Around noon today, I had some unexpected down time as I waited for a client to get back to me. So not wanting to waste an opportunity — or a beautiful day — I grabbed my bike and hit the road.
About 20 miles into my ride, I stopped for a quick snack, reaching into my seat bag for the box of raisins and Kashi granola bar I usually carry with me.
While I did, I saw a homeless man shuffle past, his skin and clothes filthy from head to toe. He stopped at a nearby trash can, staring at it for a few moments before lifting the lid and digging through the trash; after several seconds he came back up holding a half-eaten bag of fruit someone had thrown away.
I looked at him, then down at the Kashi bar in my hand.
It wasn’t like I was considering anything all that unusual. I’ve given away a few spare tubes and patch kits to riders in need, and even been known to leave behind a multi-tool, chain tool or spanner along with my phone number — and yes, I’ve always gotten them back.
So I rolled over, held out the granola bar and asked if he’d like it. He looked it over, studying it carefully before softly saying “Yes.”
Then he did something that startled me.
He looked up at me, revealing crystal clear blue eyes. And looking deeply into mine, he said simply “Thank you,” with a gentle sincerity that expressed a genuine, heartfelt gratitude.
It was all I could do to say “You’re very welcome” as I turned away, my lip quivering and tears in my eyes, humbled that anyone would be so grateful for such a small gesture.
And I rode off, thinking that, as hard as these times may be, I’ll go to bed tonight with my belly full and a roof over my head, and a wife who loves me. And a new appreciation for the many people and kindnesses and blessings in my life.
I was still thinking about that about half an hour later as I was riding in the bike lane on San Vicente Blvd.
I watched warily as a car waited to cross on a side street; just as I decided he was going to let me pass, it pulled out directly in front of me. I slammed on my brakes and leaned hard to left to pass behind him, clearing his car by just inches.
As I came around on the other side, I held out my hands in the universal “What the F***?” gesture. He responded that he just didn’t see me; I said, with as much restraint as I could muster under the circumstances, “Well look next time, it’s not like I’m invisible.”
Evidently offended that his use of the universal Get Out of Jail Free excuse hadn’t bought him absolution this time, he yelled back “F*** you!”
And don’t even get me started on the driver who blared his horn when I had to swerve to avoid a right-hook, even though I barely broke the plane of his lane and didn’t obstruct his path or delay his passage one whit.
But it struck me odd that in the course of one ride, in the span of less than an hour, I saw genuine humanity and gratitude in a man who had nothing. And just the opposite from people who clearly had so much more to be grateful for, yet couldn’t spare a few seconds of their day for the life and safety of another human being.
It’s something I’ll be considering for a very long time.
But I can tell you right now which one earned my respect.
And who I can only hope to emulate.
The Conejo Valley Cyclists and the city Thousand Oaks will sponsor the annual Ride of Silence next Wednesday, honoring cyclists who’ve been killed on the roads; we need to see one here in L.A. next year.
Hemet police offer incorrect advice in response to a rash of bike crashes; instead of telling cyclists to “always ride single file” and ride “as far to the right as possible,” why not offer a little accurate advice to the people in the big dangerous machines?
LACBC and the Ridazz ask for your input on the top 10 finalists in their Bike Awareness slogan contest. Next up in Will Campbell’s Bike Every (Satur)Day in May series is the Frank Lloyd Wride. LACBC stops cyclists for a pre-sharrows survey. Round two of public workshops for the upcoming L.A. County bike plan. Here’s your chance to comment on NBC’s plans to blockade a planed bikeway along the L.A. River. A beginner’s guide to professional cycling. San Francisco cyclists and drivers are urged to metaphorically sing Kumbaya on the city’s streets. Bob Mionske looks at what happens when a local ordinance conflicts with state law. Cyclelicious asks why you bike to work; actually, I often bike to get away from it for awhile. Dave Moulton discovers a Fuso Tricycle made by his ex-apprentice. The newly formed Bicyclists Against Distracted Drivers offers stickers to remind cell phone users not to. A week after a pedestrian in my hometown begs bikers not to warn him, another one says please do. Even if the new bike laws pass, police can’t ticket drivers who park in nonexistent bike lanes. A Chattanooga cyclist experiences one of the best reasons to keep riding. Maryland drivers are even worse than Texans at sharing the road. Louisville offers a new bike safety video. An 80-year old truck driving gutter bunny in Florida. Two downed New York cyclists, two videos, only one conviction. Four stages of the Giro, four cyclists in pink; you’d think no one wanted it. A specter of possible sabotage for next Sunday’s 4,500 rider Etape Caledonia charity ride in Scotland. An Edinburgh cyclist says a popular street may be too dangerous for cyclists. London’s mayor offers details on the city’s planned cycling revolution.