Dear guy on the skateboard on the Gilman trail,
Not a lot of skateboarders on the trail, but just to be clear I mean you, in the baggy black shorts that hang way past your knees, the faded black t-shirt with the red anarchy sign on it, the black wool cap even though it’s July, that beard you’ve been trying to grow half your life that still looks like the seed didn’t quite take.
Oh, and now the scrape on your left elbow. Yeah, you.
Where to start? How about with this. Lesson one. The trail? It’s like a road. You get to use one side of it. This being America and it almost being the 4th, just to clarify, the right side. Now, maybe you’ve got spatial recognition issues, or maybe you haven’t learned right from left yet, but that’s why they painted that big yellow stripe down the middle of it. You’re supposed to stay on one side of it.
So here’s what I saw. I’d just hauled my ass to the top of the bridge over 88. I was looking forward to the downhill. Evidently, you’d just finished that, ‘cause you were maybe 15 yards off of the bridge moving pretty good. And slaloming back and forth across both lanes of the trail like you thought this was the Super G in the Winter Olympics. I wasn’t too worried yet. I was still a couple hundred yards behind you.
But that guy on the road bike that was headed toward you? The guy maybe 30 yards out? He was worried. See, you kept cutting back and forth across the lane he was supposed to use. That’s why he slowed down and held his left hand out in the questioning manner. He was asking you to pick a lane. But you kept right on with your serpentine pattern. He had to go around you, pass you in your lane while you went past him in his. That “Watch it asshole” he yelled back over his shoulder? You had that coming. Maybe not the asshole part. I wouldn’t have gone with that. But then, I hadn’t met you yet.
Thing is, now I was getting close. I had to decide where I was going to pass you. And you wouldn’t see me coming. Fortunately, trail etiquette offers a solution. As you overtake the other party, you call out “On your left” so they know they are being passed. And I did. But you kept cutting back and forth over the center line. So I couldn’t be sure if you’d be left the same time I was left. I’d already slowed down, which was a little irritating because that’s the only descent on the trail – nice to pick up a little speed there. But I slowed down a little more. Then, when I was closer, I yelled “On your left” again. Louder. And you straightened out in your lane, put your foot down, did that scooting thing you guys do to pick up speed. Fine. I dropped down a gear and pulled out to pass.
Which was when I guess you decided you were going fast enough to start the slalom again, because you turned left. Right in front of me. I yelled again. Just “Hey!” this time, and I jerked as far left as I could, which almost put me down the gravel embankment and into the trees. I don’t know if it was the “Hey!” or if you finally saw me out of the corner of your eye, but you tried for a panicked right and you went down pretty hard.
Your own damn fault. I’d followed all the rules, didn’t hit you, and for my trouble almost took what would have been a real nasty spill off the side of the trail. But I stopped. I figure someone goes down on the trail and you see it, you at least make sure they’re OK. I hopped of my bike, walked back to you, asked if you were alright.
That’s when you looked up and said “You better not have fucked up my board, Grandpa.”
Fine, I’m 54. I’ve got three kids in their twenties. I could be a grandpa. I’m not as it happens, but I’m pretty sure you weren’t concerned with the fact of your statement. Pretty sure you were going for pejorative. You’d gotten up. You had a scrape on your arm, but otherwise you looked OK. Still had an earbud in your right ear, but the one in your left was hanging down, and I could hear it real clear from several feet away, some heavy metal crap. Guess that explains your deafness issue.
Pretty clear you weren’t hurt bad, and if you were going to be a dick, then I felt like my social obligation was relieved. So I said “Guess you’re OK, Sonny. Try staying on your side of the trail.” Might have been a little edge in my voice, but I didn’t even say asshole.
Which is when you called me a fat-ass and took a run at me.
Lesson two. If you’re gonna take a run at somebody, you better be sure you can take them. Maybe you think there’s some universal law that says all twenty-something punks can take all fifty-something bald guys. You’d be wrong. Fat ass? Yeah, a little, I guess. I go about 225, which is thirty more than I should. Maybe forty. But you’re what? 150? Somebody duct-taped you to a bar, I could bench press you, and I’d do a lot of reps. And you know don’t anything about me. For instance, you don’t know I used to box.
Boxing was my first impulse. I was sorely tempted to put a good, hard right into your gut, let you run right into it. You’re lucky I didn’t. Instead, I just twisted a touch, gave you a little hip and let you throw yourself off the edge of the trail. You had a lot to say after that, most of it profanity. By the way, you seem to have a real problem with subject-verb agreement. But you didn’t seem to be in any hurry to come at me again. Didn’t even seem to be in any hurry to get up off your ass. So I told you to have a nice day and went on my way.
The first guy? Yeah, the asshole was called for. Oh, and the stuff you were sitting in? Hard to say for sure from where I was, but it might have been poison ivy. Hey. a boy can dream.