I have often been described as being "fearless" (and, in all honesty, I have self-billed myself that way on occasion). But of course no one is completely fearless, and while I have jumped out of airplanes, rappelled down mountainsides, and talked back to my mother while she was holding a butcher knife, I have my moments of paralyzing, heart-seizing fear. Just ask Hubby about the night I found a (very small, very dead) mouse in our washing machine. (Guess who NEVER forgot to close the lid on the washer after that?)
I've blogged before about my favorite quote of my mother's when I started skydiving.
"[Bragger,]" she said, "there's a fine line between bravery and stupidity. And I no longer know which side you're on."
Often people who learn that I am a cyclist ask me if I'm afraid of riding on the same roads used by cars. My usual response is, "Nah...I'm too dumb to be scared." It does sometimes occur to me when I'm riding and hear a car behind me that it could be my last ever conscious thought. I don't want to be morbid or dwell on it, but since I can't see the car behind me and can't gauge what the driver might be doing (texting, eating, disciplining a child, shading his or her eyes from the sun), any moment could be that one millisecond it takes for a driver to veer too far to the right and nail me. I guess one of the things that keeps me riding is that the same thing could happen to me in a car, and I refuse to be a hermit.
One of Hubby's buddies asked me a few months ago if I take anything with me when I ride. Deliberately misunderstanding him, I said in my best puzzled voice, "A cell phone?" He emphasized that he meant for protection. I didn't point out that in many states it's against the law to ride a bicycle with a pistol strapped to one's hip. Plus there's that issue of hauling all that extra weight. I knew what he meant, and I'll admit there have been times I've found myself on rural, almost deserted roads, and I've wondered what I would do if someone in a car (because I'm PRETTY sure but not absolutely certain I could outrun someone on foot) indicated an intent to harm me.
Last week I was riding, alone as usual, and a van passed me. I didn't even process it at the time, but the van pulled off the road and the driver got out, obviously approaching me. I didn't THINK I had done anything to irritate him, and we were at a stop sign, so it wasn't a case of impeding his progress, so I did what any normal, educated, thinking woman riding a bicycle by herself would do: I stopped to see what he wanted.
There was a split second between the time I realized the man wasn't just stopping on the side of the road, he was walking into my lane and toward me, and the realization that I knew him. But he didn't know me. I called him by name, said my name because I knew he would recognize Hubby's last name, and he pretended to remember me (but I'm still positive he didn't). It seems he stopped because he wanted to know about my cycling jersey. He has a landscaping business, and he was (naturally) interested to know about the fabric of the jersey because it "keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter." That's not actually true, but it does have wicking properties to help with the cooling process, so I told him the name of my favorite outdoor shop (it sells clothing and equipment FOR the outdoors, it's not LOCATED outdoors - just thought I'd clear that up, not to mention taking another opportunity to use parentheses) and where it is located.
That is just like Bo, to stop a woman he thinks he doesn't know on the side of the road. He's probably in his mid-sixties, friendly and outgoing, and absolutely harmless.
But when I stopped my bike to see what he wanted, I had no idea it was Bo. He was driving a panel van, for Pete's sake, perfect for abducting someone and throwing her in the back. (But the kid with him would have had to put down his phone and help him, I'm pretty sure of THAT.)
In that split second before I recognized Bo, shouldn't I have been just a little bit afraid? Just a teensy bit? And since I wasn't, is it possible that I'm taking the whole "I'm-too-dumb-to-be-scared" thing a little too far?