Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Automatic Impatience

The other day I heard a story on the news about a cyclist who had been hit by a car and killed in our town.  I really hate stories like that since I am starting to ride more and more.  I brought it up to Jason, asking if he had heard.  He rides much more than me and I wanted to remind him to be super extra extremely cautiously careful.  He had read the article and he had also read the ugly comments posted about it online.  There were so many derogatory comments about the cyclist who was hit, in fact, that the newspaper took it all down. 

That disturbed me almost as much as the accident itself.  I did not read the comments that were posted, but I have read other articles about runners and cyclists alike and the comment section can get quite heated.  Cyclists don't have a right to be out there on those roads.  Cyclists shouldn't ride where there is a lot of traffic.  It is dangerous to ride your bike on country roads.  It is dangerous to ride your bike in town.  Cyclists who get hit by cars probably deserve it because they are in the way.  

These are not my opinions, but these are the opinions shared in these comment sections (usually with more color and flourish than I have added here), and they do not only apply to cyclists but runners as well.  And they unnerve me.  If someone can be that angry when they are sitting behind a desk writing a comment, what happens when you get one of these people in the car behind a cyclist?

I think the root of the problem is the attitude of most Americans.  Myself (unfortunately) included.  I am important.  I am more important than you.  Where I am going and what I am doing is important and I am in a hurry and you are in my way.  Get out of my way.  I am important and I am going somewhere. 

I have experienced this attitude from motorists when I am running or riding.  Even when I have the right of way, I do not always get it, and I know to be on the lookout for this.   When I am the motorist, I try to always give runners, pedestrians, and cyclists the right of way.  I go around them slowly and carefully when they are on the road I am driving, and I do not mind.  But that is because I am a runner and a cyclist.

It is (unfortunately) an entirely different story when I am dealing with other drivers on the road or other patrons in the grocery store.  People walk so SLOWLY.  And they see you coming and they don't move their cart!  And they stand contemplating the ice cream choices forever and they can see me behind them waiting with a kindly (fake) smile on my face because I already know what I want and they are blocking my way.  And what is up with driving below the speed limit?  How annoying!

And so when I think about it, I may not want to send cyclists and runners home who are in my way, but I do want everyone else to get out of my way and pronto.  And the fact is, I rarely have cause for hurry or rush.  I am not running late.  I am not behind schedule.  My impatience is automatic.  Why can't I go 35 in a 40?  What is my rush?  And what is one more minute waiting for the skinny cow ice cream sandwiches when I will be home in plenty of time to do all I want to do before dinner?  Who am I, anyway, to deserve that spot in front of that particular aisle the very moment I want it?

It is as if I am programmed to be impatient even without cause.  And is there ever really cause?  If I am running late for work, whose fault is that?  Not the car in front of me going 35 in the 40.  Not the cyclist who causes me to slow down.

I have no remedy for this except to be aware of this attitude in myself and to fight against it as often as I see it surface.  It is my hope that readers will also take note and possibly find it within themselves to deal more kindly and patiently with anyone on the roads.  To be aware.  To be safe.  To have patience and kindness when dealing with their fellow man.  Until they put bike lines on all the roads, I think that is the best we can do.

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