I had a doctor appointment early this morning, necessitating a quick drive down Van Buren to get to downtown Riverside, and I was reminded of a funny thing that happened a couple of years ago on that same road. For those of you who know Van Buren you'll know that it is not a freeway but a fast, heavily-trafficked street that takes you from the Ontario area into Riverside. It is a divided road, two lanes each way, with occasional stoplights. Car speeds range from 55 to 65 miles per hour on the long stretches. It is this street that I have to traverse to get from my place up in Mira Loma down to my doctor's office in Riverside.
On this particular day I was in the outside lane. Nearing the first stoplight about a mile down Van Buren, I passed a rather wild-looking bicyclist on my side of the road. He appeared to be in his 30's, lean and strong, and wouldn't have been bad looking if he had been clean and groomed. But he was bare-chested and grungy, and his hair was long and sprung out everywhere as if it had been electrified. He looked like a cross between an aging hippy and a wild-man. While I was waiting for the green light I glanced in my rear view mirror to see where he was, and I didn't see him at all. I wondered where he had gone, because there were no side streets where he might have turned off. I cranked my neck around to see if I could visualize him that way, and lo, there he was, next to my car by the back door.
Knowing that my doors were locked, I wasn't too concerned except for the fact that when the light turned green and I accelerated, so did he. He was holding on to my back door handle and getting a free ride!
To say I was nonplussed was an understatement. What should I do? I certainly didn't want him hitching a ride as he was doing, as it was a terribly dangerous thing. But I couldn't shake him off by manipulating the car back and forth -- more dangerous! I couldn't stop because of the speed of the surrounding traffic. And I certainly wasn't going to roll the back window down using the automatic controls on my own door and shout at him to get the blinkety-blank off.
Then it struck me funny. If I had been the car in back of me, I'd have been worried sick, like I worry about driving behind a pickup truck with an untethered dog in it. No, if he had to be on a car, I’d just as soon it was mine, as I am a kind person and a good driver. But I felt like I had a leech attached to my body. Or a bee on the back of my blouse than I couldn’t reach to shoo off. All kind of images came to mind.
He stayed on my car for probably 5 miles (at 55 mph) until we hit the next signal, at which time he let go. Then he sped on through the intersection against the red light, and if I didn't know he was crazy before, I knew it then. When the light turned green I breathed a sigh of relief. But in a little while I passed him hanging on the door of a car in front of me that had turned onto Van Buren from a side street. He stayed right with the flow of traffic all the way into Riverside and then disappeared into the Wal-Mart parking lot!
I couldn't help but see some humor in the whole thing. In fact, every time I think of it, I have to smile to myself. I'm sure there was no chance of it ever happening again, but I also knew, just in case, from then on I’d always keep to the inside lane on Van Buren.
I can’t drive down that road without thinking of him, and like I do with crazy motorcyclists on the road and young hotshot teens weaving in and out traffic, I send up a little prayer for their safekeep in spite of their strange and/or idiotic behavior. He was not there this morning, but my remembrance of the time he was caused me to once again send up a little prayer in his behalf.