The Chainlink

I have  followed  some threads here  lately that  have mused  on rules,  laws and whether  they should be  strictly enforced. I have  read thoughtful posts from many and often  at variance with  one another.  I thought  about  those  discussions after this happened  to me this  morning.


“Do you know that you are not supposed to  be riding on the  sidewalk?”


“Yes. I know that. I just got on the sidewalk at the corner over there and rode like a pedestrian to this spot where I  am waiting for some friends.”


“That doesn’t matter, you are not supposed to be riding on the sidewalk,do you know that?”


“Yes, I know that…”   This  conversation  kept revolving around my knowledge  of the law and my affirmation that I  knew  the law and was taking it into account yet  had carefully proceeded on the sidewalk. We were outside a Starbucks at 6:20 am on a Summer  morning with very few people up and  about.


I tried to reassure her that I  had  heard her and was being  mindful that  at the  moment I was on the sidewalk I was an  interloper. She was having none of it. I had  passed a  man  walking on  the sidewalk seconds  before  meeting  her and  had given  him wide  berth. I did not blow by him but slowly rolled past him.  At  the moment I had  passed the man I thought about  the times I roll from the  Dearborn bike lane about 50 feet  to the nearby bike rack letting  any pedestrians safely go by.


My accuser was not a pedestrian.  I think she had just alighted from Starbucks and was getting into her car on the street in  front  of the outdoor tables and chairs where I had hoped to have a few minutes of repose after  my ride from home and before I rode  off  with  my friends towards breakfast. These Wednesday morning rides are a bliss spot on my calendar. I  had  hoped to  lower  my heart rate  from the early morning first  portion of my commute and take in the slowly increasing  workaday movement of the  city,  watching the urban mise en  scene unfold before meeting some good friends. Instead, I was engaged in an arguement  I did not want to have.


“You don’t seem to understand.   You are not  supposed to  be on  the  sidewalk.”


“I really do understand that and think my behavior reflected that I was aware that I wasn’t supposed to be there.  I really am hearing  you.”


“No, you are not hearing  me.  You are not apologizing and do not  seem to  care that  you were on the  sidewalk.”


By this time,  my bliss having  evaporated,  I was  miffed and  felt she was like a booger  I  could not shake off  of the end of my finger. 


“No. I really do hear you and notwithstanding  your shrill tone (and she really had one) your message has  come through. Have a good day.”


“You are just  entitled.  You think you can  do whatever  you want.”  I decided not  to  interrupt and sat down  in  one  of the chairs, closed my eyes, drank my water and  tried  in  vain to find  my Zen place which could  not  be  located.


“If you had hit me I would sue you and collect lots of damages and it  would be precedent setting.”


“Listen, one, I would not hit you. When I was  on  the sidewalk I was very conscious  of my fellow humans and  watched  out for them and  I  would  be  careful to  watch  for you. Two, if  I did hit you, you  would be entitled  to damages because I  should  not  hit you  and you are  right that it  would be  my fault and not yours,  but  still, I  am  watching out and  would not  hit you. Three, it would not  be  precedent setting, this has happened before and people  have  recovered.  This is not new. Either way, Yes. I agree that you are right. The pedestrian should  be  protected…”


“You are not listening,” she replied and  by this time she  was absolutely right. For my sanity’s sake I was trying to ignore her but I was not succeeding. She stood outside of her car holding a cigarette butt and continued,  “I  am not going to  throw this  in the street because that is illegal and  I would be fined. I wouldn’t  park here  after [whatever  time she mentioned] or I would get  a  ticket.”


I really tried to listen and really tried to engage at first  and then I really tried  to ignore her and  none of this worked.  I wanted to kill this  conversation and  against my better judgement said, “Hey,  I don’t  know what happened  to you or what  past  trauma is at  play here or driving  this black/white  insistence on  rules,  but  I just  want to  sit and relax, can you just  leave  me alone?  You have been heard. Know that,  Please  leave me alone.”


She got in  her  car but  before  driving  away, she  stopped and  rolled  down  the  passenger  window and gave me her parting  shot, “You set a bad example for children.”


