Bicycle in the city: no treppenwitz

Someone says something to you and you are so overwhelmed by the comment that it leaves you speechless

This happens a lot, maybe a half dozen times a year. I’m riding my bicycle on the correct side, going with traffic, as far right as the parked cars allow.

Some yahoo in a car does something designed to startle and/or annoy me, such as blow the horn for no cause, then take off, with drivers and passengers sufficiently amused. In the past, I’ve yelled, but it seldom gave me satisfaction.

But this month, the car drives by and the passenger yells “d’oh!”, the famous Homer Simpson response. The car rode off, but luckily it caught the light, so I was able to catch up. Instead of yelling, or threatening (which I’ve never done, except in my mind), I calmly and clearly said to the guy riding shotgun, “You must be quite the a$$#013 to yell at someone from a moving car.” Then I rode past. I think/hope I made them nervous. Yes, I can be that petty.

I’ll admit I was paranoid enough to ride on the sidewalk until the vehicle passed me again. Still, I was pleased because I didn’t have a treppenwitz moment. You remember that word, don’t you?

“We’ve all experienced this moment before – someone says something to you and you are so overwhelmed by the comment that it leaves you speechless and you can’t come up with a snappy comeback on the spot. But once you’ve walked away from the situation the perfect response suddenly pops into your head.

“This phenomenon is referred to as Treppenwitz in German, which literally means staircase joke, because… the witty retort usually hits you in the stairwell on your way out. Of course by then it’s already too late to use it.

“The term derives from the French expression “L’esprit de l’escalier,” which also translates to staircase joke.”

I was less successful with coming up with responses to a couple bicyclists doing wheelies just outside my building in downtown Albany the very same day. The pedestrians were understandably wary of these clowns, who, fortunately, didn’t hit anyone.

Speaking of almost getting hit, I was riding my bicycle down State Street in Albany. As is often the case at Hawk Street, a car goes partially though the intersection and manages to create gridlock. I’m far enough to the right to ride past. But the car left of me decides to move right, heading into my path.

I yelled “HEY” and he waited. Did I mention that was also on the same day?

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “Bicycle in the city: no treppenwitz”

  1. I don’t blame you for ducking onto the sidewalk. Some motorists go hyperballistic at the thought of having to share the road with anyone moving more slowly than they are, be it a cyclist, a pedestrian, or a car driven by a normal person.

  2. do u use the word, doored? it applies to a driver opening his door without checking for bikes. I once did that , I almost doored. The young woman let oue a series of expletives. since then, i almost check before i open the door.

    I am using one finger to type. it is so cold,. i have one hand with gloves on.

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