The car behind me spits out a three-second blast from its horn. This is far more typical than those who don't try to share the roads with cars on a bike would think. Sure, some would say, just ignore them, but that makes an ass out of you and me. No, wait a second, that's not right.
Even so, I make the typical dismissive wave gesture that's my typical response to this situation. Shut up, jerk, is the idea. I understand that a working horn is supposed to be a necessary safety feature of automobiles, but sometimes I wonder if they don't cause more problems than they solve.
I hear squealing tires behind me, and the car blares into the oncoming traffic lane. I see it's actually a small pickup, more than a decade old and probably two, in one of those funny metallic tan colors that they called "gold." The driver looks out the window and shouts a string of obscentities that are largely drowned out by his engine. I'm typically eloquent in these situations: "Hey, what the fuck, man." I shout back. Something like that.
He continues to shout, and this time he's pointing wildly at me, at the side of the road. There's the painfully slow, momentary realization that fingers and hands aren't hollow metal cylinders, and I hit the brakes just as there's a loud pop. The truck swerves a bit more, and I brake, change angles as much as I can, and here two more gunshots. At this point the truck roars off down the road, then suddenly stops, and about fifty yards ahead the driver steps out of the cab, reaches back into it, and comes up with some kind of large object. I can't sort out exactly what it was, even thinking back on it now. Sort of like a baseball bat, but a little longer, not tapered. There are some kind of protrusions coming from each end. A length of PVC pipe? A tool? Just some kind of homemade weapon?
I don't know, but I don't really want to know. He brandishes it and shouts loudly about how he's going to, you know, get me.
It's concerning, not just about this one man but about people's actions in general, that people's brains are willing to shut off so completely. What the hell is his endgame here? I mean, we are half a mile from the police station. It's daylight, and there are at least a dozen cars around, all stopped and watching thanks to my friend stopping his truck in the middle of the road. I turn around, glance over my shoulder, and the guy hops back into his (still open, still running) truck and leaves a long, single strip of rubber of the way down the road.
At least I'm completely unhurt. I'll never know if he was actually aiming at me, or if he was "just trying to give me a scare," to "teach me a lesson," or whatever. I don't think it really matters, anyway. The followup makes me the most cynical. Like I said, I'm about half a mile from this little town's police station, and the white Explorer rolls down the hill in less than five minutes. The young cop takes my report down dutifully, and is concilliatory when he tells me that nothing's likely to come of this. I'm not even incredulous. It's expected.
No one got hurt, he says. Even though you got a good license-plate number and a description of the driver, even though there are plenty of witnesses (though none stopped), the DA probably isn't going to do anything. They just don't think it's worth the time to prosecute.
Yeah, I say, I just don't want the next guy he does this to coming home in a bag. I have some consolation in that the odds that the man is on parole, probation, or already has warrants out for his arrest is reasonably high, and if that's the case I'm sure he'll get picked up. Some consolation, but not too much.
Here's the "truth follows..." part. The above isn't quite what happened. No one shot at me. There was never a gun.
Instead, the weapon used the whole time was the gold pickup truck. He swerved the thing directly at me, sweeping all the way across the road into the gravel shoulder. He then accelerated again, pulled directly in front of me, and braked as hard as possible, skidding his tires for a few feet. Then he did it again, swerving all the way into the gutter, coming to a complete, smoking stop at about a thirty-degree angle with the road.
All the rest is literally true.
My point? A 4,000-pound vehicle is every bit as deadly as a gun. Every bit. If he had run me down with it, I would be as dead as if he'd shot me. Sure, there are different kinds of ways the crash could've happened. There are different ways that gunshots could happen, too.
But, do you think for a moment that, if the weapon was a gun, the response from the police would've been the same? Do you think that not much would be likely to happen, because the whole thing would not be worth the district attorney's time?