The art of communication

I had an interesting conversation with a BMW driver this morning. Well, the conversation itself wasn’t all that great (as you’ll see later); what made it interesting was the fact that it happened at all, that it contained more than 2 words, wasn’t shouted and didn’t have accompanying hand gestures.

Let’s be plain here – I’m not a morning person. Come to think of it, daytime isn’t that great either and evenings are best left out of it. Nights? Yeah I’m probably at my most charming when I’m unconscious. So in effect that means I’m not actually a person at all. So what exactly am I? If you really want to describe me and what I’m like, I’m probably best visualised as a loose bag of skin stuffed with impatience, futility and caffeine, holding a Bosch cordless drill with a flat battery, wailing at a hole in the wall I’ve just drilled in the wrong place. So you can imagine what I’m like when I’m cycling my rust bucket to work at 8.00 in the morning. I’m all that, I’m out of breath and I haven’t woken up properly yet.

And the BMW driver? Let’s not beat around the bush. All BMW drivers are crap. Oh, hang on, do you drive one? Well, you’re not crap, obviously; just every other BMW driver. Yes. All of them. It’s sometimes difficult to see this. For example when driving – you won’t be able to tell that there is a BMW behind you because the front badge will be out of your line of sight, 2 inches away from your rear number plate. Always. Man, woman, young or old; there they’ll be – filling your mirrors with the extreme close-up of a toss pot. They are fairly easy to spot when on a bike though. They are the ones that have to get past you. They must must must must get past. Got to get past. Can’t stay behind a bike. Not for a second. Must get past. Go go go. Everyone else get out of my way.

Which brings me neatly back to the story, where I’m currently screeching gently to a halt behind a car waiting at the red light. A black shape comes along side me, matching my deceleration to the miles per hour per second. It’s a Renault 5. Ha! Gotcha! Of course it isn’t – it’s a twat in a BMW. If he can’t overtake me, he has to be along side me. Not behind. Never behind.

So we stop, side by side, and I take a look at him. It’s a narrow road and he’s sticking about 3 feet over the centre line, into other side of the road and the oncoming traffic. I also notice that the passenger window is slightly open. Hmm. I paddle backwards and peer in to see him and a passenger sitting there, both trying very hard to not notice me. Middle aged blokes, expensive suits – unlikely to resort to violence. I’ll have a chat.

“Hello!” I say through the gap. I might as well be friendly, after all he didn’t actually do anything dangerous to me. “What did you do that for?”

They both stare straight ahead. Ah, I’m not being very clear what I’m talking about. “I mean why did you feel the need to come along side me as we stopped?” Stare stare stare… The ignoring continues. “If you had stayed behind me, you wouldn’t be stuck out into the other side of the road like that”. By now the ignoring has reached fever pitch. These guys are good – I could start singing “Staying Alive” while waving my genitals at them and I don’t think they would bat an eyelid. I press on regardless. “I mean I’m just going to go in front of that car, into that cycle box anyway…” It’s true. The junction has one of those red boxes drawn on the road for cycles at the front. However, if this news has any impact on the two BMWers, they make a good job of hiding it. They aren’t blinking and I’m pretty sure they aren’t breathing either. “Is it that hard to stay behind a bike?” Time passes like a drugged slug. They are probably regretting choosing the “ignore him and he’ll go away” strategy over an alternative one such as “talk to him”, “wind the window up fast” or “abandon the car and run away”. I give up. “OK, well. Thanks for listening”.

It starts to dawn on me that I might possibly be coming across as a bit of a nutter.

As stories go, this one sort of fizzles out here. I go to the front, sit in the red box for a few seconds and then go on my creaking way when the lights turn green. It is heartening to note though, that when I’m overtaken by the BMW a few hundred metres up the road, he gives me a VERY wide berth. Nice. Maybe it was worthwhile after all?