After early season motorist aggression that included a driver trying to run me into a concrete barrier at a costruction site and another one going out of her way to screech obscenities, I looked forward to the season quieting down. Those incidents had happened on Saturday, April 8, one on the morning ride to work, the other on the evening ride home.
The following Saturday, April 15, I started out from Wolfeboro to ride to Gilford after work, to fetch my car from the mechanic's shop. Not five minutes into the ride, still in downtown Wolfeboro, though not in the center of it, I felt a sudden sharp sting as a bb ricocheted off my right buttock. A white mini van that had just pulled out from a convenience store on the left side of the road passed me, with a young man still pulling his arm back in through the window. I heard laughter and saw the occupants of the van looking back through the tinted glass. I noted Florida tags, but couldn't get the number.
After an impulsive double-handed middle digit salute, I remembered I had my cell phone in my pocket, already powered up. We were less than a quarter-mile from the police station, headed toward it. It doesn't get much more convenient than that.
I called the dispatcher and calmly, succinctly described the situation. Because of traffic, I was able to keep the van in sight as it turned down a side street. When I got to the street, I followed, still in contact with the police. The dispatcher relayed new information to the approaching officer.
The van driver soon discovered he'd turned down a street with no other outlet. I was able to get a look at the driver's face and a description of his clothing, though I still didn't get the plate number.
By the time I got back out to Main Street, the officer had already hooked and landed them. I pulled up behind the flashing cruiser as instructed, to give my statement.
The officer extracted the driver and two passengers. When he searched the vehicle he found the weapon and a large quantity of ammunition. When he finished with the van's crew he came back to me. We discussed my options for charges in addition to the traffic violations and weapon charges they already faced because at least one of them was a juvenile. Then I had to dash on to Gilford to beat sunset.
The exhilaration of actually getting to nail someone for attacking a cyclist got me up all the hills on my route and kept me laughing all night. This was one carload of punks who wouldn't get away with treating a cyclist like a shooting gallery target.
Ah, but nothing is free in this life.
The great thing about a small town is that the police force has time to pursue something like a cyclist pinged with a bb gun. In a major metropolitan area the police would have hung up on me. Unless there's a limb blown off, they have many more important things to do. You want to be an idiot and ride out there? Wear Kevlar.
The downside to living in a small town is that the punk who nailed you could very well be someone you know. Wolfeboro is a resort town and pulls in a lot of people from surrounding towns to work or attend the middle and high schools there. I was hoping, between the Florida tags and the dirtbag behavior, that it would turn out to be someone with some real karmic debt. No such luck. The shooter was the son of a friend of a friend, doing something juvenile and stupid, even though he is old enough to be charged as an adult with his reckless actions.
The facts of the incident are stark. Someone fired a weapon on a busy street. If the projectile had not hit me in a fairly harmless way, it could have hit any number of pedestrians or other motorists who were in the same area. It could have hit me in a worse spot. What 12- or 14-year-old boys do to each other playing in the woods is one stupid thing, but adults or near adults taking potshots from a moving car on a busy street is criminally stupid.
The young man's mother is not making any plea to me or anyone else to let the whole thing drop. She understands and wants the miscreants to understand, the full significance of their actions. But now I can't just sit back and enjoy the machinery of justice grinding up a malicious enemy of bicyclists. I have to watch a dumbass drag himself, his family, his mother's friend and, to some extent, me, through a painful extra lesson in responsible behavior.