Dressing up is an integral part of war, a key element not of surprise, but of intimidation. The vikings put horns on their helmets to store their donuts (donut itself is a word that roughly translates into “pillage snack”), and to seem fiercer. Nazis wore really loud boots to make themselves seem more evil, and to counteract the damaging perception of them as very soft spoken. Conversely, American soldiers dressed up as G.I. Joe dollss and insisted on wearing green in the snowy battlefields of Europe because they knew just how distracting the Germans found the color. Cyclists, for their part, are not a warring bunch, in large part because wearing rigid protective hats and brightly colored skintight underwear with pads in the crotch is not a very intimidating costume.
More than just un-intimidating, it actually gives any cyclist fight a touch of the absurd.
Once on a long ride, I crashed into my father’s back wheel when he stopped to pee.. Infuriated by how neatly I had folded his back wheel into a pretzel, he, in his best Rumpelstiltskin impression, jumped up and down, his shoes clacking like high heels, and shouting an inventively choreographed bit of vulgarity that seemed incongruous with his bright purple and blue get up.
Other wars are fought with bells. Having decided that I was never going to keep up with the kool kids with no helmets or brakes, I have fully embraced my bicycle nerditude, bicycle rack, rear view mirror attached to my helmet, and a healthy respect for helmet laws. I have not, however, invested in this baby:
Usually the cooler cyclist, no doubt a bit late to some awesome underground rock and brew your own beer show will blow past me while I wait at a red light, practicing the line “I’d like to see the sum of your parts” (my math pick up lines are hindered by the fact that I never made it past addition).
Last week, however, I’d wedged my fat-bottomed bike with full length handlebars and bicycle bags like hips squarely in the bike lane, and there was no way for anyone else to get by. This was not me being rude, I figured, given that the light was red.
Behind me, a bell started dinging impatiently, which is pretty hard to do with a bell. Its like being cursed out by tinkerbell. Finally my impatient bicycle bandit politely said excuse me, and I turned, eager to explain the nature of the capricious traffic light “green means go, yellow means speed up, and red means don’t look because it would make you a sell out”.
Nothing came of it, as this man realized that I was a) either some lunatic who would fight dirty and reflect light into his eyes with my rearview mirror b) would use the dreaded shaolin mountain goat attack or c) release a violent defense cloud of gas, made all the more toxic by a diet of road kill and clif bars.
Good sir wisely backed off, and I took out my Battlestar Galactica themed ipad, opened up the “toaster kills” counting device, and scored one for us bicycle dorks who remember that a red vlight means its time for us to practice talking to the ladies.