When grown men behave like children, it’s not pretty
I only can guess what was going though Joe’s mind last Saturday morning. In truth, I can only guess that his name was Joe – since we never really introduced ourselves, and because Joe is easy to spell. Joe it is.
Joe and I nearly came to blows Saturday morning. This is not something of which I’m proud. I’m guessing he feels the same. This is a humbling story to tell but I think there are often lessons to be learned from bad behavior.
I was about 10 miles into what I planned to be a 100-mile bike ride. I began my trip on a bike path that was narrow, winding and filled with weekend users.
Being in no hurry, I called out to those I passed and slowly rode around them. Though protocol suggests riders should call out to those they overtake, I sometimes feel a little intrusive and even patronizing to call out constantly “passing on your left” as I jet by in my peacock-colored ensemble. Often, just hearing my voice causes riders and runners to look over their shoulders and weave in my direction.
Just before I left the bike path to take my chances on the state highway, the path straightened and the crowds diminished. I saw a runner ahead on the right. It was Joe. I passed him on the left by 4 or 5 feet but kept silent. In truth, I did not want to disturb him.
In keeping quiet, I obviously scared him. He yelled at me, and I stopped and told him to relax. I said there was plenty of room to pass and I thought I was doing him a favor by not barking at him.
I said all that with a cocky attitude. He wasn’t buying any of it and suggested – with an attitude – that I not do it again.
He then slapped me on the back. I might have misinterpreted his touch, or maybe not, but I got angry and did the same to him. Somewhere along the way the argument went from discussing bike path etiquette to aggressive name calling.
In terms of our encounter, I don’t think either one of us was clearly right or wrong, though we both handled it poorly.
I know what I was thinking and feeling at the time of our encounter. I’m going to do my best to guess what was gong through Joe’s mind as well.
I know what angered me was that I felt I was doing the right thing. I pride myself on being polite. His questioning my courtesy infuriated me to the point where I acted very discourteously. (Read: like a jerk.)
From his perspective, I’d imagine my passing frightened him. I also would guess other riders that morning had passed him unsafely. His yelling was probably a reflex. It also is very possible his furious shout was only my interpretation.
He might have considered it a mere suggestion. I also would guess he was taken back by my bellicose defense of my behavior. He might even have been shocked I would be offended by his touching me.
Either way, the situation could have been avoided had I simply called back “sorry” and ridden on. Instead, with self-righteous indignation, I tried to make my point. To say it got nasty would be an understatement.
I always wondered how crimes of passion occur. I never understood road rage. I always felt superior to those who cannot control their tempers. I no longer feel that way.
It is frightening to look in a mirror and to see an idiot looking back. The only bright spot of the day was after Joe and I made our threats and parted company, I turned around, caught up with him and apologized.
I told him I stood by my behavior but was sorry for my overreaction to his reaction. He and I agreed to disagree and made our apologies. I think each of us felt better. Hopefully we both learned something.
For those of you familiar with my politics, you might think it hypocritical that a Bush-bashing, anti-war-liberal like myself would be so quick to angrily confront an antagonist. To tell the truth, I don’t understand it myself. After the incident I had 90 miles to think about it, and I’m still not sure how the circumstance went from debate to fury.
The only conclusion I’ve come to is that neither Joe nor I took the time or had the inclination to look at the issue from any other viewpoint than our own.
I also would contend that the human species is still fairly primitive.
Yes, unlike most other mammals, we have the ability to reason, we possess opposable thumbs and we are not afraid of vacuum cleaners.
But under the right – or wrong – circumstances, and faced with enough confrontation and stress, most humans, no matter how polite and civilized we appear on the surface, can and will behave like animals.
My apologies to any animals reading this S
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of “Biff America” can be seen on RSN television, heard on KOA radio, and read in several mountain publications. He lives in Breckenridge.
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