Monday, September 28
I have been riding a bike since I was about 14, but it is only really since starting to commute on it regularly that I have been subjected to the fine art of cyclist heckling.
It's a strange phenomenum. Unless they are career bullies or subject to road rage, people rarely feel the need to shout out random and often meaningless things at other pedestrians or car drivers. But when an innocent cyclist passes by, often one who is minding their own business and concentrating on the road, some people find themselves yelling out insults, comments, or just a random string of words, as if by some involuntary spasm.
I used to get upset about it, even hurt, but now I just find myself pondering what makes them do it - it's totally mysterious to someone like me who would no more consider yelling 'hey, ugly fuckwit' at a total stranger, than I would consider defecating in the street.
It would be more acceptable if the insults were witty or imaginative, but usually they are just dull and predictable. "You fucking lesbian!" is probably the best example of this. Even if it were true, it's hardly insulting - except perhaps in the world of small-minded imbeciles!
"Fat-bottomed girl" was another recent one. If I had had my wits about me I would have shouted back "who are you calling a girl?"
Once I got "your bike's shit!". So is your power of insult, you stunted pillock.
Today's was a classic. In the tone of someone shouting out "lovely tits!", the bloke called "cock up your arse!" almost as if he had even taken himself by surprise! I checked but didn't find anything and then wondered whether perhaps he meant to add a question mark at the end of his sentence but didn't quite know how. Aw bless.
As for gestures, I have never been able to decide if the three schoolboys mooning at me was insulting or just hopeful. Aside from making me laugh it did remind me to ask about getting some bike racks at work.
Car hecklers are by far the worst; it is usually so sudden and unexpected that it can be at best annoying, at worst dangerous.
But if you are an habitual heckler of cyclists, beware! Sometimes they bite back. Some years ago, on my way home from an early morning swim, I was persistently heckled by the occupants of a white van. As we passed one another going from one set of traffic lights to the next, these morons gurned and catcalled at me out of the open window each time they drove up behind me.
As I approached the van at about the third set of lights, a mischievous spirit took hold of me. Swimming can cause the body to generate more phlegm than usual, and at the time I felt a 'poor man's oyster' rising in my throat. At my side of the van the window was wound right down, all the more convenient for some cycle heckling, and the miscreant had the Sun open on his lap, looking at the pictures no doubt. I could not resist, your honour.
I didn't stop to check if I had hit my target, I could tell from outraged yelling that it must have been pretty near the mark. I sped off down a side street, grinning to myself and did not stop chuckling all day. I'm not ashamed, or sorry that I did it. They deserved it.