The very next weekend, Jim came over to ride. So did an old friend Bill, who occasionally visited.
Bill was mostly a runner, but he’d had a ten-speed. I let him use my spare bike so the three of us could take a little tour around what were then the relatively quiet streets and byways of an Annapolis that had not yet been raped to death by overpopulation and development.
After perhaps 15 miles of zigzagging around the city, we come up to the very King George Street intersection where I’d fought my own skirmish the week before. We were coming up to it on King George Street itself, which forms a T with Route 450 there.
The light was red. We stopped, like good, law-abiding cyclists. Cars pulled up behind us.
When the light turned green, I stuck my foot into the toe clip and pedaled smoothly away. Jim had been beside me, slightly behind my shoulder. I heard a loud engine noise, followed by Jim’s enraged bellowing. A slightly careworn sedan accelerated past me as I made out what Jim was yelling.
“Get that guy!” he screamed. “He tried to run me down! I had to yank myself out of the way! Get him!”
Hey, Jim was my friend. Forget my pledge of nonviolence. That had been his idea anyway. If he said we go to war, we go to war.
I pulled out my water bottle, nice and full, and drilled a hard spiral pass into the back window of the departing car. Then I sprinted up to take a closer position and wait for the formation to regroup and push the attack. I saw the car contained man, woman and child.
Jim came up on my right. His own water bottle flew past me and bounced off the car.
We harried the car for several blocks, finally herding it into a dead-end street.
I went into Good Cop mode, since Jim had clearly staked out Bad Cop, bordering on Escaped Psychopath. He was foaming pretty badly at the mouth.
“What are you teaching your kid?” Jim screamed.
“I’m teaching him not to ride his damn bike on the street,” said the man. He seemed generally bewildered, but he was sure of that much.
My Good Cop wasn’t doing so well, because I was hardly neutral, but I was certainly quieter than Jim. When the noise level dropped a bit, the driver said he was just trying to get to Route 450. I forgot to ask east or west and then gave the wrong directions, but it wasn’t out of malice, only the fog of war. Once again, the rage hadn’t been appropriate to the goal.
As we rode away from the incident, Jim demonstrated the radical sideways yank he’d had to perform to evade the motorist’s impatient surge out of the stop light. The motion caused his tubular tire to roll off the rim, and he hit the ground sliding at about 20 miles per hour. Thing is, he didn’t stop yelling about the driver until he’d slid about 15 yards.
“You should’ve seen it! I had to yank sideways like this!” SMACK! SCRAAAAAAAAA “He just hit the gas and came right at me! That assh– ow!” AAAPE!
Jim peeled himself up from his human crayon mark, popped the tire back onto the rim with his thumbs, and we rode slowly back to my house with bewildered and forgotten Bill, who had kept his distance.
I waited a good long time before I asked Jim if he thought he might have overreacted to motorist aggression.