So after a few aggravating episodes whilst out for a bike ride, I decided finally to vent my frustrations here. I mean, what better way to end the month of August than with a little misanthropy, eh? Anyway, below are a few things that people do on bike paths that piss me off and simultaneously make me question the validity of Darwin's postulation about the survival of the fittest (obviously if these people keep seeing sunrises and sunsets, there must be something awry in said theory).
I. PEOPLE WHO RIDE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PATH AND/OR MEANDER CASUALLY FROM SIDE TO SIDE
The last time I checked, there hasn't been a biological holocaust nor has some epic world war wiped out the global population. As such, you, person who rides slowly in the middle of the path, are not the only person left alive. With that said, there is a statistically significant probability that, at some point, SOMEONE ELSE will appear magically behind you and wish to pass. Were you to follow the so-called "rules of the road" (more on that in a moment), then there wouldn't be an issue. Since you're electing to be a douche, however, you force the other rider(s) a) to slow their progress, b) to take evasive defensive riding maneuvers, and c) to shout out to your dumb ass to try to get your attention.
See, the frustrating part is that there is a logical chain here that would render this issue moot if people only made the synapse connections. Riding a bike is more like a car than walking simply because a) it is a machine and b) you can easily reach speeds that a car can match but not a runner. Ergo, bike riders should follow the same rules of driving. Think of it this way: if a bike path is like a roadway, then you can imagine that the center of said path is just like the double yellow lines on said roadway. I would like to think that most people don't drive along the yellow lines and opt instead to stay to one side (usually the one on the right, at least in the United States). This ensures that you won't collide with other drivers/riders and it renders your progress both safe and predictable (predictability being a requisite part of safe travel whilst driving/riding). Following the "keep right, pass left" imperative that most states employ makes the whole thing even easier because it removes the guesswork on the part of the person looking to pass. If, however, you're listing slowly from one side to the other, you're more like an intoxicated driver, which, by its very nature, is unpredictable (thus increasing the danger factor exponentially).
Bottom line: stay the fuck to one side!
II. PEOPLE USING CELL PHONES WHILE RIDING BIKES
I shit you not, the other day I was riding along the Henry Hudson Trail when I saw a kid coming towards me on a bike. He was riding with one hand and with the other he was texting with his face about a foot away from the phone. As he rode, he started to veer right towards me. If I had been able to think more quickly, I would've just moved out of the way and let the fucker crash into a tree but instead I gave him a deep-throated "YO," which, unsurprisingly, startled the shit out of him.
Seriously? WHILE YOU'RE RIDING A GODDAMN BIKE!? I think it's people like this kid (and the others that I've seen) that make me doubt Darwin the most. I can only pray for some sort of strange malignancy that affects people who text and drive/ride without causing any harm to the rest of us.
Bottom line: please don't procreate.
III. PEOPLE WEARING HEADPHONES ON A SHARED PATHWAY/ PEOPLE WHO WALK ON THE WRONG SIDE
I'm all about sharing the path with pedestrians but there's a reason there are designated lanes for pedestrians and for cyclists. I used to HATE riding along the beach in Staten Island because it never failed that people would walk on the wrong path. There's a reason there is an enormous depiction of a person on a bike painted onto the fucking path, assholes! Aside from the fact that, when there is a pedestrian path, it's usually on some sort of walkway/roadway that also has an enormous, undesignated stretch that is unofficially for pedestrians in the first place. So basically, cyclists get approximately three feet of asphalt while walkers get the remaining ninety-plus percent. And then they have the balls to cop an attitude when you chide them for walking in the ONE PLACE SET ASIDE FOR BIKE RIDERS!
At least with those people, you can call out and let them know that you're behind them. The worst ones are the people wearing headphones (whether they're walking or riding a bike, and particularly on smaller shared paths like the Henry Hudson Trail) because they can't hear you! Invariably, when you pass them, they have this insanely overdramatic reaction of shock and surprise, which is often followed with some sort of expletive or commentary, regardless of how far away you are from them when you pass. Don't get me wrong--I've seen some real pricks who will buzz them as they pass just to drive home the point and, frankly, they're even bigger assholes than the headphone-wearers.
