It was 10:30 p.m. I had decided to challenge myself with a 12 mile bike ride home from the northernmost Chicago el stop. I was riding in the street because it was far better lit than the sidewalks. Which is a totally legal thing for me to do. I was coaching myself along because riding home late at night was a bit outside of my comfort zone. Out of nowhere, a man shouted, “GET OFF THE ROAD!” I almost fell over. He scared the living daylights out of me.
This was the second time that week that someone had shouted at me as I was innocently biking along. Earlier in the week, a man shouted, “GET ON THE SIDEWALK!” Of course there where no sidewalks. And I told him so when I shouted back. Which I am totally sure he heard. <sarcasm>
Both of these incidents had me wondering what it was in my behavior that inspired these people to be so angry and hostile. Were they just not good at sharing the road? Were they in a hurry and was I slowing them down? In any case, they acted like they did in fact, own the road and I was in their way.
My experiences with these rude drivers were just demonstrations to me that we have become a country of narcissists. So many people believe that everything and everyone around them should accommodate them. That they should not have to be inconvenienced by other people. I have certainly witnessed it often in our far too rich for their own good suburban area.
It’s incredibly annoying to deal with people who think the planets and the sun all revolve around them. But I also think there are larger consequences to this attitude than just being annoying to the rest of us. People who are narcissists don’t believe in being responsible for their behavior, which leads to their not understanding the connection between their behavior and the consequences of their behavior. I believe this lack of understanding has at least some of its roots in parents constantly telling kids how talented and brilliant they are and calling to bail kids out every time they get into trouble. Ultimately, it leads to drivers on the road yelling at bikers like me because they don’t like that I have inconvenienced them.
I remember watching a Saturday Night Live spoof called, You Can Do Anything! Guests come on the show and perform, doing things they have never done, just because. They receive unquestioned support and applause. The guests say ironic and revealing things like, “No one is ever honest with me about how mediocre I am,” and “I tried and therefore no one should criticize me.” We are so eager to protect children now that we limit their ability to function in the world. Self-esteem has become a reason never to tell our kids they have messed up. Once they grow up, these same people don’t have the ability to understand and accept their role when things go badly for them. Sadly, this lack of introspection means that they aren’t using their failures as learning opportunities to change and grow and improve as human beings.
My hope is that, over time, people will get fed up with this behavior and tell people to knock it off. It means we will need to hold people responsible for their actions. Especially our children. We can do this respectfully and kindly, without shaming anyone. But we must do it.
We also must think about our own role in relationships, jobs, and other experiences that don’t go well. Taking some time when we fail at something, to figure out why what we did, didn’t work. Even if we have a horrible boss, we can almost always find ways in which we played a role in getting fired. Working at understanding what that role is will help us with the next job, the next relationship, or any of our next experiences.
Ultimately, if enough people do this, my bike rides will get a little more pleasant. Because after all, it really is all about me.