‘To bird or not to bird?’ Russell McGilton finds out how to bugger up a perfectly good bike ride.
I’m on Smith Street doing some shopping. I unlock my bicycle, put it on the road ready for home. As I get on an aggressive male voice shouts ‘GET OFF THE ROAD YA DUMB-’ and then that word that sounds like an old German shoemaker hitting his thumb with a hammer.
I nearly fall off the bike with shock. I look up. A white ute careens past as its male occupants, young labourers, laugh and cheer.
Now what I did next is not recommended by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety of New York, in fact they strongly advise against it. Of the twenty-one things that you should not do that could incite a road rage (tailgating, using your horn, failure to turn right, flashing your head lights, blocking a laneway, offensive insignia and strangely, swinging a walking cane) I chose number seven – ‘Giving Gestures’.
‘You are playing Russian roulette,’ the report warns, ‘if you raise your finger to another driver. Obscene gestures have gotten people shot, stabbed, or beaten in every state of the USA’.
Of course if I’d known that at the time I wouldn’t have let my smiling single finger of joy fly.
The ute slaps to a halt. The two men bark at me through the glass partition of their cabin. I zip off in the other direction. ‘I’ll just put my head down and pretend I’m a tram,’ I think.
But my impression is not as convincing as I like to imagine and I catch sight of the driver’s mate exploding out of the passenger’s side. By the twisted look on his face, the charge of profanities, it is all too apparent to me now that this is not a man that could be easily mollified with a smooth bowl of strawberries and a quiet book on Self Calm.
I flee up Moor Street – up a hill – which slows me down momentarily and is difficult as I’m in high gear. He is closing the gap rapidly between us and of all the abuse he has fired at me up to this point, what he says next etches cold terror across my brow, but also, the need to guffaw.
‘I’M GONNA STICK MY FINGER UP YOUR – ’
I’m sure you can imagine the rest.
I slip on the gears and almost gain an octave on the cross-bar.
‘What ?! Did i hear right? He wants to what? Stick his what? Where?!!’
I think how uncomfortable and impractical that would be; here in the middle of the street; people shopping, others shooting up, while this labourer has my jeans hoisted down and ramming his finger up my rear with machine efficiency. This, I might add, is not mentioned in the AAA Safety Report. ‘When threatened with anal digital rape…try not to look your aggressor in the eye.’ (Nor smile if you can help it!).
This cry of anal invasion causes my cheek butts to tense up, a shoe lace to catch in the chain, and clumsy, furious peddling. Just as I smell his rage the shoe lace breaks and I am catapulted away from his rough, probing fingers. When at last I think I’m at a comfortable distance I shout back at my puffed out foe with, ‘YOU SHOULD GET A THESAURUS!’ which seemed only to cause his brain to clot up.
At home I switch on the tele trying to wash away the adrenalin. Up comes that Toyota Ute commercial with the farmer’s dog trying to jump in the back of the ute only to miss. ‘Bugger’ the dog mumbles in the mud.
‘Yes, bugger indeed,’ I say, realising I’ll never be able to look at a ute in quite the same way again.