Got pulled over by a cop while I was riding my bicycle today. The conversation went as follows:
cop: “You go to school here?”
cop: “They teach you how to read at this school?”
me: “No, I learned that a long time ago.”
cop: “Perhaps you can tell me what S.T.O.P. means?”
Let me interrupt this conversation by saying this: I’m a stickler for safety. In the bike world, I guess that means I’m a geek. I wear a bright yellow helmet, a bright yellow and reflective jacket, my bags have reflective tape, I wear gloves, I don’t exceed the speed limit–even on downhills, I put on both front and back lights even if there’s a little sun left in the day. I generally stop at all intersections, particularly in residential neighborhoods. That I didn’t stop at this one was a lapse in judgement caused by the fact that there were no cars around. Except for the cop, I guess…I have no idea where he was hiding. We return to our regular programming:
me: “It means to stop.”
cop: “That’s right.”
me: “Look, officer, I’m dressed in yellow, I’m wearing a helmet, I’ve got gloves and lights on my bike…obviously I’m not unconcerned with safety. I signaled to indicate my turn even though there were no cars around.”
me: “There was a mountain biker in front of me. He didn’t stop either.”
cop: “Yeah–he did the right thing, he jumped the curb and made a right using the dirt path.”
me: “? OK”
cop: “Come to a stop next time.”
me: “I usually do.”
cop: “Thanks for pulling over for me.”
The owner of a bookstore downtown has a book set aside for me. Coming to this store almost always involves a nice, cordial chat with him, and quite some time has passed since I was there last. As I lock up my bike to the post outside his door, I think I hear shouting in the store. The windows and door are closed, so the sound is muffled, and I write it off as an idiot in the sports bar above the bookstore. The bookstore sells only academic books. While they probably have a philosophical text on shouting, it’s about as far from ‘a rowdy joint’ as Dubya is from ‘smart’.
I walk in and David, the owner, looks pretty stressed out. A man who vaguely resembles a portly Rasputin is leaning over the counter, staring at David intently. David utters an exasperated “Hey.”
I say “Hi, David.” I pause, thinking he’ll remember he has a book on hold for me. A few seconds pass. He remembers.
“Ah, yes, Marx. Just a second, it’s in back.” He gets out of his chair.
Rasputin chortles. “Marx! Marx! That’s a laugh!”
I think, “Oh great, he’s a psycho.”
David tells him very calmly, “Get out,” then wanders towards the back half of the store to get the book.
Rasputin starts lumbering towards me. “I love that idea and I love you, man. In fact, I love you so much I want to kiss the bottom of your shoes. In fact I’ll do it right now!”
He really does look like Rasputin. He’s got those eyes. I say, “No thanks, I’ll pass.” I look towards the back of the store for David.
The next thing I know, Rasputin is on the floor, grabbing my leg tightly at the calf, trying to lift it up. The fucker is serious. He really does love me so much that he wants to kiss the bottom of my shoes. I start losing my balance and I say, with increasing volume, “Let go of my leg. Let go of my leg!…LET GO OF MY LEG, GOD DAMN IT.”
He doesn’t let go. David rushes back to the counter and tries to pull Rasputin off of me.
I’m not a violent person. I’ve never “kicked anyone’s ass”, though I did fracture some guy’s ribs with a croquet mallet once (it was in third grade, he was a bully, and he had beaten me up many times before that). I don’t think I’ve ever thrown a punch. I’m about as far from ‘violent’ as Dubya is from ‘articulate’.
But I’m hopping on one leg, the other leg in Rasputin’s over-amorous grip, and I’m pretty close to falling over. I see that my shoe is right smack dab in front of his dirty puckered face.
It’s at this moment that I realize I can literally shove my foot down his fucking mouth, and I’m not abusing the term ‘literally’. As Rasputin muscles the sole of my shoe to his lips I visualize–really, I do–my foot retracting from the bloody aftermath of his kicked-in face. The image starts to suck me in, like a daydream, but in his boundless love for me, Rasputin is twisting my leg in ways not conducive to me remaining upright.
David pulls him off by the coat and shoves him out of the store. He apologizes to me for having to deal with it. He says, “The guy’s a psycho and he comes around here all the time. I don’t have the heart to call the cops on him. He doesn’t know what he’s doing most of the time.” I tell him as he rings up my purchase that it wasn’t a big deal, that I just hope the guy doesn’t come in here and cause some real trouble.
I leave the store and as I’m unlocking my bike, the bloody face image comes to mind again. It occurs to me that I think I would have done it, I would have gone mad-stompy on his visage if the scene lasted any longer than it did. I didn’t think I was in danger, really. It wouldn’t have been an act of self-defense.
This thought is a very sombering one. I have to walk my bike down the street to the corner before I feel like riding it.