Low-car comebacks – A cheat sheet for the ripostely delayed Portlander

Cathy HastieFor this installment of our low-car lifestyle column Mood to Move, contributor Cathy Hastie prepared a handy guide to the retorts that low-car life will one day make you wish you’d prepared in advance.

Sometimes even the bravest of us shy away from saying what we really mean in times of potential conflict. Like when the bus driver totally speeds past our stop without even slowing, leaving us waiting in the rain for the next one. Or when a driver parks in the disability space at the grocery store to run in "just real quick" (but doesn’t have a disability permit).

Mood to Move: Low-car culture with PDX's Cathy HastieThere are things we want to do or say, but wouldn’t dare because of this pervasive social expectation called politeness – and a strong sense of self-preservation that typically restrains us in case the target of our disdain is quite a bit bigger than us, certifiably crazy, or both.

With the ever-possible repercussions of unwanted fistfights, biker road rage or the embarrassing discovery that you just snapped at your second grader’s math teacher, living out your fantasy witticisms is hard to do. But when losers and mean people thwart our attempts at getting around outside the protective armor of a four-wheeled motorized contraption, we have the right to dream of snarky comebacks and acid protestations. And after the fact, we are so much cleverer, more courageous and glorified in our righteousness. Below are some of the things I dream of saying or doing to rude or ornery commuters in the course of getting around in our fair city.

Try to match the utterance with one or more appropriate scenarios. (Answers below.)

a truck plows through a puddle

  1. A clueless pedestrian’s forward progress meanders wildly from side to side on the narrow downtown sidewalk, impeding your rapid, efficient stride. He sporadically stops or cuts over into your “lane” without a backwards glance.
  1. You are stopped on your bike at a four-way stop sign, awaiting your turn to cross. A bike rider zips past from behind you and jets through the intersection without slowing, throwing off the carefully orchestrated pattern that you and the other three vehicles that are engaged in the intersection-crossing understand and follow.
  1. A motorized vehicle or helmet-less bike messenger speeds into a right-hand turn as you are taking your first step into the very crosswalk they are about to blindly traverse.
  1. The hail is creating pits in your scalp in the January darkness, but you are heartened by the looming shadow of the 7:30 p.m. #23 bus a few blocks away. You wave your flashlight and step towards the curb, but as the roar of the engine reaches a deafening level and the slosh of icy rain water streams out from beneath the tires, you notice the driver is not slowing at the usual rate, and in fact, is not slowing at all. As you wave your arms wildly, the last bus of the night races on without you.
  1. You arrive out of breath, five minutes late at your usual carshare parking spot, only to find it empty. As you tap your foot and check your watch for the tenth time, the car you are waiting for pulls into the space. But the driver fumbles around looking for her purse, scattering multiple food wrappers onto the floor, delaying your departure further.
  1. It is well after your carpool’s agreed-upon departure time. Daycare for your son starts charging a dollar a minute very soon. Your carpool co-worker snorts and chortles about the big game with his buddies as you stand poised behind him, arms folded, shoulder bag loaded, keys in hand. He pantomimes scoring the winning point and his buddies break out the beer and chips…

Select all rejoinders that apply. Note: Some phrases may apply to multiple situations, and vice versa.

A: “Jeez! Do I have to drag you by the ear?”
B: “Hello! I’m right here!”
C: “Pick a side!”
D: “Good thing I didn’t, like, actually have an appointment or anything!”
E: “The tourist route is on the other side of the street.”
F: “Do you cut in line at the grocery store too?”
G: “Come back here you X%$X(*&##”! I pay your salary!”
H: “AAAAEEYYeeeooooowww! My foot!!!!” (screamed at the top of your lungs)
I: “Excuse me, it’s my turn.”
J: “I curse you! May you live a life full of flat tires and hemorrhoids!”
K: “Pedestrians always have the right of way.”
L: “Next time, have your mommy drive you.”
M: “A minute on the lips, forever on the hips!”
N: “What, are you late for your lunch break?”
O: “My hourly rate goes up the more annoying you are.”

Answers: 1- B, C, E; 2- B, F, I, J; 3-B, H, I, K; 4-B, G, J, N; 5- D, I, J, L, O; 6- A, L, M, O.

Truck splash photo by Curtis Gregory Perry.

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