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Confronting Mr. Confrontational
For all of about the first dozen hours of my life, I was Brian.
Then my mom changed her mind, my dad returned to work and explained his bouncing baby-boy Brian really was Andrew, the nurses brushed the Wite-Out over my birth certificate, and “Andrew” lasted until it came time to write my name in grade school and, ever the lazy sort, I became “Andy.”
That lasted until high school, when Sophisticated Mature Me thought “Andy” too juvenile, and “Andrew” returned.
So “Andrew” it was until I started working at the Journal-World, and a co-worker declared me “Drew,” and that has stuck the past two-plus decades.
Said co-worker has a real knack for nicknames. Some other gems of his, for folks we encounter in the business: The Mortician. The King. And The Dumb.
One of his other sobriquets for me didn’t stick: Mr. Confrontational.
See, this co-worker is a bit of a shrinking violet. Whenever we were faced with an upset caller or coach or parent, he’d run for cover and make me deal with the issue. I didn’t exactly shy from the showdown, hence Mr. Confrontational.
I thought of that not-so-apt nickname lately as I’ve had some cycling encounters with other road users.
As my son and I rode to his school the other morning, a driver cut me off in a traffic-calming device. Close enough to touch him, had I so chosen, I instead barked out a brusque, “HEY!” The driver hesitated, then mumbled a quick, “Sorry,” before accelerating away.
Earlier, another car passed me on the left, then started to turn right across my path — the dreaded right-hook maneuver — before the driver realized he wouldn’t make it without hitting me. So, of course, he slammed on the brakes so he could come to a complete stop right in front of me. I didn’t have time to do much except snake between his fender and the curb, shoot him a glance and a quick, “Really? Really?!?” He responded with half a peace sign.
And then there was the guy the other night/early morning. His was the second in a line of two cars coming toward me on a narrow road when he decided to pull alongside the front vehicle — in my lane, coming right for me, awfully fast. Hemmed in by a curb and oncoming metal mass, I swerved into the gutter, clobbered the curb and almost went down as he sped past, missing me by inches. I believe my response was biblical/scatological in nature. I realized he was lost, so he thought it prudent to ask directions of the driver of the other vehicle at speed after crossing the center line. Never mind the nice cyclist in his way.
Which brings us to Mr. Confrontational.
I usually let most infractions go, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling attention to the most egregious ones.
I have toned down my responses, ever since unleashing a double-barreled bird-flipping, punctuated by an expletive tapestry directed at the driver of a daycare van that nearly clipped me with its rearview mirror. I didn’t realize at the time it was full of cute little wide-eyed tykes.
But I’m not above asking, “I’m sorry, did you not see me?” Or, “Pardon me. Was I going too fast for you?” Or even, “I believe I might possibly have had right-of-way in this particularly instance.”
Mr. Confrontational would be so ashamed.