Bottom line: pay attention to where you're walking!
IV. PEOPLE WHO WALK/RIDE THREE-WIDE AND TAKE UP THE BULK OF THE PATH
Listen, I get that you're out for a stroll/ride with your friends or family and you're looking to enjoy that camaraderie as you go, but how inconsiderate do you have to be to walk in a goddamn chorus line where you're taking up the entire path so that no one can pass you? There's no reason for it, especially since the third person is probably an unwanted, superfluous wheel who was only invited out of pity in the first place! You're on a shared, public pathway, not some private thoroughfare! It's a bike path, not the goddamn yellow-brick road and you brain dead assholes sure as hell aren't on your way to see the wizard.
Bottom line: share the road!
V. PEOPLE WHO STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PATHWAY
This one applies mostly to other cyclists but there are plenty of pedestrians who do it too. Why in God's good name do you feel compelled to take a break or to make some sort of pitstop IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PATH!? Pull the fuck over to the side! I'm a defensive rider in general, which is a good thing because about twenty minutes after I almost got hit by the kid on the cell phone, I reached a blind curve and had my spider sense go off. Two assholes decided to take a break RIGHT around the bend and RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PATH! One guy's straddling his bike, sipping some water and the other jerkoff has his bike laid down on path and he's sitting next to it! There were grass embankments on BOTH sides!!! UGH!
Bottom line: This.
VI. PEOPLE WITH DOGS THAT AREN'T ON A LEASH
This one is a touchy subject for a lot of people (and by a lot of people, I mean a lot of dog owners) and I have some equally strong views. Let me say right up front that I do not have a problem with dogs. Out of all of the possible pets, dogs are without a doubt my favorite. I've always wanted either a German Shepherd or a Husky, so it's not like I'm one of those "pets are dangerous" people. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that pet owners are the dangerous ones simply because of their arrogance or lack of common sense.
See, here's the thing: many pet owners seem to assume that everyone else loves animals (or their particular type of animal) or is as comfortable around animals just as much as they do/are. As such, when they leave their dog off of the leash out in public (whatever they do on their own property is their own business, as long as the dog can't get out onto the sidewalk/street), they're assuming that anyone passing by will have a particular, homogenous reaction to their pet. The problem is many-fold but the most salient parts are that a) they assume that they know EXACTLY how that dog is going to react to EVERY SINGLE PERSON that will pass by (thus the aforementioned arrogance) and b) they assume that every person who passes by is comfortable with dogs.
I can't tell you how many times I've been out for walks with my son in the stroller and I saw a dog off a leash hanging out in someone's unfenced yard. I'd say in more than half of the instances, when we were close enough, that dog suddenly bolted towards us. The owner would yell the dog's name and tell it to get back over there (completely ineffective pack leadership) but by then, the dog would already be near the stroller. Now, for me, I have only one responsibility in this case and that's to protect my son. I don't know your dog and I don't know if (s)he is friendly or not. All I know is that the fucking thing is running towards me and I will have only a split second to decide whether or not I'm kicking it in the teeth (which I would do only if it posed a threat to my son).
Worse, still, is when we're out and Timmy isn't in a stroller. One day we were walking up the block in Staten Island and these two vicious little dogs were running around while their owner was speaking with another neighbor. I had had them nip at my ankles enough times to assume how they would react (ironic, I know) when we approached. Sure enough, as soon as they spotted Timmy, they shot right towards him. I scooped him up just as they got to within a few feet of him. The owner stops his conversation and calls them back. Livid, I told him that he should have the fucking dogs on a leash to which he responds (I shit you not):, "Ah, don't worry. They're my dogs." I was flabbergasted, mostly because of the horrific logic implied in what he said. I told him that that was great and that I'm sure if those dogs bit my kid, that the judge would throw the case out based on that fact alone.
