Here’s one I was only a spectator at: About 10:30 this morning, a small delivery van is parallel parking into a space at 17th and Bryant streets, on the seam between Potrero Hill and the Mission. The space the driver is trying to get into is one of those tight ones. Maybe 6 inches longer than the van is. At the back end of the space, a car is parked with the driver at the wheel. She’s got maybe 18 inches or 2 feet between her and the corner red zone behind her. Now think carefully about what you’d do if you were the driver of that car and see how closely it matches what happened.

The van driver, apparently committed to wedging his vehicle into the space, does a couple back-and-forths. On his second pass, inevitably, he bumps the front end of the car, the one sitting there with the driver at the wheel. She has not backed up even an inch. But when the van makes contact with her car, a Toyota Yaris or similar (as the rental companies would style it), she leans on the horn. The van pulls up. The Toyota driver honks some more. The van driver honks, then backs up and bumps the Toyota again — lightly, I thought. The van is in its space, and the driver, a pony-tailed middle-age guy of medium stature and build, gets out and walks back to the Toyota, whose driver has finally been stirred to move, though not to back up. Instead, she gets out of the car to inspect the non-existant damage to her front bumper. The van driver is angry and is raising his voice, but I can’t hear any of what he’s saying. The woman gets in the car.

At this point, a passing cyclist enters the scene. He’s about four or five inches taller than the van driver and maybe 25 years younger. I didn’t see how he first became engaged, but he’s shouting and draws attention. “That’s a lady, you piece of shit! A lady!” The intensity of his rage seems unconnected to the events that have just transpired, but he’s seen or heard something that offends him deeply. His tirade about the van driver’s transgressions against “the lady” driving the Toyota quickly escalates. He swings the back end of his bike toward the van driver to back him up, then pushes the bike against the older man, and finally throws the bike down and sort of slap-punches the van driver once, maybe twice. At this point, the van man looks unnerved and is trying to back away, and the cyclist picks up his bike and swings it at the van guy again.

(I should say at this point that none of the dozen or so people near the corner, including me, made a move to intervene. If a full-on beating had gotten started, I would have tried to stop it. But the thought of getting into a dispute with the crazy bike rider made me keep my distance.)

That’s as far as things go. The van driver pulls out his phone and makes a call–undoubtedly to the police. The bike rider tells him that if he doesn’t leave, he’s going to fuck him up. Then the bike rider walks his bike slowly away. The Toyota driver watches what she helped wreak, then pulls out of her piece of curb space and drives away. I don’t wait to see if the police show up.

3 Replies to “Altercation”

  1. I bet the van interrupted the Toyota driver while she was stopped to text a donation for Haiti relief prompted by a particularly moving tale from one of NPR’s correspondents in the quake-ravaged half-of-an-island nation. Stupid van driver probably doesn’t even listen to NPR.

  2. From the right distance — far away — this was an educational event. But all in all, you're right — who needs to see that?

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