Or, “Why I Started Giving The Finger Again.”
It was just another Saturday that I had to work, only this time it seemed Spring had finally arrived. It was sunny, with the air at a nice 60 degrees Farenheit. Compared to the last few days I was off from work – 40 degrees and raining – it was absolutely beautiful, so I decided to ride in.
This would be a 12-hour work day, so I needed to fuel-up – 91 octane for the Super Tenere, and Monster Zero Ultra for me. Moving through the parking lots – the only practical way to get from Henderson Road to the Wawa in King of Prussia – I ended up behind a mid-sized box van. He stopped for the posted stop sign at the intersection of the Chick-fil-A drive-through exit, so I stopped behind him. A mid-sized sedan came out from the drive-through smelling like chicken fried in peanut oil. Then, the box van in front of me started to move…in reverse.
The white box van seemed much larger with its white reverse lights on me, creeping in my direction box-first. Luckily, the front wheels were cut hard to the right – he was apparently backing into a parking spot – so the approach was off-vector enough for me to react in time. I darted to his left and thumbed the goat-bleater of a horn on the big Yamaha. I stopped just out of his path of reverse travel, then he stopped. With plenty of room to spare, I dumped the clutch and shot around him towards the Wawa lot.
As I passed the box van’s open driver’s window, I heard angry shouts in my direction. From the driver who waited at a stop sign, only to throw his van in reverse. From the driver who nearly backed over me because he didn’t check his six before moving his 6-ton truck. Somehow he was making this MY fault? As I passed and heard his shouts, I looked back over my shoulder and did something I vowed years ago to stop doing to other drivers: I flipped him the bird.
I’ve been riding motorcycles on the street for 26 years this month. Approximately 15 years ago, it occurred to me that most road rage stems not from the initial traffic incident, but rather from one or both of the drivers involved making it a personal issue. I saw how it made my own blood boil when another driver (or rider) would give me the finger, especially when I felt the incident was entirely their fault – like they were saying “and screw you, too!” It was even worse when it was my fault and I acknowledged my mistake with eye contact and an apologetic wave, only to get flipped-off. The finger made it personal, and personal attacks can lead to physical attacks. I decided then that I would refrain from making road incidents personal, and keep things civil with other drivers on the road.
So what changed? What set me off with this truck driver on this beautiful spring day? Why couldn’t I stick to my plan of being a cordial two-wheeled ambassador of friendship and just remove myself from the situation without making it a vulgar personal attack?
Because FUCK THAT GUY. Sometimes, you’re so wrong that you need to be told. You’re going to be so blind while driving a 6-ton box truck, and perform unpredictable antics such as throwing the truck into reverse from a stop sign, and then have the balls to yell at the motorcycle rider who was alerting you that he was about to get steamrollered? Fuck you and the box truck you drove in on.
Maybe it’s because I’m in my mid-40s, and things just click at certain ages. Maybe it’s because I was prepared to do battle in the parking lot over his lack of attentiveness. Maybe it’s because I’m fed up with 26 years of careless drivers denying their mistakes instead of just acknowledging it and moving on. Maybe this one time I was not going to let him get away with blaming me for nearly being crushed under his wheels. Whatever the spark, I broke one of my own cardinal rules of riding: don’t escalate road-rage scenarios, don’t make it personal.
So, have I crossed the line for good? Have I tossed out a golden rule that has served me well for the past 15 years? Am I just another road-raging bird-flipper now? I’d like to think this was an isolated incident, spurred by recent pent-up stress – from work, family commitments, etc – and sparked by a careless and miscreant driver. Only time will tell if this is the new, curmudgeony me, yelling at young cagers to “get off my lawn!” It would be a shame to throw away such a good practice of keeping my finger to myself.