueless Freds. Plus, I'm the parent of a two year-old, and I know a temper tantrum when I see one. As a parent, I also impressed upon him the importance of playing nice with people, because I honestly think one day this guy is gonna get killed.
In any case, if you're looking for a moral in all of this, there are two:
1) At one point or another we've all been this angry Fred, enraged and self-righteous in a situation we think we understand but really don't. Maybe it's yelling at that customer service rep, or getting annoyed at the road work that's ultimately for your benefit, or stamping that package of Terra Chips to smithereens because WHY IS THE BAG SO FUCKING HARD TO OPEN???;
2) Avoid the whole GWB/9W thing, it's a real shitshow.
Ride safe this weekend.
I love you.
--Wildcat Rock Machine