Friday, July 4, 2008

This Could Get Nasty

I was riding my bicycle on a bunch of work-related errands yesterday. I was in a small shopping plaza, riding down the strip of stores along the edge of the fire lane out front. A guy in a dirty Mercedes SUV zoomed up and drove right behind me getting closer and closer. He was approaching so rapidly and closely that I felt compelled to put out my left hand to signal my intention to pull to the sidewalk in from of the stores. As he passed within just a few feet of me he yelled something at me about "Why didn't you tell me what you were doing?" I yelled back "That's what the hand signal was for!" Now this was a quiet little parking lot on a bright sunny morning. There was plenty of room for him to drive around me or simply slow down. As he pulled over to park (illegally in the fire lane) I heard him squabbling with a woman in the car and saying something about "I'll wrap that damn bicycle around his neck." This guy was clearly just fundamentally annoyed that a bicycle should in any way disrupt his happy motoring.

This is the sort of thing that would have upset me when I was younger, but now I just find it amazing. Every now and then I encounter behavior that is irrational and bewildering. It would be amusing if it wasn't so troubling. This episode got me to thinking. I fear that, as times get harder, we will see more and more selfish and anti-social behavior as people squabble over the scraps.

Just yesterday, I heard a story about people stealing manhole covers (Below-the-street utility worker access hole covers, if you prefer.) for their value as scrap metal. Can you imagine, opening a hole in the road that could lead to serious damage and even death for a couple of bucks? Stories about thieves stripping copper pipes from basements and copper roofs from churches are common. In some places, motorists are puncturing the gas tanks of their neighbor's cars to let the fuel drain into cans.

As more people start feeling angry, confused, cheated, fearful or neglected as they witness their American dreams crumbling around them, I worry that we will see more and more bad behavior.

Let's stick together people! We're all in this together.

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