We were on our way to Dogtown Coffee when a cyclist rode up behind us. “Hey, annoying cyclists! Out of my way!”
I didn’t even bother to glance. I knew Bearclaw’s voice when I heard it. He pulled up alongside, grinning. “Where are you guys headed?”
“Morning commute, man. Best part of my day.”
“Bike commuting is the best,” I agreed.
“Commuting over here is amazing. None of the rage you get in the South Bay, where people hate you just for existing.”
“It’s not that bad lately,” I said.
“Really?” he was skeptical.
“Really,” I said. “With the exception of one encounter with Nasty McButtchaps, people seem to more or less accept that we’re entitled to be there. I haven’t been hassled at all.”
Bearclaw shrugged. “That’s a good thing. Wonder what changed?”
Biker friends everywhere
A few minutes after hooking up with Bearclaw, who agreed to accompany us to the coffee shop before continuing on, we ran into Gary going the other direction. He flipped a u-turn. “Mind if I join?” he asked.
“That would be awesome,” I said. “Coffee’s on me.”
We always joke before leaving on our Friday coffee rides that we are certain to run into someone we know, and we always do. I am pretty sure that doesn’t happen on the 405 freeway. It’s one of the many things that make pedaling around LA on your bike so much fun. The hectic pace of the city is slowed down to a human speed, with plenty of time to pause, take it all in, and enjoy running into people.
Once we got to Dogtown, Gary elbowed me out of the way and bought all of our coffee just as Ralf showed up. We had met Ralf and his wife there a couple of weeks ago, and he was going to ride with us for a short distance back to Venice. I’d promised his wife some sourdough starter, and I had a couple of books I figured he might like. We four sat around and talked about silly stuff, then talked about serious stuff, too, like how things seem to be headed back to the 30’s, and not in a good way.
After we got the world’s most pressing problems lined out, we headed home. Everything had been perfect. Good coffee, good friends, good conversation, good bicycling.
As we turned onto Esplanade in Redondo Beach, cruising up the little bump in the middle of the lane conspicuously marked with a “Bikes May Use Full Lane” icon, a woman drove up a few feet behind us and let loose with a massive honk. I gave her a friendly one-finger wave and we continued on.
She blew through the stop sign, window down, and pulled up alongside, forcing me up against the line of parked cars. “Pull over!” she screamed. Her face was twisted like a nasty dishrag and I eyed her bumper with apprehension.
“Can’t you read, you [adjective] [colorful noun]?” I said. “The marking says ‘bikes may use full lane.'”
Now she was in full rage mode. “Pull over! Pull over now!”
“What you need,” I said, “is a reliable weight-loss program. Because the one you’re on isn’t working.”
Surprisingly, she got even madder, wildly swinging the front of her car towards me and pulling away at the last second. “Pull over! Pull over!” she continued to scream.
At this moment, a woman in a silver Audi SUV who had been following us pulled up alongside Broom Hilda. “Are you crazy? You’re going to kill them! They haven’t done anything wrong!” Now we had one driver shouting at another driver shouting at two cyclists shouting back.
Crazy lady ignored the other lady and kept screaming at me. All I could do was politely say “Hey, you [adjective] , [adjective], [adjective] [colorful noun], you can [verb] my [adjective] [colorful noun]. And lay off the Totino’s while you’re at it. That shit is making you rage.”
Oddly, this made her rage. “I’m calling the cops on you, you smartass! Let’s see what you tell the police!”
She pulled out her phone and dialed 911. “Oh boy,” I thought to myself, “another biker-v-cager he-said-she-said. We know who’s getting reamed now.”
The cavalry arrives, then leaves
At this very moment I spied an orange Lamborghini. There is only one orange Lamborghini I know of that lives on Esplanade, and it is owned by the chief sub-leader of Team Lizard Collectors, Greg S. “Sweet!” I thought. “G3 will see all this crazy and be my character witness when they try to drag me off in handcuffs!”
The Lambo slowed as Broom Hilda took another twelve swipes, running stop signs while shouting on her cell phone to the dispatcher. With all 45,000 lumens from my headlights blasting into G3’s rearview and sideview mirrors, I was all aces.
Or so it seemed, because unbeknownst to me G3 had just found the Sirius channel with a 24-hour playlist of Spanish jazz guitar songs written in the key of B, and he was oblivious to the perils of his buddy. The orange Lambo rolled away just as Broom Hilda made another vicious swerve that missed my front wheel by inches.
“I’m so fucked,” I thought.
Seconds later I saw, miracle of miracles, a Redondo Beach police cruiser parked against the esplanade. Broom Hilda shrieked with glee. “You’re gonna get it now, asshole!” she yelled.
For a couple of blocks she continued shouting into the phone at the dispatcher. “What are the cops doing?” I wondered. “I believe in donut breaks and all, but this is ridiculous.”
On cue the flashers lit and the sirens howled. I pulled over, as did Broom Hilda. She sneered and said nothing. She didn’t have to.
The first cop got out and walked up to her while the second came over to us. “Please step over here,” he said firmly. As we stepped, I glanced at crazy lady, now several yards away. She was still screaming, only this time it was at the officer. “What do you mean?” she shrieked. “I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING WRONG!”
The cop nearest us turned to me. “We’ve been following you for two blocks,” he said. “We heard the whole fake report to the dispatcher and saw everything. She’s getting cited, don’t worry.”
Of course it crossed my mind to say, “Cited? You mean arrested, right? She tried to kill us and you saw it!” But then a bunch of other things crowded in. If she had wanted to kill or hit us, she easily could have. She was a crazy lady in a beat-up POS screaming at the cops in Redondo Beach. She had basically gone to the Karma Cafe and ordered from the drive-thru express window; the rest of her week would likely be spent figuring out how she was going to pay the citation.
Then, to make it even more unbelievable, the woman who had been following us in the Audi came dashing up. “Officer!” she said. “I saw the whole thing! Those bicyclists didn’t do anything wrong! They were where they were supposed to be and that lady tried to run them over!”
The cop nodded. “Thank you, ma’am, we saw it, too.”
“Can we go now?” I asked.
“Sure. Sorry for all this,” he said.
“Thanks for being there when we needed you.”
As we pedaled by, Broom Hilda interrupted her screams of innocence at the cop and yelled “Fuck you! Fuck you!” to our quickly receding backs. I was pretty sure I’d never seen anyone get out of a ticket with epithets.
We labored up the hill, suddenly exhausted by the tension. “The South Bay,” I mumbled, thinking about the woman last week who’d had her throat cut in the middle of the day at the Peninsula Mall, a few hundred yards away from where we live. “A family place.”
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