Illegitimi non carborundum

Musings on crazy people and insults.

Up until a couple of years ago, everybody on the Highway 17 bus between San Jose and Santa Cruz, California knew “Wendy.” She’s an African American homeless woman with obvious mental illness. After boarding the bus for her daily trip “over the hill”, she mumbled a constant monologue about alien abduction, satanic worship, murdered children and divine retribution.

Her voice slowly crescendoed over the duration of the bus ride as she punctuated her speech with an ever increasing frequency of profanity. After about 15 minutes, she was fairly yelling disturbing details about the aliens and their violent rape of her, her husband, her parents, children, cats and dogs. Occasionally, she accused other passengers of killing her children and yell profanities at them.

The regulars and the bus drivers knew how to take care of Wendy — we’d just tell her to quiet down. She’d apologize and stay quiet for three or four minutes before mumbling again. The trip was usually over before we got a second round of her loudness.

Whenever Wendy mouthed off at any of us, we knew not to take it personally. We know she’s crazy and can’t help herself. The same goes for some of the insane homeless people who mutter inane word salad nonsense as they wander Santa Cruz. You brush off their insults, because you know they’re just odd.

And that’s exactly what I thought of the Latina chica who looked right at me and yelled at me to “F— OFF!” Thursday evening. I was stopped at a red light on my bicycle waiting for the green, when the passenger yelled this epithet at me while her old yellow pickup truck roared past on the intersecting street. She’s a dark haired brown skinned young woman, but what I immediately saw was a crazy old filthy geezer with a ratty beard, snot running down his nose, greasy fingers, shabby clothes and missing teeth who lives under the bridge and gets his meals from the Salvation Army shelter.

I don’t get harassed so blatantly that often — the last time I recall a hearty F-U was on a 2005 trip to bicycle friendly Austin, Texas, when I took the lane on Shoal Creek Boulevard. I don’t know if it’s my age or upbringing or what — I’m half Asian and my childhood during the Vietnam era meant I got a lot of stupid crap from inbred idiots — but it’s pretty easy for me to brush these insults off.

I realize not everybody is able to let the insults go. Words are powerful and they hurt, but I want to encourage and affirm for you that they’re the crazy ones, not you.

This is for Kate in NOLA. Don’t let them get you down.

Incidentally, when you go off and hurl insults, profanities, and your U-lock at a driver who cuts you off in traffic, they likely think you’re insane and discount your concerns as irrelevant lunatic ravings.


  1. Of course, as a Brit, my first instinct is ‘Maybe I did something wrong back there….’ and only after a short beat does ‘this person is in the wrong’ kick in.

  2. “…a crazy old filthy geezer with a ratty beard, snot running down his nose, greasy fingers, shabby clothes and missing teeth…”


  3. I considered that for a moment — did I do something to make her mad? But I *just* got off of a bus after a 20 mile trip, so that seems unlikely to me.

    Maybe I cut her off in downtown San Jose an hour earlier and she followed me all the way over from there? Possible, but then that makes her even more of a lunatic.

  4. …ummm, maybe she reads your blogs…

    …hey, hey, easy…i’m just sayin’…

  5. When my husband and I are out riding together he’s under strict instructions that if we get harassed by a driver he is NOT TO RESPOND. That’s because when he does, he responds like the born-and-bred New Yorker he is (bleepety bleep bleep you bleeping bleep!) while I respond by shouting things like “STATE LAW GIVES BICYCLISTS THE LEGAL RIGHT TO THE FULL LANE! VEHICLE CODE SECTION 21202! LEARN THE LAW AND STOP HARASSING BICYCLISTS!” So far, it’s almost always been my experience that the driver was expecting me to be screaming obscenities at them; when they realize I’m hollering section numbers from the Vehicle Code they’ve tended to get confused and leave.

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