Cross-Windshield, Crosswalk, Cross Conversations
The other day, while riding through downtown in search of cool stuff to look at, shake or climb on, Little Oil and I found ourselves on 5th, under the Monorail tracks. Little Oil INSISTED that we wait around until a train passed overheard. Then she freaked out in bliss, then we had to wait for the next one.
In those ten minutes on the sidewalk, I watched rush hour materialize on 5th Ave. Car traffic grew thicker and then slower and then stopped. We had places to be, but the road wasn't an option and the so we decided to push Wheelio with Little Oil still in her seat for a block or two and rejoin traffic later.
Every car driver looked pissed off or annoyed with each other. Except the guy with the puppy in his lap. He was fine. At the next corner, the crosswalk was blocked by two cars. The car in front looked as if it had made it 75% of the way through a right turn on to 5th before getting stuck and had nowhere to go. The car behind that one was blocking the sidewalk ramp. The other pedestrians were all able to filter between the cars' bumpers but we needed to use the ramp if I was going to avoid tipping Little Oil onto the ground.
The driver of car number two made eye contact with me and gave and a sheepish smile. I think he even waved at Little Oil. The driver of car number one I couldn't even see and took no further notice of.
Driver two made a questioning hand gesture. I said, calm as can be, (seriously, we were in no rush,)
You are in the crosswalk.
He pointed at his closed window and made another questioning face. I have no idea why he didn't open his window, but from here on out I am shouting at him. But we are not arguing! He seems like a perfectly nice guy. I am too. He's just stuck in his car and can't hear me. We carry on an exchange about how he can move his car and let us by. The whole time he is gesturing silently and I am shouting. We are both smiling and trying to be helpful.
WHY DON'T YOU TRY BACKING UP?!
YOU HAVE ROOM!
I NEED TO USE THE RAMP!
THE RAMP! THERE!
At this point we are moving between his car and that of driver number one, to whom absolutely none of my shouting has been addressed. Imagine my surprise when driver number one gets halfway out of her car and starts really letting me have it!
Why do you have to be such a jerk?
I can't move my car in this traffic!
Why are you being such a jerk with your kid on your bike?
You feel good yelling at me?!
I tried to explain myself, but driver number one just climbed back in her car and Little Oil looked pretty freaked out so we split.
Can't win sometimes.
Poor driver number one. When conflict is the only mode you expect and your half of the conversation happens inside a box, alone and without eye contact, I can only imagine how everything, even things not addressed to you at all can start to sound like disrespect.
I need to ask human beings to move a little out of our way everyday when we put our big, obtrusive cargo bike on an elevator at the preschool end of our commute. That never leads to shouting. We just work together and everybody gets the space they need.
Sigh. Let's find more ways to bring peace to the streets! More eye contact. More good will. More humanness.