So I’ve got this New Years resolution. It’s sort of an odd one. But it’s basically this: I will try to stop taking crap off people. As healthy members of society who just want to get to work, get their coffee, read our blogs, then get back home without ticking somebody off, we tend to put our backs against the wall and not make direct eye contact as we quietly slide past any altercations.
When a person is talking in the movie, we quietly mutter to ourselves about what we should do when all we really do is nothing. When we’re riding in on the bus and some yahoo is yelling into his phone to let everybody know how oh so very important he is, we just grind our teeth and stare at the passing traffic. When a bicyclist blows through a stop sign we just swallow our tongue. Conversely, when a car blows through a red light because the driver is too busy talking on the cell phone we seethe…and then go back to listening to NPR.
This is how it came to pass that I found myself speeding down Lombard on Friday night chasing a black Ford Explorer with a terrified ladyfriend in tow. Let me back up first. We live near the intersection of Peninsular and Lombard and although the traffic signals are clearly marked and fully functioning, at least four or five times a week I see somebody blazing through the light like the burning crimson orb didn’t exist. I can understand speeding through a dark yellow light…it’s called a California red light. I get it. But these aren’t even close…
This is where I live. Where I bike. Where I drive. So here we were on Friday when this Explorer blows through a light that had been red for (and I’m crapping you negative here) a full two seconds. Boom. Right through. Not even a gentle tap on the brakes.
And just like that the redneck in me takes over like some chaw-chewing Sybil.
I noticed that he actually deigned to stop at the next light on Lombard and, fueled by the self-righteousness of my New Year’s resolution, I revved up the ol’ Subaru, fired through my green light, and pulled up next to him. Now, understand that the ladyfriend and I have been watching a lot of "The Wire" lately. Everywhere we look we see potential for drive-by shootings, drug buys gone wrong, or dirty cops. And here I was pulling up to a souped-up SUV and rolling down my window. She was, understandably, hiding her head with shame and calling me words I can’t print here.
"Hey man," I yelled, sounding internally like Dirty Harry and externally like Soupy Sales. "Did you know you just blew through a red light in a really busy intersection?!"
The target of my ire was exactly like I imagined him to be. (A little pudgy. A squirrel’s nest of overly moussed hair piled on top of his head. A pudding ring goatee around his mouth. A little European pop wriggling from his speakers.) His reaction, however, was not. There were no shouts about what I could do to my mother or even a middle finger…just a shrug of his shoulders and a crease of his ample eyebrows that landed somewhere between "Hey, I’m sorry" and "Meh."
And then the light turned green and the ladyfriend insisted we turn off onto a sideroad just in case goatee boy was planning to ram us into the Citgo station.
Could this new resolution to be more demonstrative really enact any real change? Probably not. But at least I had made my position clear (idiotic as it is) and wasn’t choking on a wad of swallowed bile. I didn’t feel tough. In fact I felt a bit silly. But I did feel calm. At least I’d made myself heard.
As we pulled into the New Season’s parking lot, me flushed with the thrill of my newfound status as mild-manned vigilante, my eyes were squinted like laser guided scopes …if I see somebody driving the wrong way, they were TOTALLY going to hear about it.
The ladyfriend has gotten really good at sinking so far into the passenger seat that nobody can even tell she’s there.