Purple People Eater escapes from zoo and pursues cyclist
When I get off the train in Gresham, I ride on small streets and encounter maybe five cars along the seven minute ride to my place of work. If I got off at a closer station, it would be a four minute ride to work, but I like this way better. I always seek the least traveled streets, even if it’s a longer route.
As I approach my first stop sign I notice a truck sitting there. I wonder why it isn’t proceeding through the stop. I pull up alongside since there’s plenty of room there. I brake and slow way down for a last swivel of my head before proceeding through, even though I could see since half a block ago that the coast was clear. And of course I make sure this truck isn't about to turn right.
As I cross the intersection I hear a squeal of tires as the truck peels out after me and pulls alongside me with the passenger window on its way down. The driver, an old guy in a baseball cap, begins yelling out the window at full volume. I won’t sully my blog with the words he used, but the main one starts with and A, ends with and E, and has an s-s-h-o-l in the middle. Over and over he used this word, screaming “YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW THE RULES JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, YOU ………!!!” and other phrases laced with other obscenities. He rides along at my speed, continuing to scream, turning absolutely purple.
His vehicle veers closer and closer to the curb. I’m running out of space. I sort of freeze, not knowing what to do. Of course now I see plenty of options. Why didn’t I stop and hop my bike up onto the sidewalk where I wouldn’t be squished? Why didn’t I get off my bike, turn it around, and ride in the opposite direction? Instead I just stopped, because the space was getting too skinny, and did nothing. He stopped too, and kept on yelling, and now it felt worse because now I was just sitting there.
So I started riding again, changing my initial strategy of riding slow till he went by, to riding faster to get away from him. It seems illogical now, since obviously a bike isn’t going to outrun a truck. But I was just acting on a general “get away from this person” impulse. Now he sped up and zoomed past me, still screaming. A block further he turned, to my surprise, into the parking lot of my place of work, right where I usually turn in. So I rode past that entry point and turned into the driveway further down. We weren’t open yet and I rode up to the back door as usual. Meanwhile, he had gotten out of his truck and was striding toward me, still yelling. I felt that fishing for my card-key would take too long and began banging on the door. A co-worker opened it and I slipped in with my bike. The man was still approaching, waving his fist in the air and pointing angrily, now yelling at her, about me, until she closed the door.
I don’t want to identify my place of work on my blog. However, it turns out that that’s exactly where he was headed. My co-workers recognized him as a regular customer who comes to use our public facility almost every day. Turns out this ain’t the first time he’s misbehaved. On another occasion, he was so hot to be the first in the door when we opened, that he knocked over a baby stroller.
He waited till we opened and then came in! Aaaaaaak! My co-workers changed my schedule so that I wouldn’t be in his area till he left. My co-workers suggested strongly that I report the incident, so I did, and the police showed up in two minutes – which surprised me since I’d called the non-emergency line. They came and talked to me, then they went and found Mr.Purple and took him outside and talked to him. Then they came back and talked to me again. They told me there was nothing they could do about the situation since he hadn’t actually threatened me. Apparently this kind of behavior doesn’t constitute a threat. If he had said words like “I’m going to kill you,” that would be a threat, but since he only acted like he might kill me, he’s covered under free speech.
My place of work was more supportive. He’ll be getting a letter from the Big Cheese, outlining his undesirable behavior so far and warning him that he’s on the verge of being excluded from our facility. I think that more could have been done if he’d actually stepped onto the property while screaming at me, but as it happens the parking lot is owned by the City of Gresham. My co-worker holding the door said he was careful not step from the parking lot onto our sidewalk.
So you see, free speech as we define it is good but bad. Bad, but good. Why is blatant unmitigated verbal abuse just A-OK? It would be interesting to hear from some readers in other countries how this behavior would have been handled where you live.