A few years ago, my oldest kid, Dan, and I—he 20-something, me in my 50s—were at the base of one of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge’s cloverleaf exit ramps, waiting with thousands of …
A few years ago, my oldest kid, Dan, and I—he 20-something, me in my 50s—were at the base of one of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge’s cloverleaf exit ramps, waiting with thousands of others in the Five Borough Bike Tour to climb the ramp and ride across from Brooklyn to Staten Island. We had scampered ahead of the rest of our family, my husband and our two college-age kids, so Dan would be able to ride the bridge before getting to his evening job.
Long before we reached the bridge, participants were calling this tour the Five Borough Bike Walk, since so many had come out to ride that the 35-mile course was full of bottlenecks. Even in the bike haven that Central Park should be, tour coordinators had made us walk our bikes almost the whole length from south to north before allowing us to ride again.
We were hot, tired and eager to be riding across the Verrazano, which is only open to bicycles during the tour. This was going to be the highlight.
The ramp was packed with rather irate riders nearly at the end of their trip, now having to slowly walk and push their bikes up the final incline, when at the entrance to the ramp a tall middle-aged guy carrying his bike on his shoulder hopped over the fence, scurried up the side of the hill and shoved into the line above and in front of us. As other people started to yell, I joined in, roaring with the crowd at the person we thought was cutting in line.
My son tried to get my attention.
“Mom! Stop! He’s a volunteer!”
Oh. Yes, he was. I had been so carried along with the community of anger I hadn’t even noticed his dayglo vest—the same kind I expect large trucks to notice on me when I’m putt-putting on my little electric bike on shoulderless Wayne County roads.
This guy wasn’t jumping ahead of the line. He was one of those who ride along the tour until they must weave through the riders to reach and help anyone who, not that I’m referring to anyone in particular, perhaps shouldn’t have been trying to video and ride at the same time, and tumbled head over handlebars and found herself sitting on the pavement in the middle of a bridge over the East River sort of stunned, a bit scraped but mainly unhurt, surrounded by shoals of fast-moving bicycles.
By boarding the outrage bandwagon that day, I had completely fouled up in front of my son, giving him not just the right but also the responsibility to correct me, which is, of course, a complete reversal of the order of the universe, akin in this parent’s mind to the earth’s magnetic poles reversing. I humiliated myself, and I discovered how easy it is to be carried into the enthusiasm of the angry and—after 32 miles of bike riding—stinking mass.
When change happens and our first response is suspicion, which the internet can multiply and intensify like a lighthouse lens, becoming outrage, sometimes we don’t see nuances; sometimes we see buses filled with BLM and Antifa or 40-ton trucks filled with loads of fracking waste material rumbling down single lane country paths. We may not notice volunteers trying to help and understand but being lambasted, instead.
Almost makes me want to sing:
There once was a mob that came to be
The name of the mob was You and Me
We hypothesize on our Facebook page
And rant ‘til the day is done (HUH)
Oh, soon may the bogeyman come,
He’ll soil our land or take our guns
Someday when we meet him here,
We’ll be kinda embarrassed cause he’s not what we thought (HUH).
Leah Casner and her husband bought their home in Equinunk in 2019 for weekends and to retire to. The ability to work remotely made it possible for them to move sooner than planned. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Newsday, Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Miami Herald, and Chicago Tribune, among others.