I’m not impressed.
When you whipped past me on your bike and yelled “F***ing idiot!” at me, I didn’t think about whether or not I was in the bike lane, or if I should have moved faster, or even if I should have been paying attention; I only thought that you were a jerk.
I still think so, and I’m still not looking at bike lanes any differently.
But let me tell you a story.
Many years ago, when my daughter was a baby, I strapped her into her car seat and drove to the grocery store. It was a bright, clear day, and the parking lot was huge, so finding a space was a breeze. As I pulled in, I heard the loud, angry honk of another car and stopped, but didn’t see anyone. They must have been honking at somebody else, I thought as I finished pulling into the space.
But I was wrong.
I grabbed a cart, plopped my daughter into it, and started my shopping. In one of the aisles, a woman came toward me with a furious look on her face. “You weren’t even looking where you were going!” she snapped at me. “That’s really dangerous, you know! You’re supposed to look before you pull in!” She said something else, and I, completely taken aback by the tone of her voice, was uncharacteristically silent.
I continued shopping, but kept thinking about it. Initially I was just pissed about being yelled at by a stranger, but then I started wondering where the hell her car was when she honked at me, and why I didn’t see it, and more than that, why I really had no idea what she was talking about.
I ran into her again a few aisles later, and she scowled at me. This time, I had a response.
“Excuse me,” I said, “but you’re right. I really didn’t see you.” I told her that I’d heard the honk and hadn’t known where it was coming from, and asked her where her car was in proximity to mine when it happened. I said that I often drove with a baby in the car, and if I had a blind spot I was missing when I drove, I needed to know about it.
Her body language changed, and so did her tone. She softened up, and described exactly where her car had been and where mine was. Suddenly she was helping me instead of yelling at me, and when we walked away from each other, neither one of us was angry anymore. Instead, I had some new information to make my driving better, and we both had that great feeling you get when something nasty just disappears from your life in a puff.
So listen up, jerkface yelling guy: I’m actually a really nice person, and I’m not selfish, and I don’t want to get in people’s way. Plus I have children, and I like to set a good example. So don’t yell insults at nice people like me! With the exact same effort and an identical number of syllables or fewer, you could have been much more productive. I’ll prove it.
What you said:
“Bike coming through!”
“Look out, bike lane!”
“Careful there, cutie!”
“Whoa there, speedypants!”
See? It’s not that hard.
With all sincerity, from your brief acquaintance but never your pal,