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Monday Madness

Posted Nov 14 2011 7:52pm
It's precisely 6:37 a.m. on a coldish November Monday morning. I am running my usual Monday morning loop which is a mix of roads and trails. I use the roads to hook up the somewhat disjointed trail system that weaves through eastern Boulder County. The trails are quiet and peaceful at this hour. The darkness and cold weather has reduced the bike commuter traffic considerably (wimpy cyclists;) and so I enjoy getting lost in my thoughts and listening to the robins wake up. I reach Niwot, a cut little bedroom community just northeast of Boulder. Most of the streets are wide and open and sidewalks are few and far between.

I'm running, always against the traffic, on a particularly quiet street when a jeep approaches me. Her right wheels are about 6 inches from the curb (no exaggeration) and she is most certainly exceeding the posted speed limit. As she gets closer she does not swerve from her course until the very last minute, right before she almost runs me down. I look at her, undoubtedly, with an expression of surprise and disgust, and see her vehemently gesticulating. Her arm flails around as her finger points hard in the direction of the sidewalk. Hmmm, I suppose she feels very strongly that I should be on the sidewalk.

Apparently her anger at me is worth possibly killing me. I do what I can. I jump out of the way (yes, onto the sidewalk) and, of course, gesture back.  It was clear that she had me in her sights two blocks away. What could she have been think? What is she REALLY angry about?  I'm not in her way. We are the only two creatures anywhere in sight. The road is wide and open. But she is so spitting-mad at me.

Well, good morning to you too! 

Farther along, at every street crossing, the cars seem to be gunning for me. Is it just me, or is something up?  What's with all the anger? Is it just another Monday morning and you're hating your life, so you take it out on me? Man, just go for a run!

I find that the angry streets just keep getting angrier - whether I'm running or driving or biking. And it has, most certainly, gotten worse over the past 30 years. And, there seems to be a pecking order, of sorts, at work:  the car threatens to run down the bike and the runner. And bike, sometimes, threatens to run down the runner. It's like picking on the kid who's smaller than you on the playground. I believe that there's a sense of anonymity that people feel when they're moving quickly on some sort of machine and that seems to embolden people to act badly. Interesting, Colorado cyclists have the "Bicycle Safety Law" which require cars to give cyclist 3 feet of space when passing - this law does not apply to runners (or any pedestrians). So I suppose that woman in the the Jeep had every legal right to practically run over my toes.

But what's the point of all this anger and animosity? Am I annoying people because I'm out running? Clearly I'm not interfering with their plans, their lives, their comings and goings. And yet, my very presence seems to have annoyed the hell out of this poor woman.

In 399 BCE Socrates was convicted and condemned to death, ostensibly for asking difficult questions and challenging his fellow Athenians to live better lives. He did this simply by living his life - he lived according to his values and firmly held beliefs about what a valuable human life entailed. Before he is led off to drink his hemlock cocktail he warns his accusers that killing those who challenge them and their ideas and their judgements, or ask them to account for themselves and their actions, will only cause more problems and solves nothing:  
"...that is not a way of escape which is either possible or honorable; the easiest and noblest way is not to be crushing others, but to be improving yourselves."
It was this quote that came to mind when this woman pretty much tried to crush me. She's not the first to do so, nor will she be the last. And, all those people who tried to run me over on this beautiful fall morning went on their not-so-merry way, to spread more of the same, no doubt. All I can possibly say to all of them is: For heaven sake, just go for a run! You'll feel better and you won't feel the need to run me over next time we cross paths.

Make yourselves happy, and let the rest of us do the same. Better yet, why don't we all encourage everyone to do the same. Smile when you run. It sets good example.

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