Problem was, my new buddy wasn't finished with me yet. He lowered his passenger-side window and, while driving alongside, swore a blue streak at me (impressive vehicle control while ranting, I must say.)
He then sped ahead, turned into a driveway, got out of his car, and waited Clint Eastwood-like in the middle of the bike path. He stood nose-to-nose with me, ranting about what an [unmentionable body part] I was. After repeatedly - and, shockingly, in a calm voice - advising him to walk back to his car, it dawned on me that I was in trouble, and he was really going to hit me.
Which he did, knocking my glasses off and causing me to see red. Given the fact that he outweighed me by at least 50 pounds (hey, I'm a writer, so size has never been my thing) and I had never (before today, anyway) been in a fight, I stood pat while he turned away and walked back to his car before driving off. When the shaking subsided, I grabbed my cell phone out of my bike bag and called 911.
I recall a bizarre sense of disconnectedness as I told the dispatcher that I had just been assaulted by a motorist. Then my mind raced as I played the scene through my head time and again.
The officer who arrived was incredibly professional, and took me through the process with expert care. I hesitated when he asked me if I wanted to lay a charge. Part of me thought I should just let it go, that I couldn't be bothered to pursue the matter because little more than my pride had been injured. Then the self-righteous journalist in me kicked in: no one has a right to lay a finger on anyone else. Had he been carrying a weapon, or if he had decided to continue whacking me, things would have turned out a lot worse than a sting on the cheek.
People don't learn lessons if they're allowed to walk. People learn lessons when they're held accountable for their actions. This guy, apparently, will.