Crossing the Rubicon

I really should have known. Once the alarm had sulked its way through an electronic hissy fit and Chiltern Railways’ inability to er, run a railroad yet again turned a 37 mile journey into something one should consider packing survival rations for, clearly the day was going from bad to dreadful.

Having just about survived a day of people trying to sell us things we didn’t want to buy and being bamboozled by Microsoft container issues (I’m so out of touch with technical realities these days, I went onto the loading dock to look for them), my ride back through the highways and byways of our great capital city was abruptly foreshortened when an otherwise pleasant middle aged man threw a door at me. To be fair the door was attached to the car and ‘threw’ is probably a less accurate word than ‘parked’. There I was minding my own business perambulating up Pall Mall adorned with more lights than the tackiest Christmas ‘authentic’ house width Santa with assorted amusing reindeer. Frankly, it’s a bloody miracle aircraft don’t line up on me for their final descent, decked out as I am in a cunning Fibonacci sequence of red and white leds set off rather fetchingly by a custard yellow jacket. It’s a fashion crime no mistake – all I’m missing is the false nose and I could join the circus.

Anyway I’m wandering off the point almost as much as said door chucker wandered into the middle of the road. A middle of the road that until that point I was using. He’d lulled me into a false sense of security by, in the previous 30 seconds, apparently hibernating for the winter as a whole shed load of NO TRAFFIC AT ALL passed him by. He timed his right turn perfectly to ensure I had neither time to stop or take avoiding action. Instead I engaged the panic circuits, belatedly considered if my will was up to date and planted my front tyre smack bang on the offending door. That wasn’t so bad actually especially when compared to my shoulder following up one second later briefly bringing home the true meaning of potential energy as – bodie and doyle like – I rolled across his bonnet. Our eyes met as I rotated gracefully into view – his face a giant ‘O’ and mine (and I’m guessing here) mouthing obscenities like a mobile tourettes event. It was a brief and yet telling communication sadly cut short as I ran out of bonnet and ran into tarmac. Amazingly no other driver crushed my turtle like form whilst I lay still and ran a full systems check focussing on important areas such as legs, arms and testicles. The latter were definitely fine if a little bruised which probably explains my ‘fish out of water’ masterclass as I hauled myself up on his mirror and indicated – and I may have been quite assertive here – that we should have a little chat.

He was very apologetic. I was very angry. He explained he hadn’t seen me. I replied that while generally I was happy he wasn’t in the habit of attempting to cull the London cycling population, specifically that made no bloody difference. He then said that cyclists were hard to see in the dark. This rendered me almost speechless. Any more lit up and I’d have to plug myself into the grid for a re-charge. I put forward a theory that in fact the problem was that “he was a flaming blind idiot with an IQ similar to a fern. And a dumb fern at that. A fern that is tormented and bullied by his fellow ferns for being so thick”. I’m paraphrasing here obviously. Many of the words I used were quite rude but you get the gist.

Together we examined the damage. To my delight, his car suffered an Alex sized dent in the door and a 12 inch scar from the bike impact. The bike even after this was amazingly undamaged. Some people laughed at me riding my ‘ard as nails jump bike in London – hah if that had been a race bike, only swarf would remain.

We agreed to differ on the way forward. I wanted to punch him but my shoulder hurt and he wanted to go home. Eventually we agreed to disagree and while he attempted to unping the trim from his bumper – deftly removed by my brake lever, I – and it has to be said heroically – stood astride my mighty metal steed and pedalled off with Olympic class aloofness. Only to stop some 10 yards later when I realised I’d left my helmet on his car. I haughtily snatched it off his roof and did the wounded warrior thing again. I’m pretty sure I pulled it off.

Riding to the station wasn’t too bad with white hot righteousness acting as natures anaesthetic. Chiltern Railways yet again showed train timetables are merely marketing BS and by the time the train had stopped a couple of times for a rest, it was 9PM, windy, wet and bloody miserable. I hauled my sore body onto my other bike and pedalled off into significant weather. Two minutes later, my light stopped working. Always a man with a BCP plan, the backup light was clumsily installed and off we went again. However – as the obvious clue in the word backup may have told you – this was nothing more than a candle when compared to Xeon Main Beams that every car drivers seems to sport round here. I spent the next half hour riding into the odd bush, cursing my sore shoulder and deciding that the Scorpion pit prepared for anyone who drives trains or cars will have to be the size of Wales.

A friend of mine was telling me over a beer that at some point you carry on commuting even when you know it’s bloody stupid. They call this “crossing the rubicon”.

If I cross the Rubicon one more time, I’ll get air miles.

Alex – November 2005

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