I rode home immediately after yesterday's little storm, and the novelty of wet roads in Melbourne gave me the opportunity to respond to two minor road incidents, with very different responses to my fleeting and ambiguous offers of help.
In the first incident, I saw a cyclist swerve around a huge puddle then faceplant in the middle of the Flinders/Swanston St intersection. The poor bastard slipped on the tram tracks, I think. I slowed up next to him and asked, "Are you alright, mate?" A stupid question really, but he understood that I meant "Are you not too badly hurt?" He sounded a bit winded but managed to reply, "Yeah." Mostly an injury to pride, by the look of it—although I did wonder as I rode on if I should have stopped and helped him out a bit.
Later, I turned off a busy road into a side street where two cars were parked right on the shoulder of the corner and a couple of people were clambering out—clearly the scene of a recent collision. So I asked again, "Are you guys alright?" One of the blokes standing by the first car gave me an odd look and said, "There's been an accident."
A little while later if occurred to me that my simple question had probably been misunderstood. My intention was literal: I really was checking that everyone was OK. But it seemed that the driver had heard sarcasm, as if I my real meaning had been something like, "What the hell do you think you're doing parking there?"
It's so easy to be misunderstood. And it's not the first time I've had a such a driver-cyclist misunderstanding. It makes me wonder if some drivers and cyclists tend to come to the roads primed for disagreement, which would be a bit sad.