I was riding to the start of the Wheatgrass when I overtook the Wily Greek. The Captain then rolled up behind us. We were exactly on time, 7:59:59, and we could see the group massing in the parking lot at Malaga Cove. The downhill from PV North hits about 40 mph, and there wasn’t a single car on the road. We sped through the stop signs as we’ve done a million, make that a billion times before, and saw a cop waiting for us.
PA: “Pull over now!”
Three chunky $350.00 tickets and a long lecture curing which time two more squad cars were called in and a fourth drove by but was waved on. You never know when three skinny underwear-clad bikers, two eligible for AARP and one who weights 120 lbs. might get dangerous on you.
The first cop lit into Wily. “Didn’t I pull you over last week for the same thing and let you off with a warning?”
“Er, uh, duh,” Wily fuddled.
The cop was pissed and the other two stood back, watching this brief entertainment between donuts. Then we received The Lecture. You should know it by heart. I do.
- This is for your own good.
- Please stop running stop signs.
- We are only concerned about safety.
- No one here is picking on cyclists.
- Have a nice day.
None of us argued. How could we? We’d been caught red-pedaled, and excuses were only going to make matters worse, such as when Wily pretended not to have seen the 12-by-12 stop sign that was so big it blotted out the morning sun.
I certainly wasn’t going to argue, because Cop No. 3 was the same guy who’d ticketed me for blowing four consecutive stop signs a month ago on Via del Monte, and I was praying he didn’t recognize me. “We had to do 60 to catch you!” he’d said as he furiously scribbled the ticket that day.
We finished our ride and went home, sour.
That afternoon my new New Balance sneakers tore the tongue. It’s a long story, but they replaced my $35 Target shoes that had seen three months of hard wear and had biked across Germany. I’d gone to the Village Runner in Redondo Beach because of a little Internet blurb I read about how it’s better to patronize real running stores. The price of local patronage was $160, and thank dog I had cash left over from my trip and that there had been a place to sit down to keep from fainting.
As I pedaled to the shop I was worried because I’d paid in cash, and had tossed the receipt and the box. If I’d bought them at Target that would have been the end of it.
Then it occurred to me that I should change my ways, really, I should. So I stopped at every stop sign and stop light. Mostly.
The clerk, Francisco, immediately recognized me. “How do you like the shoes?”
“I love them, but they don’t love me.” I showed him the problem.
“We’ll replace them. We have another pair at the Manhattan Beach store. We’ll have them here for you tomorrow.”
“I can ride over there now.”
“Do you have the receipt?”
“Don’t worry–it’s all good.”
As I pedaled up the Five Corners intersection in Hermosa, which took me twelve years to reach even though it was five miles away because I stopped at every stop sign and light, I felt a faint glow of good civic-hood. I had finally become a mostly law-abiding cyclist. It was good to feel the approval of happy cagers as I stopped at each sign.
Then, crammed over into the nonexistent gutter to let a revving engine pass, a punk stuck his head out the window. “Get a fucking car or get off the road, asshole!”
I flipped him off and caught him at the stop sign. “What did you say?” I asked rather warmly.
“You want to pull over and find out?” he asked. “I’ll smash your fucking face in.”
“Yes, I’m pulling over now, in fact, to photograph your rustbox and call 911.”
He sped off, then did a u-turn. “Pull over, fuckhead, I’m parking and coming for you!”
I pulled over and dialed 911. He parked and came storming over with his two friends, who all began threatening and berating me as I spoke to the 911 operator. “Call the fucking police you fucking fuck fuck duh! We’ll tell them exactly what you did you asshole dickhead fucking fuck fuck duh!”
Three MB squad cars squealed up, then a fourth. A lady cop jumped out. The punkster began yapping as I stood several yards away. “Sit on the curb and shut up!” The color drained from all their faces and it got very quiet as she read them the riot act.
The fourth cop asked for my side of the story, which I told him, calmly.
“You did the right thing, sir, calling us and not letting it escalate. What would you like us to do?”
“Can you shoot each one of them in the head?”
“Then an apology would be great.” The punk was led over and he faked the words “I’m sorry,” but they choked him so badly he won’t swallow solid food for a week. Then they sent him on his way, not charging him with misdemeanor assault or with violating the 3-foot law, I suppose because I was just a bicyclist and the only thing that had happened was that I had almost died. I wondered what the punk would have been charged with if he’d intentionally tried to kill one of the cops.
When I got to the shoe store, the manager, Jeff, quickly swapped out my shoes, no questions asked. A better shopping experience I’ve never had. I mused that shopping local was expensive, risky, and fraught with tension.
“But it was worth it,” I told myself as I crawled home, stopping at every single stop sign and stop light, all 154 of them.
Stopping mostly, that is.
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