Edmonton straddles the juncture of two great pickup truck cultures: the modern cowboy (or wannabe cowboy) of the south and the oil patch “rig pig” workers of the north, so pickups are ubiquitous on the streets of E-Ville. Still, it seems like I have a disproportionately high number of nasty encounters with dudes in trucks.
This episode begins a couple of weeks ago. I was riding downtown and was the first vehicle stopped at a red light, where I was taking the left lane as the right hand lane was blocked by parked cars on the other side of the intersection. As the light turned, I could sense a truck following uncomfortably close behind me, and as I moved back into the right hand lane after passing the parked cars, he passed me really close, fast and aggressively. “What a jerk,” I thought, but then something else caught my attention, “Whoa, what’s with the stickers?”
Downtown traffic being downtown traffic, I caught up with the truck again at another red light a couple of blocks later. I slowly approached, taking note of the license plate, and then the stickers – “fuck taxes” “fuck work” “fuck you you fuckin’ fuck” and a confederate flag!?! I rolled up beside him in the right lane, and he rolled down his window let off a barrage of profanity. Let’s just say it was extremely rude, misogynist, abusive, didn’t make a lot of sense, and at least 50% percent of the words used started with the letter F.
I was getting worried and having flashbacks to an encounter with a certain enraged driver last year that started with similarly taking the lane. I managed to keep it cool, though, and replied by reciting his license plate number, over-enunciating so he could read my lips. He shut up, rolled up the window, and drove away uneventfully, leaving me shaking my head. Funny thing is, I bet this dude and I have a (superficially) similar opinion of cops.
As I rode on and tried to make heads and tails out of this incident, I continued to be amazed at what a complete stereotypical angry redneck dude this guy was. He even had a mullet, a baseball cap and a plaid shirt. Add a little steam coming out of the ears and he’d be a cartoon. And those stickers? What kind of ignoramus sports a confederate flag in the 21st century? And “f— you, you f—in’ f—“? Was he trying to be clever by demonstrating how his favorite word could be used as a noun, verb and adjective all in the same sentence? Somehow, I doubt it. But it got me thinking about what other words in the English language are as versatile, and I could only think of one other example…
Remember the Smurfs? This dude was Angry Racist Blue Trash Smurf! “Smurf you, you smurfin’ smurf! You smurfing stupid smurfette, why the smurf don’t you smurfing try to smurf over into the smurf lane again, you smurfy smurf!” In his blue truck, with stickers for Blue supremacy along with “smurf taxes,” I wonder what parts of his anatomy are blue and smurf sized. With the image of Road Rage Smurf in my head, I was smiling again by the time I left downtown.
A couple days later, I was riding downtown again, when I skidded to a halt, yelling “Holy crap, it’s the truck!”
A proud a-hole drives this truck.
A look at Smurfman's sticker collection. (Click on images to zoom in).
During the initial incident, I didn’t notice the stickers on the driver’s side, but seeing them, my jaw dropped.
The SS lightning bolts are used by white supremacists to identify each other.
This dude is a straight up racist and white supremacist, and has covered his truck in symbols that proclaim his hatred to the world.
I feel ashamed at what happened next. I had an opportunity to do something nasty to his truck, to haul something disgusting out of a dumpster and leave it on his hood, or perhaps to just administer some old fashioned U-lock justice. But I froze, and other than taking these pictures, I didn’t do anything. Blame the busy street, the small crowd of people smoking outside a nearby building, the fear of Rabid Pitbull Redneck Smurf storming out of the building and catching me in the act, whatever the reason, I chickened out and lost my chance.
Two days after that, I was riding down Whyte Ave. with panniers full of cat food when a different blue pickup truck pulled up beside me, and the dude in the passenger seat threw a handful of pennies at me. (And yes, they hit me, and yes, it stung.) For those of you who aren’t familiar with E-Ville, Whyte Ave is a major commercial strip where cars can’t really travel much faster than bicycles, and sure enough, a couple blocks later I was right behind the truck at a red light. Thinking fast, I took off my glove and rubbed “DOUCHE” in 12 inch letters into the grime on the back of the truck (I would’ve added “BAG” but I couldn’t reach far enough). Three people waiting for a bus saw what I was doing and yelled “Hey, stop that!” and “What do you think you’re doing?’
As I finished the lettering, I yelled back “these guys threw a bunch of shit out their window at me back there!”
The guy who yelled stop smiled. “Yeah? Alright!”
As the light turned and the truck pulled away, the faces of the other folks on the sidewalk lit up as they saw my handywork, and as I rode off, I was followed by the beaming smile of the dude who would’ve tried to stop me.
It seems like happenings on the road with pickup trucks never end. White pickups have been particularly problematic at times for me, starting with the first time one tried to run me off the road when I was in university. When I told my dad about it, he produced a copy of Bicycling Magazine he’d received in the mail that day with a story of another cyclist being run off the road by a white pickup. Ever since then, I’ve been extra wary around them.
So last week while riding Porta-Bike, when someone shouted at me from a white pickup truck I automatically put up my guard. I nearly wiped out from cognitive dissonance, though, when I realized that what they had yelled was “Nice bike!” (no sarcasm detected).
Later on that day, the words coming from another white pickup were disappointingly more like what I’ve come to expect, and I thought to myself “it figures…”
The next day, riding the bike path alongside a parking lot that employees of the Remand center and/or police headquarters use, I flinched as a beer can flew over my head (bud tall can, to be exact). Looking back to its source, I saw the window of an idling white pickup truck roll up. It would be a no-brainer to call it in as a drunk driver, except it was in the secured parking lot for `justice’ system employees. I’d probably have more luck getting justice by banging my head against the prison wall. I shook my head and rode on, wondering what it is with this town.
I’ll end this long post with one more E-Ville anecdote. No trucks in this one, though.
The snow is finally melting, and it’s finally getting warm, and I found myself overdressed one recent lovely sunny afternoon. Removing my vintage wool coat, I stuffed it in my pannier but I couldn’t get it closed, so I just left the lid open and flapping and continued oblivious, on my merry way. At some point, my coat fell out, onto the road, and I didn’t notice as I was too busy enjoying the sun and slick tires and happy tunes on my ipod. A cyclist riding behind me noticed, though. He picked up my coat and chased me for three blocks before he finally got my attention.
So Mister Awesome Cycling Stranger, thank you once again for going out of your way to reunite me with my favorite outerwear. You made my day and brightened my life when I needed it most. When I was feeling overwhelmed by how shitty people can be to each other, you profoundly reminded me that it doesn’t have to be that way. Thank-you. Thank-you. Thank-you. (And you might think I’m fast, but you did catch me!)