I made the mistake of running during Monday morning rush hour this week. In a span of 20 minutes, distracted drivers narrowly avoided hitting me five separate times. (A sixth such driver was shaving at a red light. Luckily, he was on the other side of the street.)
One driver readily admitted, after I yelled “Pay attention!” at his open window, that he didn’t see me. Another was too busy munching on a breakfast bar to acknowledge that he didn’t see me and probably still hasn’t seen me, a day and a half later. The others were making right turns and neglected to look for pedestrians in the crosswalk before inching forward.
At first, I was mad as hell. I’m still mad, mind you, but I’ve come to a Zen sort of conclusion. (It won’t sound Zen at first, but trust me.)
People are douchebags. People are also morons. Yelling at them while they are driving and not respecting your right to share the road with them isn’t going to suddenly turn them into MIT-bound saints. It’ll probably just piss them off -- or, if they really are morons, confuse them.
Instead, do what I did in the remaining few miles of my run this week: Pause. Make sure the driver sees you. If he or she lets you go, give ‘em a friendly wave. If not, put your head down, curse to yourself (not to them) and use the adrenaline burst to make up the whole five seconds of time you have lost.
By waiting for cars, even when we’re on crosswalks, are we letting the douchebags win? I suppose. But are battle scars from a fight on the side of the road or, worse, months in a wheelchair after a car accident really worth proving a point? Runners, by their very nature, are stubborn people -- but we also all have partners, spouses, pets, children, jobs and friends to come home to.
Earlier this summer, I said no run is worth a trip to the hospital. The context then was running in the heat and humidity. The context now is different, but the message is the same. Sometimes, even when you’re right, it’s not worth fighting -- especially if it’s a fight you’re pretty much guaranteed to lose.