Monday, 17 August 2015

Four letter word

Used as an insult, cunt is a horrible word.  I can well understand why it's written down as c***, although that could equally be cock, I guess.  So from here on, I'll write it as c***, because we now know which word we're talking about.

It's horrible written, and it's worse shouted, face to face at an individual.  I've heard folk in football crowds shout it at the ref, an unknown faceless entity at a safe distance.  I've heard it used as a generic, collective insult.

What I'd not heard before was it shouted.  At me.  One person, an individual.  All I did wrong, and I'm being honest here about my behaviour and my appearance, was to get on a bicycle.

I wasn't wearing lycra, I wasn't veering frantically around the road, I was neither sprinting nor dawdling.  I was going considerably faster than some, and a bit slower than others.  I had a helmet on, and a rucksack with my work macbook in.  I was wearing casual 3/4 length trousers and non showy black running booties.  I was wearing a T-shirt.  My bike wasn't top end, it doesn't look anything other than it is, a heavy steel commuter with tough looking tyres.  It even has enormous flat green pedals on it.  And lights.  And a bell.

And that was me, riding up a very gentle incline south of Stockport.  There are two lanes of traffic in each direction, and going south (as I was) were very few cars at all for once.  Nobody was waiting behind me to pass, hell, nobody was either in my lane or the outside lane.

Yet, coming towards me on the opposite side of the road was a small grey hatch back.  The driver felt it worth his while to open his window, lean out, arm on the side, turning his close shaven head fully towards me, and yell, not timidly, "pedal you c***".

I felt many things.  I was startled, shocked, upset.  Nobody has ever called me a c*** before, not even people who might have been personally upset or angry with me.  It was an act of aggression, and it was really really offensive.  At least I was on the opposite side of the road.  If I'd been going the same way, would he have been angry enough at my existence to swerve his car at me, I wonder.

And there's absolutely nothing I can do. Nothing.  Even had I become a helmet cam wearing rider, what could I have done, what would the police ever do.  Is there even a law against shouting insults at total strangers?  Had I taken the registration number, what would I have done with it?  Had I turned round and chased him down to the next set of lights, what would that have achieved?

And yet I'm still angry with him.  I'm angry that I'm so helpless to make this change.  I'm angry that he felt that was acceptable behaviour.  I'm angry that there is no opportunity to talk to him and find out what was going on in his head to make that happen.  I'm angry that I'm now fearful of riding that bit of road again, part of my regular commute.  That my choices are influenced by these acts of passive aggressive violence.  There's still part of Manchester City Centre I haven't ridden in over a decade since someone tried to run me off the road, swerving violently and deliberately (I did get run off the road but not knocked off or run over).  I won't go there again, because why would I, in my vulnerability put myself in that position?  Why would I put myself back on the A6 in that place again?  It's possible that for him it's a regular journey as much as it is my regular journey.  Will he be satisfied with simply shouting at me that I'm  c*** or will his actions escalate?  It's not worth my taking the chance.

All I did was ride my bike.

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