I'm an introvert, which doesn't necessarily mean I hate people (well, I do but for completely different reasons). What it does mean is that it takes energy to make small talk and get to know people, so I'm not very bubbly and chatty. This is usually a weakness at parties and workplaces and dinners and, well, everywhere. Someone usually makes a big fuss about how I'm clearly cold-shouldering them, when I'm not.
"I'm totally listening to you, there's just a very interesting article in the Sun."
But in a big athletic event? Talking to nobody is not only an advantage, it's practically required. In a big bike ride, there are a lot of small but important things people miss when they're chatting, like stoplights. Last week we were just out of the gate (and therefore in a large clump) when we came upon a stoplight, and, naturally, stopped. Two ladies behind me had been chatting the whole way until that point when suddenly one of them cursed and there was a crash. Apparently she had been so interested in the conversation she did not notice the 50 bikes slowing down in front of her. See? That is what happens when you try to make friends, lady.
Such is the price of socializing.
Yes, this is one setting where it's the outgoing social types who stand out as the target of anger and ridicule. It's the opposite of high school.
For instance, on last weekend's ride, there were groups of three people just riding side by side, a good five feet apart from each other (just enough so you can't slip between safely), chatting away about office politics or their kids or something. Calling, "On your left," (the standard signal that you are passing) had no effect on them, so I ended up having to ride into the oncoming lane of traffic just to get around them. I swear the only reason they are still alive is because I'm too clumsy to take my hands off the handlebars long enough to deliver a chop to the neck as I passed.
"You know what my favorite part about cycling is? Everything but the riding."
If you watch professional sports, or are aware that they exist, you know people can get away with pretty much anything if they are good at sports.
And some athletes can get away with a lot, even if they're not very good at sports.
What you may not know is that lots of sports let you break society's rules and get away with it. Recreational bicyclists aren't on the level of pro athletes -- I have to serve my time for domestic violence just like everyone else -- but I did find that even bike rides are still pretty much at the point now where breaking the law is almost required.
Now personally, I hate breaking the law because I was raised to do whatever the Man says (though, pirating software is OK for some reason), and you don't drop that easily. For that reason, and also because I don't want to get run over by a car, I like to stop at stop signs. Apparently I am a rarity. Cyclists have lots of arguments explaining why it's a big ordeal for them to stop at stop signs and I don't want to get into that here and ignite a car vs. bike fight, but the point is they really don't like to. Hell, lots of people don't like to -- drivers or bikers.
"Yeah? Well why don't you stop, sign."
And if you're riding in a crowded event and you try to stop, like I did a couple of times, it's a topsy-turvy world where you're the crazy dangerous one that almost causes a pileup behind you.
Occasionally the cops will pull over a whole pack of cyclists when a neighborhood gets fed up with this kind of behavior (or when the city needs funds), but they can't pull over all 2,500 people in a ride event.
So if you've ever dreamed of sticking it the man, here you go. In a large enough group participating in some kind of race, you are above the law.
"Oink oink, officer penishead!"
The reason I'm attempting this crazy journey from couch potato to bike rider is because I'm trying to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through a big old 100 mile bike ride in June that will probably kill me. Find out more about it here.
Check out more from Christina in The 6 (Wrong) Questions Men Love to Ask About Women and 4 Nobel Prize Winners Who Were Clearly Insane.