I was on my way to the Michael Jackson flash mob in Santa Monica (please shut up) and came up to the stoplight. There was a lot of traffic, and because it was Santa Monica, and because it was sunny, and because it was past the noon wake-up hour, the crazy people were out in force.
There was the toothless white man singing Swahili war songs. There was the shopping cart lady with four bags of empty plastic bottles slung over her shoulder. There was the toothless couple in their 70’s, he in a thong, she in a bikini (what is it about Santa Monica and bad teeth?). There was the fat shirtless dude shirt salmoning up the sidewalk with big steel hoops pierced through his nipples. There were the holistic women toting cloth shopping bags overflowing with kale, flanking a shaman who had a giant bone tied in his beard.
There were rich people trying to look poor. There were poor people trying to look rich. There was a dude carrying a surfboard wearing a wetsuit nowhere near the ocean. There was a dog adoption place. There was a farmers market filled with faux farmers.
The light turned green and a lady whizzed past me on her mountain bike. She was wearing black yoga pants that came down mid-calf, paired with a sleeveless white top, pink sneakers, flat pedals, and a white baseball cap. As she blitzed through the intersection she stuck her left hand directly out in front of her and shouted “Straight!”
Then a parked car on the right turned on its engine and the brake lights flashed. “Watch it!” she screamed. The car hadn’t even moved. A trash truck was doing its thing and blocking the bike lane, so she swerved like a pro slalom skier out into traffic, and screamed some more. “Everybody take cover!” she hollered. That, I had to admit, was a new on-the-bike warning.
I could see this was going to be good, so I picked up speed and started tailing her. She was in pretty good shape and ripped along in the bike lane, unevenly and unable to hold a line. The cars were barely going the speed of our bikes, and a convertible with four young women slowly passed us. “What are you looking at?” she roared. “Pay attention to the road!” Then she swerved in front of them, causing the driver to lock it up. “Goddamn you!” the crazy lady shouted. “God damn you to hell and back!”
At that split second another parked car started to open its door. She was no where near the door zone, but she let the poor guy have it, uttering a mighty shriek. “Watch your door! Watch your door! Watch your FUCKING DOOR!”
The guy jerked his door shut but hadn’t pulled his leg back in. It smacked his shin with a huge crunch. I heard him moan and curse as I cruised by.
Now crazy bicycle cat lady had a big old head of steam going. She was shoveling coal through the Ashland and Main intersection, and since there weren’t any cars to shout at, she abused a lady pushing a stroller. “Stay on the damned curb! How hard is it, fer Chrissake!” The lady hadn’t even started to move.
The faster she went, the more she shouted, and pointed, and cursed, and swerved. She finally caught the light at Ocean Park and let loose with a torrent of invective. “How fucking hard is it, morons?” she shouted. “HOW FUCKING HARD?” Watching the cross traffic lights change, she jumped the gun and rushed out into the intersection just as the light turned green. A guy coming the other way was trying to beat the yellow, and he braked hard, missing her by a couple of feet.
She never slowed down, but she roared and cursed and swerved and pointed and shook her fist. I was humping it to keep up with her, when I noticed something odd.
The long line of traffic was terrified. The entire stream of Sunday cars rolling down Main Street had one concern and one only: don’t hit the cat lady. The ones she made eye contact with got a fist shake and a curse. The ones who she passed, drivers who were minding their own business, got yelled at so loudly that you could see them start.
By the time we got to the Santa Monica Courthouse, she had whipped the whole lot of them. Straight-arming the traffic through Pico and rushing full bore towards the t-intersection, I marveled at her. This wasn’t lane control. It was lane domination. She was the spike-heeled, leather clad, whip-wielding dominatrix of the Santa Monica Sunday rush hour, and the more she cursed and yelled and abused the hapless drivers, the more they got the hell out of her way. She wasn’t even wearing a helmet.
We parted company on 2nd Street. I eased out into the lane as a bunch of cars started backing up behind me. I could feel what they were thinking, and I knew that all it would take to get them off my back was a good dose of crazy bicycle cat lady abuse. I turned around and looked at the angry driver, hunched over his steering wheel, pissed at having to troll for parking, pissed at being in his cage on such a pretty day, and most of all pissed at having to crawl along at 15 mph behind some dude riding around in his underwear. He shot me the scowl of a gun nut listening to a lecture about gun control.
I smiled and waved.
He relaxed and smiled back.
Then I mouthed the word “Thanks,” turned back around, and kept pedaling.
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