Being ‘That Guy’

Today I wore a lot of hats. Events, and my reactions to them, conspired to make me into a number of stereotypical ‘men on the street.’ I should be used to this by now, being one of those ‘Californians’ that seem to make up half the population of Portland. Unfortunately, it seems to be my lot to shift from one caricature to another by virtue of my familial tendency towards eccentricity.

My morning began with a run. I’ve been doing this for a while now, as it is an essential step in the process of transforming myself into a ‘Portlander.’ I’m not a very strong runner. I can run a couple miles at a time, but that’s about my limit. So today, after running my quota, I was walking home covered in sweat and radiating heat in the cold morning air. It was then that I did that thing: I took off my shirt. Yes, I became one of those ‘shirtless guys’ that you see running around town. It didn’t last long, before my shame forced me to put my soggy shirt back on lest I shock an old lady and her tiny dogs. Yet, for a moment I was shirtless.

Later, I rode my bike to work. I do this five days a week, rain or shine (another of the all important steps on my road to being a Portlander). My usual route takes me through downtown amidst the rest of the commuters on their various buses, bikes and cars. At a certain point, there is a curve in the road where cars will habitually drift into my lane of traffic. It has happened numerous times before, but today’s encounter was particularly iconic.

As I rode side-by-side with a white commercial van full of window washers, I waited for that inevitable drift. Then it came, that huge slab of van approaching from my left side. I drifted to my right and helpfully recommended that they stay in their  lane. I was rewarded for my helpful comment with the accusation that it was I that had entered their lane of travel. Shortly there after, we came to a stop at a red light.

It was at this point that I made my second transformation of the day. While sitting on my bike behind the van full of red-shirted window-washers, I explained to them in no uncertain terms that they were male donkeys who enjoyed giving fellatio (This is the kind of behavior that Mrs. Portmandia thinks will get me in trouble some day). Luckily for me, they chose to ignore my indignant comments, but it was too late, as I had already become one of those self righteous bike commuters. Even now, I hang my head in shame.

I work in retail, and do a bit of customer service, so there were other tales of foolishness that I could relate. For the sake of brevity, I will simply state that some people are kind of dumb and appear to have dressed in the dark.

The final anecdote of the day came as I walked home from the store. I was walking along a street that is heavily trafficked by bike commuters, when I heard a familiar sound: a big truck gunning it engine. I looked down the street in time to see an enormous SUV roar past a cyclist as if it was a dire medical emergency. As the driver passed, we made eye contact and he flipped me the bird. I do not think that my internal judgement had quite made it to my face, but the preemptive finger indicated that he had already pegged me for a ‘bourgeois Portlander.’ A moment later, the cyclist and I had a similar exchange as he pedaled past, but we simply shared the brotherly nod of a pair of ‘self-righteous cyclists.’

Thus I wore my hats and played my parts in another dramatic day. Now I sign off as a ‘snarky blogger.’