1. The girl who meandered out in front of me as I was cycling carefully along the road past WHSmiths, which has recently been changed from pedestrian-only-but-everybody-cycles-any
her [in sneery how-stupid-are-you tone]: "No, ACTUALLY you'll find it's NO CYCLING on this road."Well done on getting the last word there, Ms Moron. The thing is, if we're going to play that game, I can get an even laster word here, so: "ACTUALLY, since you take up three times as much space as a normal pedestrian and are apparently twice as stupid, you need to be six times as careful to look before swinging your lardy arse out into the road, otherwise you're liable to find your vast sweaty behind being unceremoniously sodomised by an angry bicycle."
me [in exaggeratedly patient as-if-to-a-child tone]: "ACTUALLY, it isn't. If you look at the sign there, it says it's both, and just says 'please cycle carefully'."
her [triumphantly despite being proved wrong]: "Yeah, see, PLEASE CYCLE CAREFULLY, and you weren't, were you."
me: "Um, I was. That's how I stopped in time. But you've got to take some responsibility yourself for looking where you're going."
her: "yeah, like, whatever, I was just walking in a straight line."
me: "You veered out in front of me without looking!"
her: "oh, yeah, WHATEVER, but you're WRONG" [flounces into Office]
2. The couple who stepped out in front of me without looking, wearing all dark clothes, in the dark. "Woah!"* I shouted, as I screeched to a halt just in time, "look where you're going!" To which, with dazzling repartee, the bloke replied (prefacing it with the sort of noise small boys make when they want to suggest that someone is retarded) "Why don't you look where you're going?" ... Um, I did. That's how come I saw two nearly-invisible pedestrians in time to brake. That's how come you didn't end up tangled in my spokes. MORONS.
* I've taken to shouting things like "hey!" and "woah!" as a hopefully non-offensive and non-confrontational way of alerting people to my presence which (unlike ringing the bell) leaves both hands free to brake, and (also unlike the bell) stands a chance of being heard even by people whose ears are busy with the iPod or the mobile.
But the runaway winner was... a Stagecoach bus coming along St Andrews Street with no lights, in the dark, at the point where there isn't really room for two vehicles to pass even when one of them's a bike. It's amazing how hard it is to see even something the size of a bus when your eyes are attuned to looking for headlights. Fortunately I managed to get out of the way in time, but was too gobsmacked to get the bus's number, or indeed to do anything but bellow "LIGHTS! Your LIGHTS!" and gesticulate at the offending unlit objects. He beeped twice as he passed me, and when I looked back the rear lights were on, so maybe that was a "thank you" for reminding him. Who knows? But, WTF? This is somebody who gets paid to drive a vehicle!
I feel like such an old codger this week, but ... are people actually getting more careless (and more belligerent about defending their carelessness), or am I just noticing it more and/or allowing myself to get wound up by it more? Part of me wants to blame 'rights culture' -- if people are brought up to believe that they have a Right to do whatever they want, whenever they want, then they're not going to get into the habit of taking responsibility for their actions, and thinking before acting. After all, why think if you know you're in the right? Obviously I'm not suggesting that people consciously think "I will walk out into the road without looking, because I have a right not to get run over"; more that the cult of individual rights makes people think more about what they're "entitled" to rather than about their responsibilities as members of society.
And if all that sounds a bit heavy based on something as trivial as people not looking where they're going, then all I can say is blame Cambridge's traffic for raising my blood pressure. And thank goodness it's Friday.