|With considerable deliberation I formulated a proper and effective response...|
The motorist traveling the other direction yelled at my back, as he hit the gas and made his loud engine even louder, something angry, along the lines of "GET OFF THE ROAD!" I considered his apparent demand seriously. What should my reaction be? Should I reply?
My first reaction, which I quickly damped down, was to spin around, chase after him, and just ask him what he meant. No-win response, though, no chance of actually finding out what he meant by doing that, so I quickly ruled that out.
Next, I considered shouting back an anatomically impossible demand of my own. For, while being anatomically impossible for him to do, the demand seemed to satisfy some need I had to lash back out at him, as it queued up in my brain and headed toward my mouth. But, no, I damped that down, too, another no-win, as he was not likely to even attempt my anatomically impossible demand, but rather, would be angered further by it, if he even heard it. Which was unlikely, since he was speeding off into the distance. Probably the only person who would hear it would be some kid, who would then ask his parent what the anatomically impossible demand meant, and I didn't want that, either.
I considered actually doing what he told me to do, and get off the road. Immediately. This was hampered by practical considerations primarily, since I was riding in a bike lane on a street with no sidewalks. I pictured myself turning 90 degrees to the right and getting off the road immediately anyway, waving back at him, "Sure thing, mate! Any other demands?", and then just riding across the lawns, churning up the expensively manicured sod, hoping that someone would yell at me to get off their lawn so that I could go back to riding in the bike lane. "Why the hell are you riding on my lawn?" one of the lawnowners might inquire, to which I would reply, "Because a motorist demanded that I get off his road, and this seemed like the only alternative available!"
But no, I decided that I would not get off the road, and furthermore, that probably NO ONE EVER WOULD, in response to such a demand. In the history of bicycle riding, has anyone, anywhere, EVER, actually gotten off the road when a plain old motorist driving the opposite direction yelled at their back to do so? I think not. Furthermore, I believe that the motorist knew this when he yelled it, that there was no chance whatsoever that I would actually get off the road. So what would possess a motorist to yell such a thing, knowing that it was an absurd, impossible, and entirely unlikely to be obeyed demand? Desperation driven to such lengths of untoward impossible irrational absurd unlikely blurting and shouting is difficult to fathom, but I would wager some form of mental insufficiency, or personal frustration, or unresolved deep-seated emotional trauma, which just explodes out of him at the slightest provocation, and pushes him even further into the dark depths of dysfunction and failure.
On the other hand, I found that my previously advised response to such situations, to disengage, to take away the power, to escape, evade, and move on down the road, lacked a certain feeling of closure to me. It was unsatisfying, frankly. I was still simmering. It felt like I couldn't let it go, and shouldn't just ride on passively the next time someone yells something impossible at me, either in terms of anatomical impossibility, or as a demand that no one would accede to, ever. Put that way, there's a clear and simple response, that I will always have ready for now on, whenever a motorist yells something at me. This response also has the virtue of being appropriate for more or less any pointless, absurd, impolite shout or act by a motorist toward a cyclist on the road, so I like it. It feels like it would give me closure, while still accomplishing my desired end of not stooping to the depths of dysfunction despair and failure which lurk in the interior of the vehicle the shout or act originated from in the first place, no I won't go there. That's their zone, not mine.
Next time this sort of thing happens, which is infrequently by the way, people seldom yell at me, I have my reply ready. I will instantly turn, and shout at the top of my voice at his back (since that appears to be his preferred mode of communication, back-shouting), NO!!!!! That's it. Nothing more than NO!!!!! I have no need to dignify the dysfunctional back shout with further elaboration or action. Moving on now.
It seems perfect to me. GET OFF THE ROAD! NO!!!!! End of discussion. Having answered his impossible demand in a clear and logical, definitive manner, I will ride on without further ado. Useful in reply to any foul-mouthed, angry motorist, with a sense of closure and clarity. I like it. Let them roll on down the road with their full load of dysfunction intact and on board, since you reflected it right back where it came from.
I even imagined this becoming a sort of secret handshake greeting for cyclists who pass each other going opposite directions, one yelling at the back of the other GET OFF THE ROAD!!! and the other responding back at the top of his voice at the back of the first, NO!!!! a challenge-response style of greeting of mutual acknowledgement and confidence: in the face of absurdity and irrational demands, our unassailable, rational, and powerful response is known in advance: NO!!!!