There was a time, up until about a year ago, when my only mode of transportation was a bicycle. I had a Mongoose D-40, a huge, heavy, yellow, twenty-one speed monster made for downhill racing in mud. By the time it was stolen I had worn the tires almost bald. I rode at least twenty miles a day, sometimes more, in all weather conditions and on all kinds of roads. Those of you that live in Atlanta can attest to how bicycle un-friendly the city is. In retrospect, those few years of bicycle dependence were, in some respects, a halcyon time if for no other reason that I was in the best shape of my life.
Today a random bicycle moment sprang to memory. I was riding home from my job in Sandy Springs and was something like thirteen miles into the sixteen mile trek. The last leg of the journey took me up Monroe Dr., a narrow, topographically dynamic, poorly kept and poorly lit stretch of road that runs from just north of downtown east to my neighborhood. An SUV of truly obscene proportions pulls up along side me. "Nice bike!" calls the driver in that tone that indicates he is unimpressed with my machine and more than just a bit contemptuous of me as a person. He pulls away before I get to look at him, rumbling away with a stomp of the accelerator that might have used up a full barrel of crude oil. His superiority is ill displayed when he gets caught at the next light and I pull up casually behind him, proudly displaying my much narrower carbon footprint and granite like calves.
I glance in the open window, from which the remiss bicycle comment had recently emanated. On the journey up the hill I had invented, mulled, dismissed and re-engineered a half dozen flippant remarks that I could have made to the driver but a look at him stopped me short. He was fat, no, not fat, obese. He was the kind of orca plumper that keep ending up on daytime talk shows. His head was almost conical from the growth of blubber about his neck. The folds of his stomach rolled up and over the arm rests. His arms seemed disproportionately short due to the girth of his midsection and he was forced to bury the bottom of his gut in the steering wheel in order to reach far enough forward to steer.
All of my come-backs were irrelevant. There was nothing I could say to this man, this bloated sack of protoplasm, driving a car so big as to dwarf anything sort of a Sherman tank. Here was the quintessential uber-American, over weight, over consuming, over proud and absolutely unaware of his own ridiculousness.
I looked him over, from his chubby ankles to his bulging throat. I glanced long at his Excursion, too big to navigate most of the side streets that branch off from this road. Perhaps it was heartless, but I laughed out loud, not a giggle, not a chuckle but a rolling gaffaw, a laugh that seemed to roll out from a gut as wide as his. I laughed like an idiot until the opposing light turned yellow and then pedaled on without a word.
It might have been tactful to say, "Why yes, yes it is."