Idiots in Opels and Zen Moments

This was originally posted on my old blog on 13 July 2008.

I have this theory about Opels from the early nineties: they bring out the arsehole in anyone who gets behind the wheel. This theory was borne out again yesterday when I cycled from Dundalk to Shercock.

My wrists and back were aching, and, being on a slight downhill, I went handsfree so as to be able to roll wrists and shoulders and ease the cramping muscles. I made extra sure to stay as close to the side of the road as I could.

Before I’d gone too far a car passed me and, when it was right next to me, blasted its hooter. It of course startled me, and I might easily have fallen off the bike. As it was, I didn’t, but if the fate I wished on the arsehole behind the wheel were to befall him, you’ll hear it in the news this week. Worldwide.

The car in question was a silver 1994 model Opel.

After stopping in Shercock for a brief rest, I set off on the Cavan road. My goal for the day was to cycle 100km, and I needed to go 12km beyond the village. About 4km on, I passed a house with two big dogs sitting in front of it. One of them was a German Shepherd.

The German Shepherd’s aggressiveness was apparent from a distance. He got up and came for me. I played an interesting game of pedalling with my eyes glued to the snarling dog, kicking out against his muzzle every time he attacked. It took a good 100m before he gave up.

I seethed right up to the spot where I turned around, exactly 50km from home. I swore to myself I’d never cycle in the South again (I usually cross the border to Northern Ireland when I go cycling). The county seemed filled with a selection of idiotic inbreds in Opels who haven’t enough brain cells to figure out their huge, agressive, slavering dogs should not be allowed to run around unrestrained.

Then all of a sudden I had this zen moment, which is remarkable, as I’m not even really sure what zen is. The stress melted away. I had a strange conviction the dog would not be there any more when I passed by again. My better self reminded me that stupidity is universal. It was just my bad luck to run into it twice in one day.

And lo and behold, the dog was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps its owners had heard and seen the commotion and locked the animal up. Drivers were, for the rest of the day, courteous and considerate.

I managed my 100km. The price is that my tendon injury has flared up again and I’m back on anti-inflammatories. Still, it was a good day. I’ll try to forget the idiot in the Opel. Maybe I’d inadvertently swerved into the road when I sat upright, and the angry driver didn’t realise startling me like that could send me under his wheels. I’ll remember the dog is just a dog, and that perhaps he had got out accidentally. The owners had, after all, rectified the situation by the time I passed there again.

I’ll remember the snack stop I made shortly after turning around. I’ll remember turning a single corner into a leafy little track and disappearing from the world, from whizzing cars, from modern life and its hectic pace. I took my shoes off, waded into a muddy stream and sat down on a half-submerged gate. A ripe nectarine filled my senses with sweetness while I listened to the quiet burble of water gurgling over stones. Mud squelched between my toes when I made my way back to the bike. I wiped them with a tissue before putting my shoes back on, then pushed my bike through a tunnel of green back up to civilisation.