Reprinted from my Times Union blog.
I’m riding my bicycle to work earlier in the month, obeying all traffic laws. When I get onto the main drag, I heard this yelling behind me. There was this yahoo in the shotgun seat of the car, screaming some unintelligible thing to me. Well, not exactly IN the seat, but with his torso halfway out of the window. It wasn’t angry yelling, it had the mocking and somewhat crazed tone of Woody Woodpecker. Since I wasn’t in the car’s way, I can only surmise it was some sort of comment about… well, I’d be speculating.
This isn’t the first time this has happened. Once it took place on Western Avenue, but the car stopped at a traffic light, and I caught up with the auto. The car’s passenger and the guy nervously said, “Heh, heh, I was just kidding, man.” But the recent guy was too far away to bother with.
Five seconds later, some guy on the sidewalk, witnessing this interaction, starts jabbering at me, and the only word I heard clearly was what polite society calls the N-word. I had neither the time nor inclination to deal with him and rode off.
In the words of Alice’s Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie, “But that’s not what I came to tell you about. Came to talk about…”
When you’re in a situation in which someone has said or did something wrong to you, and you don’t have the opportunity and/or the desire to respond in kind, what mechanism do YOU use to get past the incident?
Mine came to me about thirty years ago, when I bought the album Keep On Doing by the Roches, produced by Robert Fripp. The last track is Keep On Doing What You Do/Jerks On The Loose, written by Terre and Suzzy Roche. I could only find a live version of the song.
Here are some of the lyrics:
Look who did it to you
Joker over there with nothing to do
Don’t let ’em get through
Keep on Doing what you do
Why don’t you listen to my little pep talk
Instead of what that person said
And now I’m gonna open up the window
And you will come in off that ledge
You work too hard to take this abuse
Be on your guard jerks on the loose
When someone, or several someones, say and do stuff that I think is crazy, I can yell and scream at them, but I have found this to be singularly unhelpful in getting rid of my frustration. It just doesn’t make me feel better, but rather, gives me the sense that I’m as out of control as they are.
Instead, I say to myself, usually shaking my head sadly, “Jerks on the loose.” If it’s one of those drivers going through an Albany green light (i.e., red for less than five seconds) and almost kills someone, I might say, “Be on your guard; jerks on the loose.” SO much better for my blood pressure.
This doesn’t mean I NEVER succumb to a bit of ire, but often I find there’s a better way.