My friends arrived  less than a minute  after she had  left,  each  of them slowly and carefully rolling in on  their bikes, one of them careful to let a  woman with a stroller  pass him by. I  told them  about  my encounter and  we rode off allowing me to  recover  my bliss. We ate outdoors and had a stimulating conversation about a million things none of them pertaining to my earlier  encounter.


Later, when  I got  to the  bike rack outside  my office I  saw a bike locked taking up the entire  rack which could have housed  at  least  four  bikes.  I was miffed and commented  to  a  fellow rider  who was  also just locking  up that the blocker  was an “entitled  asshole” . Where did that come from? Why did I say that? I  think I  was  unfairly categorizing the unknown rider because I was still salty from my chat with the  Sidewalk Nazi. I  gently moved  the  bike into a  more perpendicular positon to allow other  bikes and  was  careful to make sure the  bike was still standing  and locked to the rack.  While we were both still locking up a guy came to  unlock the offending bike.  We barely looked at each other. I kept my mouth shut and went to work while he rode away.

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I have been fascinated by the Sanders Huckabee story and the discussion that followed but didn't think about it when I wrote this true least consciously. After reading your post I wonder how much it informed my reaction to my accusor and to the arc of the narrative. Wow. Thank you.

Of course angry enraged people want to be right. 

Of course we should respond to angry uncivil actions with civility. 

If we avoid engaging upon uncivil actions they will only multiply and deteriorate society further. 

The person David mentioned was engaging in an activity (smoking) that is considered a bad example for children. Oh, the hypocrisy! Oh, we should not call that out . Oh sure, you're right, I apologize and leave. I shudder to think what an upcoming violator might experience from this emboldened self-righteous person.

"Those without sin may cast the first stone."

I studied with a self-defense teacher who encouraged us to make up a back-story to excuse irrational confrontations like this so that we could avoid getting emotionally drawn in. For example, in David’s story i might imagine, “oh wow, she’s just walked away from her partner of 20 years, who is abandoning her for a younger lover, after she ‘did everything right’ and sacrificed so much for their relationship... she’s crushed and is snapping at the first rule-breaker she sees...” When i’m with-it enough to apply this, it really helps me meet people with compassion. Or at the very least to offer a contrite apology and walk away.

Sadly i am often pulled in despite my best intentions!

Also, i think it’s important to distinguish between situations like this where the aggressor is technically in the right but milking it for emotional reasons of their own, and the kind of cynical finger-pointing of the bully who’s just gotten hit back after harrassing a classmate all year. That’s a favorite trolling strategy that i encounter live every once in a while, too.

A thought-provoking opinion piece I read last week regarded the conflating of "civility" with "politeness" or "gentility."

Being less evolved, however, I personally still reserve the right to tell some to "f@ck off" when they cross the line with me. After 57 years, I'm still a work in progress.

Good story Dave, but I'm having a hard time trying to picture one bike locked to a rack, taking up the entire rack, which apparently can hold four (4) bikes.  What kind of rack was it?

And I loved " I was  miffed and  felt she was like a booger  I  could not shake off  of the end of my finger. "  Laughing as I read it.

picture the new inverted  U locks  in the loop. Sometimes there are multiple U's with one U next  to  an upside down U next to another U. If  bikes park  perpendicular to the rack four  bikes can park on  each U with one on the outside and one on the inside  of  each vertical  section of the U. This guy parked  across a triple U in a parallel fashion thereby reducing the capacity from six or eight to two or perhaps three bikes. Such  parking  is  fine in lower  volume areas or  at  off  hours but during  business hours in the loop bike  parking spots are  less than bike parking demand.  

I will have to keep an eye out for these, as the only bike racks I've seen (with the exception of the sinusoidal ones) are the standard U shape.  These are designed for two bikes, one on each side.  I've seen people hang their bikes in the middle, but this technique really damages the paint on the down tube.  

I see this too often on some racks in the general vicinity of Dearborn and Monroe. There are some really selfish rack hogs out there.



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