Friday, May 30, 2008

Assholes are Vital, Let's Learn to Love Them

I'll preface this post by saying I'm an avid bike rider.

I choose my vacations based on the availability of bike trails in the chosen locale. I paid a month's worth of rent for my bike and I am not sorry for it. That said, I'm not a part of the activist bike culture, demanding new trails and threatening to sue wayward motorists and whatnot. I feel like, if you could bike instead of drive, you should, but if you don't that's okay. And, if you do, be as courteous to pedestrians as you want drivers to be of you is all.

So, this happened today, and I'm not sure what to do with it. I was standing outside of my building with a woman whom I've seen and talked to on several occassions. I like her. She's nice, and my dog likes her dog. We were talking and both our dogs were with us, when a man and his two daughters rode by on the sidewalk with their bikes. Now, I know you shouldn't ride your bike on the sidewalk. BUT, I admit, I do it from time to time. When I see people ahead, I get off and ride in the street, but sometimes it's just easier because of stop signs and whatnot, to be on the sidewalk.

That said, if you ARE on the sidewalk, it calls for hypervigilance -- we bike riders are held to a higher accountability on the sidewalk by virtue of what we ask of drivers on the road.

So, anyway, my associate and I were talking, and at the passing of the three bikes, she said, to me, but loud enough for them to hear, something to the effect of, hey don't run over my dog, idiot. And then, this crazy thing happened. The father, turned around and said, "Who are you calling a fucking idiot?" (This, said in front of the daughters he is--and I may be wrong, because I'm no parent--charged with caring for and providing a good example to. (Yes, both of those clauses ended with a preposition. Whatever. So?)

I said nothing. But I should have. That whole interaction was wacka-wacka-wacka-wack. (<--for my hip hop friends) Because, the thing is, yeah, you ARE NOT TO RIDE YOUR BIKE ON THE SIDEWALK. But the other thing is, they approached us around a corner from behind, and perhaps would have changed their course had they had time. So, I was not personally offended by them riding by the dogs. But, that's not to say someone else wouldn't or shouldn't have been. That's not even to say someone else shouldn't have referred to the trio as idiots.

But here's the thing that's wrong. Had I been the father, at that point, rather than spewing expletives (and ones that, had he heard his daughters say, he might have reprimanded them for (<--again with the prepositions)) I might have used this as a learning and teaching moment. But, I don't walk the earth with privilege in my back pocket and entitlement in my front, so I can't say that he is/was even capable of thoughtful response by virtue of both his gender and race. Yes, I said that.

The thing is, we all live in the same neighborhood. Here's a thought: that makes us neighbors. Neighbors are folks that disagree and don't always get on with each other, but they are still neighbors. We have a vested interest in the harmony of our 10 square blocks. That means that even the folks who yell at another deserve a measured response and one that is faced towards resolution, rather than escalation.

I'm not saying my conversing-companion was right--I wouldn't have said it, and to be honest, it didn't bother me. But it's okay that it bothered her, and yeah, she could have said something different, or something less audible, or, just held it in and chewed on it at home. I am saying, though, that I'm disappointed that I let my surprise get the better of me and didn't intervene to make the interaction more constructive. I do believe that there exists a point in every interaction where thoughtfulness, neighbhorliness, human-ness, and a desire for harmony can turn escalation into peaceful resolution.

That dad is probably not even thinking about this now. His girls probably said, "Yeah, dad, you rock. You told those ladies." And, that's sad. And, I'm sad for myself that I didn't say, "Wait." Just, "Wait." Sometimes that's all it takes.



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