Category Archives: Rage

“On Your Left”; beware the rage-induced pedestrian

I nearly killed a bicyclist today. Not on purpose. And probably only would have made her wipe out.

I was walking, all the way to the right, on the pedestrian path near my home. For an hour I had been terrified: struck twice, once by a bike not warning while I was stepping SLIGHTLY around a puddle (not even going into the middle of the right lane) and once by a bike coming the other direction passing a whole mess of other bikes, coming around a tight turn, in a large dip, under a tunnel (honestly I feel that they should have known better not to pass, and there was a solid yellow line). Of the hundred or so bikes that passed us only about 25 people gave a warning. By the end of our “relaxing” walk I was screaming when bikes passed us. And then yelling at them to give warning. I was scared out of my gourd.

I had been holding the Girl’s feet against my body since the second person who didn’t warn us because she was kicking her feet. Personally I feel like her kicking her feet on my back should fall within the personal bubble one should be allotted when on a path, but bikes don’t seem to agree, and there really isn’t time to argue before they take off some of her toes.

So we’re approaching home, I am shaking and pumped on adrenaline. suddenly something is in my line of vision and touching my arm. I reach out and grab it. Because my fight or flight skews toward “fight.” At this point I don’t even know what it is. It’s just HUGE and going to get me and my daughter. Only it’s just two twenty-somethings on their bikes, taking up half the path, so they can chat. Bitches. They weren’t going so fast, which is why her handlebar touching my elbow didn’t hurt, but they still scared the shit out of me and I almost took her down.

Other than nearly pulling that girl down, I don’t think I was doing anything wrong on the path. You are allowed, according to posted rules, to walk two abreast, but not bike. I was not walking two abreast, but wearing my daughter in the Ergo, like a backpack. We certainly didn’t take up the space of two people. All I wanted was warning that you are passing me.

Because when you are passing me you are a lot closer in my mind than you are in yours, you are going a lot faster than me, you can’t see if there is a tiny obstacle I might be stepping around and you are so very very very much bigger than my tiny child. I usually look behind me if I’m going far into the path, but if it’s just a slight step for a larger rock, I’m not going to check. I don’t expect someone to be so close to me that I need to worry. Because I CAN’T hear your bike. Not if there is traffic or a river.

But more than that. Something was happening during┬áthis time: I got more and more angry at each bicyclist. Each one that didn’t warn before passing reinforced my idea that people riding bikes were hostile, rude, insensitive, and dangerous. Thinking about the ingroup/outgroup effect that You Are Not So Smart discussed, I tried to stop my brain from hating anyone on wheels. At the only light, I asked the bike rider waiting “why doesn’t anyone warn on this trail?” (Notice my global thinking? This is one of the ways I can tell I need to catch myself. It’s a clear indication that I am not being honest with myself or my emotions.)

“There are just so many people, it doesn’t seem worthwhile. But I’ve never seen anyone hit on a trail,” he very nicely replied. I could tell by talking with him that this wasn’t someone who disregarded pedestrian lives! He was smiling at my girl and chatting very nicely with me.

“I have,” I said, “my son was hit last year.” He was surprised and asked about it. (It wasn’t on this path, but it was a clear, high visibility bike path, actually, more of a sidewalk than a bike path, with a bike path along the street.) We chatted a little about the weather and how nice it was to live in such a great place that emphasized outdoor space and trails. The light took forever, but it was nice because I was feeling a little better.

Only that short reprieve didn’t seem to cure me completely. Within minutes another bike made me scream. I was still so wound up and terrified someone was really going to hurt my kid.

And everyone who didn’t give me any warning added to the bias I had developed about two-wheeled people. And each individual became part of the group in my head. And each one already knew the awfulness I was going through. Because I stopped being able to see that these were each new people. This person in the purple bike outfit was the same as the person who passed me in the black t-shirt and cargo shorts three minutes ago. At the very least, in my head, they both contained the same knowledge that this was pissing me off and scaring the SHIT out of me.

I was SO jumpy I stepped off the trail to take a breath.

Honestly, I was as afraid of how much I was shaking as much as I was afraid of someone hitting Phalene or me. I had been on edge for awhile, and I know that when I’m stressed for a long time I start getting crazy. And that’s when the girls made me jump and grab at them. I don’t know if meditation will help in these cases. I’ve been told that it will help in the times when I come really close to punching people out or scream when a loose pit bull is NOT threatening my kids and just sniffing my butt. Maybe this is reason to start. If it continues to happen it may be reason to restart therapy.

But, okay, YOU should know that other ACOA and I are out there, ready to take you down if they find you threatening them, especially if they feel you are part of a group that has been threatening them for awhile. Following basic safety considerations can prevent you from scaring someone who may already be ready to snap. My arm is doing better–the large welts calming down–but my heart’s still racing, an hour after I came in, and my hands are feeling weak in that way that comes only after I’ve been frightened and shaky. Or angry. Very very angry. So angry that I cry. …

This isn’t a threat, but you really should know that there are some of us who try our best to hold it together day after day. If you are being rude and we are under stress (which I for one try to keep myself out of) we are going to react a lot differently than normal people. I don’t look like I’m crazy, especially with my other kids around. I certainly don’t look like I’m going to try to take down your bike.

And I’m not. I’m so terrified you’re thinking I think I was right. I would NEVER grab a bike if I knew what it was. All I could see, though, was something WAY too close to my daughter and me at my periphery. Once I realized what I was doing I let go. I yelled “I’m sorry, but can’t you warn? especially when you’re riding unlawfully?” Not helpful. Why? Because she was also scared out of her mind. All she could do was yell back at me that I was a bitch. Because that’s what you do when you’re scared. She’s never going to realize she was wrong. She’s just going to talk about how some walker bitch tried to pull her off her bike. And it is the same fear-induced rage on both sides.