It's Not All About You
I admit it. I hate people. That is, I hate drivers who feel that nothing is as important as their desire to go wherever they want as fast as mechanically possible. They weave, never signal, ride bumpers, and unpredictably slam on their brakes because they follow so closely. Forget about checking blind spots when changing lanes. These people are reckless and dangerous, but when I'm riding a bicycle, they are even more of a threat.
That is what happened last Friday. I was biking through an intersection where I had a green light. When I was through it, a car just ahead of me pulled away from the curb and lurched across my path in the first part of a Y-turn. I slammed on my brakes and avoided a collision, but I was scared for a moment. "Hey! You just about hit me! What are you doing?!" I started to ride away but as an afterthought, I took one last look back at him, still in mid-y-turn, blocking traffic. Maybe I wanted to see if he would offer an apologetic look, which he had not initially done. Instead, I saw that age-old, angry gesture, the one with the finger and the flipping. I thought to myself, "uh uh. No." I wasn't going to let that fly. It seemed like we needed to have a further discussion as to why it was ok for him to not only not just about hit me, but also to be indignant.
When he saw that I was biking back towards him, he flipped. He slammed his car into park, unbuckled his seat belt, and got out of the car, cell phone in hand. He was red with rage and, at least in memory, was practically foaming at the mouth. I thought, ok, maybe it wasn't the brightest decision to move towards this lunatic, but let me see what he has to say. "Look asshole! There wasn't an accident, so if you don't want to make it worse, just keep going." I love it. With a poetic command of brevity he was able to curse me out, say that his horrible driving is only a problem if it causes an accident, and threaten me with physical violence.
"You almost hit me. You gotta watch where you're going."
" [ other select curse words directed at me with more threats] "
At this point I decided we weren't going to jointly solve any of the world's problems, and I really should be moving along. "Hey man, you just have to watch out for people," I said as I rode away. Basically what I was saying was, It's Not All About You. It's a slogan I use when driving. I yell it at people weaving in and out of traffic or following 2 centimeters behind someone else. I think it should be a bumper sticker, along with my other ideas of "Complete Argument Here" and "Bumper Sticker!"
How can a person believe that his current driving trip is so important that the safety of everyone else on the road is secondary, to be disregarded if it means he can get to his destination a little bit faster? I am impatient, believe me, but I can't relate to this mentality at all. We need a social contract: "we the undersigned agree that we will do whatever is in our power to ensure that we all get from point A to point B in a safe, orderly manner."
This guy stuck in my thoughts all evening. He really had a lot anger in him. I hope he has other problems in his life that factor in to his exploding temper, and that a harmless incident with a biker would not immediately accelerate him to Code Red Road Rage. Truthfully, I think he is a bad person. I think he is one of the bad guys. They are out there. Come on, admit it. There are people in the world that are evil, some obviously more so than others.
It was with these cheery thoughts that I sat down to watch a movie that night, a movie which I knew nothing about: Dogville. Have you seen it? If so, you know where I'm going. It's a difficult movie to watch. That is, it demonstrates in naked clarity some of the same things I was already thinking about. People do some shitty things to good people.
There's a culminating scene (warning, spoilers ahead) where Grace (Nicole Kidman) talks to the mobster who turns out to be her father. At first she defends the action of the townspeople, most of whom have waged their evil doings on Grace herself. The father says let them die like the dogs they are. She says "the people who live here are doing their best under very hard circumstances," but we don't believe her. They have abused, raped, betrayed, and completely taken advantage of her. Her words don't sit well with what we've just watched.
But then something changes. The narrator describes it like this: “it was as if the light, previously so merciful and faint, finally refused to cover up for the town any longer. Suddenly you could no longer see the berry appearing on the bush, but only the thorn... All of a sudden she knew that if she had acted like them, she could not have defended a single one of her actions and could not have condemned them harshly enough." [Ultimate spoiler coming...] Grace does a one-hundred-eighty degree turn and agrees to let her father's gang kill everyone in town and burn it to the ground. The odd thing is you don't feel much remorse seeing it happen. But I don't think the film is that simple. Clearly this is not the way to react to all of the bad people out there, from murderers to terrible drivers. Wiping them out isn't the correct response, but what is?
My response might go like this:
Hey asshole in the car pulling out in front of me and then cursing me out, it's not all about you. I concede that you apparently have less of an ability to reign in your evil ways than most people, but if you can't drive from point A to point B without becoming impatient and enraged, or at least, trying not to kill any poor bicyclists, you have, as we say, serious issues. Yes, we're a f*#ked up lot as humans, and even if you are one of the bad guys, I'm not going to kill your family and burn down your house. That is, I suppose, going a little too far. And, no, we don't all have to get along. That would be boring. I'm just saying. It's not all about you. Oh. Good friggin' luck!