We all make assumptions and mis-communicate. For instance, I got out of bed earlier than I wanted to this morning. I thought I had agreed to buy some notebooks at out local supermarket before my daughter caught a ten o’clock train. The discussion had happened during our evening meal so my wife was there too. It turns out she had taken our daughter last night so there was no need for my early rise. It would have helped if I had figured out during our meal what I was going to do and announced it, but I didn’t know my decision then. Somehow that happened overnight. I am usually a slow burn when it comes to decisions.
That was not the case yesterday during my trip to work. Tinged by depression, I was pleased to convince myself to ride my bike into work. There are some up-hill bits where I can push my muscles and the speed gained on the down-hills can elicit some excitement/fear. In short, cycling helps me feel more alive. For a short time at least. Once I hit town though, it is more waiting at traffic lights than anything else (yes I am one of those cyclists that obeys the rules of the road, even though some traffic light sensors do not seem to pick up my profile). I had reached the block where my office is situated. I was behind maybe six vehicles. The light was red. I know from experience that maybe three cars would make it through before the green light switches to back to red. This combines with the priority at this intersection to traffic going perpendicular to my direction.
Normally I don’t mind waiting when it isn’t raining. I get off my saddle and watch the world go by. I do this too when it is raining, it’s that I will moan about it afterwards. Yesterday though I was late due to a broken nightmare filled sleep and thus a late start. So I decided to cycle over to the bus stop, get off my bike and walk along the pavement. As I turned the corner I was reminded that the building next to ours was covered in scaffolding. I decided to walk outside the scaffolding to avoid getting caught up with pedestrians coming the other way. Having negotiated a lamppost by walking into the road, I saw an man cross the road and held towards me. Instead of going through the scaffold tunnel as I expected, he followed the same line as I was taking, walking outside the scaffolding. Strange but there was room to get passed. As we passed he said, “It’s illegal to walk on the pavement with your bike son. You should be in the road.”
We both continued walking, but I am sad to say that indignant rage kicked in on my part. I questioned his subject matter. I told him he was ridiculous. And as we left the scaffolding area, I questioned his sanity. I could have handled it better. I am not sure it was an appropriate time to lose my emotion control. I did however make quick decisions and express myself out loud, which is unusual on both counts.
In the office, a colleague asked me how I was. I told her I was disturbed and described the discussion about walking bikes on pavements. I guess I got all my indignation out. I think there was a bit of me at the time that knew this was a comment that I could leave floating off into the universe. I didn’t need to engage with it. I did though. Talking through the situation also allowed me to think about the conversation and its meaning. I think the man was trying to tell me that he would have liked me to give him more space. I wonder whether he had avoided walking under the scaffold because he lived by the “you don’t walk under ladders” philosophy in case somebody drops something on you. I wonder if he saw me as a thoughtless youth breaking the law, rather than a middle-aged man trying to be considerate and keep to the law.
The positive experience is that by talking all this through with my colleague I found a kind of peace. Yes the indignation still echoes in my head but it is now only a small grey cloud heading for the horizon behind me but it is nothing compared to the obsessive repeat that was going on in my head when I walked into the office yesterday. It is good to be genuine when somebody asks you how you are. Well, it is sometimes anyway.