It’s Christmas Eve and I’m riding my bike to work in the cool, low light of morning. I reach the end of our road at the top of a long hill and stop at the stop sign, waiting to turn left. A man in an RV pulls up beside me in the right lane and rolls down his window.
I wait, wondering what he will say, trying to keep my mind alert for a response. I can be pretty terrible at this conversation thing.
He smiles. “Better be careful,” he says.
Oh, great, I think. He thinks I shouldn’t be out on the roads on a bike. Well, I won’t let a misinformed driver ruin my day.
He continues, “There’s a police car behind you.”
Whatever, I think. I’m following all the laws, and then some–headlight and taillight. Helmet. In left lane only to turn left.
“He’s going to pull you over…”
You’re wasting my time…
“For speeding.” He grins, and my thoughts come to a sudden halt. His joke isn’t really funny–like asking a unicyclist where his other wheel is or telling a tandem cyclist his stoker isn’t pedaling, the joke is funny only to the teller. But I grin back anyway, because he took the time to be humorous instead of rude.
I’m used to rude or inattentive drivers. In the few months I’ve been cycling, I’ve been yelled at, honked at, given the finger, passed closely enough to nearly knock me off my bike, sent into a tailspin after suddenly braking for a reckless motorist who made an illegal U-turn across three lanes of traffic in front of my 20+ MPH bike. And yet here’s a person who treats me as a human and shares his sense of humor with me.
It’s not the first time I’ve been pleasantly surprised–there’s the middle-aged man in the utility truck who tells me he sees me every day and admires my discipline –then honks a hello every time he passes me for the next few months. The twenty-or-thirty-something in the red sports car who asks me how far I ride and then asks which direction I’m going when the light changes so that he won’t cut me off. And this goofball who tells me I’m going to get stopped for speeding.
Hey, I’ll take it.