Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The jerk in the silver minivan

Driver #1 shook my faith in my beloved community. You see, I live in Oak Park, a family-friendly, bike-positive inner suburb of Chicago. My 5 year old recently learned to ride a two-wheeler, and with my 2 year old in the bike seat of my bike, the 3 of us can get pretty much anywhere in the village on our bikes. Because of my daughter Z's age, we ride on the sidewalks, moving to the grass when we need to pass pedestrians and slowing at all street intersections to make sure it's safe to cross.

It isn't the fastest way to get around town, but it's quiet and peaceful and I don't have to listen to my youngest holler for snacks or complain that her car seat straps are "hurting" her. We were biking west along Jackson Avenue on our way home from a park when we paused to cross a side street. A red car was slowly inching into the intersection, trying to find a safe moment to cross Jackson Avenue, which was busy with cars. A man in a silver minivan behind her was laying on his horn, nearly rear-ending her in his frustration with her slow pace across the street. He didn't stop at his stop sign and didn't bother to look for pedestrians. Much less small children on bicycles who happened to also have the right of way.

"Hey," I called out, "This little girl is trying to cross the street."

"I'm trying to get across Jackson, lady," he replied through his open window.

"Well you need to stop and look! There are kids around." My voice was probably a little whiny, but I was too upset at his carelessness and what it could mean for my child and others in the neighborhood to sound scolding.

"Hey, I've got two kids of my own. Don't you tell me how to drive." His voice turned nasty, his eyes were slits and the veins in his neck were bulging.

"I'm just asking you to be more careful."

He stopped his car in the middle of Jackson Avenue. I thought his was going to jump out and attack me, but his just yelled, over and over, "Don't you tell me how to drive. Don't you DARE talk to me about my driving!"

"Well you don't have to be such a jerk," I replied and biked away, anxious to avoid any further confrontation. If I'd been faster on my feet, I'd have asked him how if he'd like drivers looking out for his 2 children.

"Mommy," my 5 year old piped up, "Are you going to call the police on that man?"

"No, honey, I'm not."

"Mommy, is he going to call the police on you?"

Ha! I'd love hear that story. Officer, I was running through a stop sign, tailing a slow car and laying on the horn in a quiet neighborhood when a parent dared speak to me because I didn't register that her little snot with the right-of-way was waiting to cross the street.

The next day we were back on our bikes. Failing to take the weather forecast seriously, we rode to the farmers market and arrived just as the skies opened up. We took refuge in the high school parking garage, but 15 minutes went by with no sign of the rain lightening up. Then one of the children's librarians (let's call her driver #2) walked by. She's a friend of a friend and an acquaintance of my husband's and she miraculously recognized us and our plight and volunteered to come back and fetch us after she'd ferried her own family to the library. She even had two car seats installed in her minivan. Which, by the way, definitely wasn't silver.

Originally posted to the Chicago Moms Blog