Again, it's the arrogance of these dog owners that pisses me off. I don't care if you've had your dog for fifteen fucking years, you do NOT know how it is going to react in a given situation! In fact, the LONGER you've HAD the dog, the more likely you are NOT to know. It's a dog--an animal! You don't know what it's thinking or feeling, or, more specifically, what's going to set it off. What if my wife is wearing a perfume that makes the dog freak out? What if it runs over to my kid who moves his arms too quickly, startling the dog and causing it to bite? I don't care if that dog has reacted the same way in 1,000 similar instances--all it takes is one attack a) to potentially scar a kid for life and b) to warrant putting that dog down.
The best is the "Oh, (s)he's friendly!" line that many dog owners use when their animal is rocketing towards or jumping all over you. How's this for a response? I DON'T GIVE A SHIT. And one more: THAT'S NOT THE POINT! Inherent in that train of thought is the assumption that the person likes dogs or is comfortable with them. I don't give a shit if your dog is the friendliest fucking mutt on the face of the planet, I shouldn't have to have that moment of worry when it comes tearing towards me, making me wonder whether or not it's going to attack me. That's why they have dog runs.
The bottom line: if you're in a public place, ESPECIALLY with people riding bikes, keep the goddamn dog on a leash!
Friday, August 31, 2012
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Over the past two years, my wife and I have been blessed with two fruitful pregnancies. Consequently, we've also experienced a number of things as parents and parents-to-be that have proved to be anything from mildly obnoxious to inexcusably offensive. It seems like there's something about pregnant women and small children that flip on some type of idiot switch inside the brains of many people. In an effort to assuage the anger and frustration that comes from these confrontations (and to warn any friends who are expecting children or for whom pregnancy is on the horizon), here is a list of the types of situations that my wife and I have encountered either during her pregnancies or afterwards with our children.
Everything that I am about to say pertains ONLY to strangers and to people with whom we have only a passing association (co-workers, acquaintances, basically anyone that we wouldn't consider friends). If you're a friend or a family member, even if you've done something below, it doesn't apply to you because what makes the situations annoying is the fact that these people DON'T know us; for friends and family, it's all good because there's no confusion with regards to your respective intentions.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR STRANGERS INTERACTING WITH PREGNANT WOMEN, INFANTS, AND SMALL CHILDREN
I. THOU SHALT NOT ASKETH THE NAME OF THE UNBORN CHILD
The naming of a child is usually a very personal, cherished thing. Many times, prospective parents elect to honor someone in the family either with a first or middle name; others, the child's name has some other intrinsic meaning that is of the utmost importance to one or both parents. With that said, there is a vulnerability attached to the revelation of the name. When a complete stranger or vague acquaintance asks the parent if they've picked out a name, they're simultaneously putting that person on the spot. What they don't realize is that, by asking, they're opening up the parent to potential judgment. Now, with friends and family, there really isn't any judgment because they will ultimately have some involvement in the child's life. For a perfect stranger, co-worker, or acquaintance, that level of involvement is greatly diminished.
I'm sure most people are either being polite or curious in asking and, to some, the issue here might be a bit cloudy. The problem, though, is that not everyone will say "Oh, that's a lovely name" or something else that's equally innocuous. Sometimes, they will pass judgment and make a comment directly about the name or, the one that kills me, they will say "I don't like that name." Oh, really? Well go fuck yourself! It ain't your kid and no one gives a shit whether or not you approve.
I understand the irony here though that something said by someone who ultimately does not matter in terms of your child's life shouldn't have so powerful an impact on you but I would counter with this: how would you feel if you're on the train, wearing a favorite article of clothing, and a complete stranger comes up to you and says, "That shirt/blouse/jacket/pair of whatever is ugly." I would imagine that it would sting most people since not everyone has climbed to the top of Maslow's pyramid.
Ultimately, if the parents want you to know the name of the baby, they'll volunteer the information. If you're asking just to be polite, you're actually not achieving your goal. And if you're just nosy or overly curious? Mind your own business.
