Stopping in to buy a paper on my way to catch the train to Glasgow yesterday morning, I had the nicest little encounter. A woman in the queue said hello to me as if she knew me and asked me how I was, which isn’t that unusual around here – I’m forever meeting people out of context and racking my brains to work out how I know them – but this time I had no sense that I recognised her at all. So I said hello back and asked how she was, and then she said something about me being always out on my bike. So we chatted about that for a bit, and she told me that she used to ride a bike but she had sold hers because she was now too scared to go out on the roads and I told her that I didn’t blame her one bit, and that there were some roads I only rode on because I was bloody minded, and the traffic frightened me too. And we had a real meeting of minds about needing better conditions on the roads, and terrifying lorries, and not needing to dress up specially to ride a bike and it was all lovely, although sad that one more person has been frightened off the roads.
But I still didn’t know how I knew her – or she knew me – until it emerged that she has been seeing me out on the bike for the last few months while driving and she has been acknowledging me and I have been acknowledging her (because I will always raise a hand in thanks at any driver who doesn’t actively endanger my life which is in fairness most of them). Except of course she is in a car so I have no idea what she looks like whereas I am extremely recognisable to her. So when she saw me in the shop, she felt that we had already become friendly, just through our interactions on the road. I shall have to keep an eye out for her car (fortunately she described it to me) and make sure to give her an extra friendly wave from now on.
It’s easy sometimes, especially when it’s raining and things are all a bit grim, to start to feel a bit beleaguered by the drivers out there, and ascribe all sorts of things to them (impatience, irritation, aggression) that they aren’t actually feeling at all. So it’s good to know that at least one of those metal boxes out there harbours someone who feels warm and friendly towards cyclists, feels a bit guilty about not being one, and looks out for you on the road. It left me with a nice warm feeling of my own, and a renewed determination to keep being polite and friendly to everyone on the road.