I was riding home last night, when two bike-riding punk kids were suddenly occupying my space... one close to the curb, the other out in the lane. Both riding illegally, against traffic and directly toward me.
If it were just them and the motor traffic, I'd be more than happy to let nature take its course. "Law of natural selection," you know. But when I'm needing to adjust out of the proper course and potentially put myself at greater risk, it really irritates me. So, I commented, using my standard comment: "Wrong way, Gomer!" I figure that's relatively mild while at the same time accurately declaring their violation of the law, and announcing my dissatisfaction.
The in-the-lane punk replied (after a few seconds to get safely farther down the street), "Be fruitful and multiply, oh venerated elder of the tribe!"
Only not in those words.
(If he had said that, I would've been very favorably impressed!)
His actual words were, "F*** you, old man!"
The first part of his statement reinforced my opinion. I had pegged him as a run-of-the-mill, likely below-average-intelligence youth, with demonstrably poor judgment. His use of a meaningless cliché that was already worn out when I was his age - so many, many years ago - says he's not very creative.
I know I was supposed to chase him down and escalate the discussion - right? Stand in the street and holler macho epithets at one another? That's part of the testosterone-charged cliché.
Problem is, an "old man" standing and exchanging verbiage with a verbally-challenged punk kid seems pretty pointless. (Now, if I could legally use my frame pump and administer the beating he probably deserves, without ending up in prison? Different story! But that frame pump has served me well for many years, and I'm too old to go to da joint anyway.)
But the "old man" part kinda bothered me! I've never been called "old man" before!
I did a bit of introspective analysis while completing the ride home.
I s'pose when I was 15, anybody over about 30 seemed pretty dang old.
And besides... the way I got so old was by NOT riding against traffic! Being so old suggests that I have learned some survival skills, and have spent a lifetime not being in the wrong place. (And... being LUCKY in more instances than I'd like to admit. I'd be embarrassed to list all the stupid stuff I did as a teenage punk kid.)
In retrospect, I'm pretty satisfied with the way this old man handled the situation. (And despite my rant, I genuinely hope those punk kids live to be old men themselves someday.)