by David Benoit
I once had a friend describe to me the difference between The Squid and The Goat. They’re both creatures of the urban environment, contrary to the literal meaning of the words. You see, they’re both cyclists. Not only are they cyclists, but they both get in the way of those who are starting their new bicycling adventures—the moms and the dads on bike, the kids on bikes, for the most part all of those who The Squid and The Goat shun and make it hard for anyone on a bike to feel confident.
The Squid is that middle-aged man who may be just shy of his crisis, or perhaps he’s smack in the middle of it. His shoes click in to the pedals. His helmet matches the color of his shorts. Perhaps he was given a US Postal Service race jersey but decided not to wear it any longer because Lance lied. In the middle of a long ride, he and his compatriots may stop for an iced latte, click in their shoes into the shop, and peel a sweaty $20 bill from between their abdomens and their elastic waistbands.
The Goat is calculating, hip, bearded and a no-holds-barred-bike-ninja. He sails between the trucks, cars, buses, pedestrians and anything else that gets in his way. Streetlights, stop signs, and traffic laws do not scare him easily. It’s all part of the game. Drivers hate him, young hipsters want to be him, and he brags to the women who think he is the bee’s knees.
The general population who may be beholden to The Squid or The Goat at anytime.
A tranquil sixty-degree weekend day on the BeltLine, the public meandering around each other. Those who do quick slalom amongst the slow in a casual, thoughtful manner. The occasional Southern hospitable “excuse me” may be exchanged. Children gleefully learn to walk quickly amongst the grown–ups, or pedal for the first time with their parents.
It’s sad to say, however, that this utopian urban infrastructure is no match for The Squid or The Goat. They race against themselves: one for the best time, the other because “fuck you,” that’s why. “ON YOUR LEFT” The Squid screams behind your back as if you can think quickly enough when a middle-aged man is screaming for his sanity. “Slow down!” The general population yells to The Goat, who retorts two middle fingers raised in the air as he rides hands-free into the yonder.
You see, this all comes with a message, as most things do nowadays in a culture void of responsibility and layered thick with manufactured irony in its place. That message is what we see so often as drivers. We see the message on the urban lawns of Grant Park or Ansley Park, or any other affluent white urban neighborhood. We see it on the bumper stickers of SUVs with thousand dollar bike racks sparkling in the daylight. Occasionally, the message may be yelled to us as we drive: “Share the Road!” The Squid and The Goat yell with such volition in their hearts it seems as if the government has sanctioned them with the brass balls to enforce their rules whatever way they like them.
As I near the Monroe Drive portion of the BeltLine, at what seems to be the highest peak above the glory of the big box stores that seems to define Atlanta’s culture, my kid points up. I follow that little finger to the windmills that have been placed about as artwork. It’s interesting I think. Ironic, yet void of responsibility that someone would use a government posted street sign as art clearly displaying the words “Share the Road.”