Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Sun-Tzu and the art of bicycle fighting

The tattooed guy shown in this picture is out of the hardcover edition of ‘The Immortal Class’ by Travis Hugh Culley (also published in Italy as ‘Il Messagero‘).

I read ‘The immortal class’  a few years ago and remember it fondly. Maybe I’m exaggerating but it’s almost a sort of ‘90s ‘Zen and the art of messenger biking’. Anybody interested in (urban) cycling should read it. The strange journey of this playwright-turned-bike-messenger is an interesting story. The need to market always newer and costlier cars and motorbikes, and their place in our minds as status symbols, usually leads to depict the humble urban cyclist as a some kind of dork. It’s not exactly like that. And this book shows it.

If I remember correctly the same year I read Culley’s book was the last time I had a fight, that is, a physical exchange of punches with an unknown stranger. This kind of fights are almost always a Bad Thing. In order not to end up with a bunch of legal problems I didn’t need, let’s say that I exited the fight …slightly bruised. Why do I remember this? Because it was a fight with a moped driver, after driving my bike. Why I remember this in connection with the guy from ‘The immortal class’? Well, last week I was almost killed by a young lady driving  a blue Punto at a road crossing. I was moving quietly along my side of the road, I let myself be seen, and the car didn’t stop when it should have. When I dared to complain the young lady’s boyfriend and father stormed out of the car, and not with the best intentions towards your truly. A handgun was mentioned. Well, I don’t know if this was due to the subconscious memory of that photo, but I managed to get off the bike and raise it with my hands, using it as a barrier (and a potential weapon) between me and the two jerks. Getting an old Schwinn in your face is probably not particularly pleasant.  So no punches, no fight, just a lot of reciprocal verbal abuse. I made a mental note  of the Punto  license number (which by the way checks online, maybe the police will want to know something about the handgun). 

So what is the moral of this very weird post? Don’t even dare to complain when cars almost kill you, if you don’t want to get into further trouble, of course. 

PS: In Italy, in my hometown at least, bike messengers are almost non-existent. Not so in the USA, some cities at least. A bit strange for a country which has given so much to cycling, isn’t it? Or maybe not.

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