II. THOU SHALT NOT PROGNOSTICATE THE GENDER OF THE UNBORN CHILD
For some ungodly reason, many people seem inclined to speculate as to the sex of the baby whilst it is still in utero. Most rationalize their positions with old wives' tales or other bits of superstition but some simply do it based on a hunch (thanks for being wrong both times, Dr. H!). Ultimately, the problem here is that you're unintentionally either stoking the fire of the parents' desire for a particular outcome or you're dampening their excitement by positing the opposite. You're also putting the mother in an awkward position because she then has to respond to whatever ill-conceived logic you're employing with your guess. Believe me, if you think she's having a boy/girl because she's carrying high/low, she's heard the opposite position an equal number of times. If you have the audacity to say something like, "You're having a girl. Girls drain your beauty." then you're oblivious to your inconsideration and you should be shot.
III. THOU SHALT NOT ASKETH THE PARENTS WHICH SEX THEY DESIRE
Another one of those "just being polite" or "asking this because I feel like I'm supposed to" questions is what sex the parents are hoping for. The trend these days seems to be to skirt the issue by saying something like, "We don't care--we just want a healthy baby!" or some other trite bullshit. I will admit readily that my wife and I both said such things in response during her first pregnancy, mostly because we didn't want to jinx the outcome. Superstition aside, it's none of your goddamn business what a given parent wants and they shouldn't have to proffer a response that makes them uncomfortable. I'm guessing that a lot of parents feel uncomfortable given the number of responses similar to the one I mentioned earlier that I overhear. Who wants to say that they want a boy when they wind up having a daughter, or vice versa?
IV. THOU SHALT NOT COMMENTETH UPON THE MOTHER'S WEIGHT GAIN
I wish I was making this shit up but I'm not: people actually did this to Heather. I can't even fathom the complete and utter lack of decorum that some people have or what type of fucked up logic would lead them to pass judgment/commentary on a woman with a life growing inside of her. The fact that they don't see anything wrong with saying something like, "Wow. You're getting big!" boggles my mind. The fact that someone had the gall to say to Heather, "I'm glad you told me you were pregnant. I thought you were just having a hard time getting rid of the baby weight from your other pregnancy." infuriates me.
And just as a side note, straight up: there's never a situation in which it's okay to comment on someone's weight gain. I don't even like when people say, "Wow! You've lost weight!" because the implication there is "Boy! You were fat!". Many people dealt with being made fun of for their weight when they were in school (myself included) and so it leaves me scratching my head that these same people think nothing of making the same comments as adults that were made about them when they were kids. I hate it when it's people I'm not close to who say shit but it pisses me off even more when it's a friend or a close friend. You don't know what that person had going on in their lives that led to their weight gain/loss, so making a crack or passing judgment on it without that knowledge just makes you look like an asshole and, for me, it's a surefire way to end whatever conversation we were having and making me want to punch you in the face. To say shit like that to a pregnant woman, though? Repugnant.
V. THOU SHALT NOT TOUCH THE BABY BUMP WITHOUT ASKING
This one might be number five numerically speaking but it's probably the most important one overall. I don't get what it is about a pregnant woman's belly that makes complete strangers lose their fucking minds but it seems to. First of all, (speaking from the expectant mother's perspective), I don't fucking know you so how dare you touch me. Second of all, I have the most delicate thing in the world (for a human) growing inside of me, and you're going to lay your fucking hands on me? It's bad enough when strangers ask if they can touch the belly but to just out and out do it? It's grounds for getting your face dented, friend.
What gets me the most about this though is the lack of consideration and thought given for the reciprocal situation. How would you feel if I just rubbed your stomach without asking you? If you don't know my wife then keep your goddamn hands to yourself.
VI. THOU SHALT NOT COMMENT ON OR MAKE JOKES ABOUT THE DISTANCE TO THE HOSPITAL
This one probably pertains only to us and few others but it was still something that made me want to choke people out. I cannot tell you how many people asked us where we lived and what hospital we were delivering at/where the hospital was, only to follow with an IMMEDIATE asinine comment. Here's a sample of what we heard over and over and over and over and over and over again:
"Oh boy! That's faaaaaaaaaaar!"
"You'll never make it."
"Wow! Good luck making it to the hospital!"
"That baby's going to be born in the car!"
"That baby's going to be born on the bridge!"
"That baby's going to be born on the Belt Parkway!"
"We're taking a pool about which exit the baby will be born at."
"You're crazy. You couldn't find a closer hospital?"
Not that it warrants any explanation on my part but we chose to use the hospital in Long Island because of how comfortable we were with the doctors and the facilities. The fact that we moved when Heather was seven months pregnant to a place that put us even further way was something that we had no control over; we found the perfect house for us and we did what we had to do. All of those comments did nothing positive for us and served only to add more stress to an already full plate, especially since they were in reference to something that, again, we had no control over. Heather wanted HER doctor to deliver the baby and not to have to start fresh with a completely new set of doctors in an unfamiliar place and a hospital that we didn't have an intimate knowledge of.
VII. THOU SHALT NOT COMMENT ON THE GIRTH OF THE CHILD
We never really had this much with Timmy but people seem to love to comment on how chubby (or fat, as some people seem wont to say) a baby is. Among other things, such a comment tells you right away that this person doesn't have children and, more than likely, has had little interaction with them. Babies (especially boys) grow like Christmas trees: they get thick and then suddenly shoot up and slim down before repeating the process. It's one thing to talk about how cute the kid looks as a result of their rotundity but it's something completely different to pass judgment on his or her appearance. Plus, how chubby a baby is (for the most part--we're not talking Honey Boo Boo here) is NOT an indicator of how healthy the kid is. Some infants can't put on weight while others look like Augustus Gloop. Saying that a baby is fat or chubby makes you look like an inconsiderate asshole, which is fine because that's probably precisely what you are!
VIII. THOU SHALT NOT LAYETH A HAND UPON MY CHILD
I've had to use some insane restraint on my part as a result of this. You're a friend or a family member? Play with my kid all you want. You're a complete stranger at the supermarket or at Target/Wal*Mart/etc.? Keep your fucking hands to yourself. Again, I don't know what it is about small children that makes a complete stranger think that it's okay to lay a hand on them! First of all, when you reach down and either touch a small child's hands or tousle their hair, you're completely destroying their right to personal space. You wouldn't like it if I just reached out and did the same thing to you or to your kid, so just what in the hell makes you think that it's permissible for you to touch my child? In fact, let's say that YOU had a kid with you (which has happened a few times). You're telling me that you'd be completely cool with me reaching out and stroking your thirteen year old daughter's hair? "Oh, that's different." You're damn right it is! That girl would have the ability to say no and to defend herself from an unwanted encounter. A two year old? Not so much.
It also doesn't matter how old the person is. In fact, for some strange reason, older, elderly folks seem to be the most inclined to touch small children. I'm sure that it has something to do with their reminiscing of or appreciation for youth but it sure as hell doesn't make it any more acceptable. People seem to think that just because these people are older that they're harmless--that something about their white haired appearance automatically renders them sweet and gentle.
IX. THOU SHALT NOT OFFERETH MY CHILD ANYTHING WITHOUT ASKING ME FIRST
Some people must have miswired neural pathways. What would lead them to give something to a child that they do not know--especially something edible--is beyond my ability to comprehend. Aside from the fact that it's rude (you're usurping the power role of the parent), it's just fucking stupid! You ask the kid's parent if you just absolutely cannot control your urge or, better yet, you mind your own fucking business and keep your creepy candy to yourself.
Besides--everybody knows that you put razorblades in your apples on Halloween!
X. THOU SHALT NOT SPECULATE AS TO WHICH PARENT THE CHILD RESEMBLES MORE
This is another thing that people just seem compelled to do when they see a newborn. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Oh he's his mother's/father's son!" along with all of the various facial features "Oh he has his mother's/father's nose/eyes/ears/lips." Gee, how about this? Maybe the baby looks like himself or herself! Who gives a shit which parent he or she looks more like? I don't know what it is that drives people to make such dopey ass comments but I can tell you that they have no idea of how annoying it is and how obnoxious it is to be alienated. Being told to your face, "Sorry dad--but he looks NOTHING like you" (that actually happened. Twice.) does absolutely nothing for your self-esteem. Plus, what the hell are you supposed to say in response? "Thanks?" Having such comments flung at you repeatedly makes you feel diminished and just out and out embarrassed after awhile.