There was a time when people behaving badly could ruin my day and my mood, and lead me to behave in a way that would have a domino effect. Just ask Beth.
I’ll never be accused of being a Zen master, but over time, things have improved. Some of it has been a conscious effort—breathing and self-coaching. And, harnessing the negative force for the good—Nobody is going to ruin my day). A lot, I think, is simply aging and mellowing.
Still, there are days. This past weekend, Beth and I took a tandem bicycle ride. We took it on a weekend afternoon on a beautiful day. That may sound like it made sense, but we’re talking about the lakefront bicycle path, which is a lovely route along Lake Michigan. But, on busy days, it’s like this: Think of every entitled, self-absorbed, selfish and irresponsible behavior you’ve ever seen—happening in sequence, and repeating.
It’s equal opportunity with bicyclists, walkers, and parents with those enormous Humvee-size child strollers all doing their best to endanger everyone else, without having the first clue that they are.
There was the bicyclist riding at speed (on a Divvy bike) on a crowded Randolph Street sidewalk (today’s human being lesson for her: When you’re on the sidewalk, walk the damn bike).
The little family of four who rented the not-so-little bicycle for four (where they sit two-by-two and the thing occupies both lanes of the path), peddling leisurely and not so much as trying to give way other traffic.
The dog walkers with a little yip dog and a really big black mutt that leapt high into the air and toward each bike as it passed.
The distinguished elderly gentleman who liked to whip his cane in circles, a la Charlie Chaplin, every once in awhile.
The wandering, three- and four- abreast walkers who somehow don’t see the WALKING PATH, DEDICATED TO WALKERS, about 20 yards CLOSER TO THE LAKE.
And the young man, who, as he pedaled out of the part of the path that circles the Shedd Aquarium, wasn’t paying attention where close attention must be paid. He weaved into our lane and almost took out the bicyclist in front of us. He somehow stayed on two wheels as he whipsawed the bike back into his lane just in time. And as we passed, I saw the problem: He was staring at his cell phone.
Words were spoken.
After our ride, we walked to this year’s Chicago Jazz Festival at Millennium Park. Big crowds—all civilized and well behaved—maybe it’s the jazz? We drank a cold beer in the fresh air. We ran into friends who invited us to sit with them, and we saw a terrific act—the Victor Garcia Organ Septet.
Happy Mike was back!
Walking home, we were about to cross a seemingly quiet Wabash Avenue. The light was about to change our way, but I halted and saw headlights oh, about a block south of us. I stopped with Beth on my arm. The roar of the Mercedes sedan’s engine rose explosively fast and the car blew through the intersection, not catching the yellow, at what I’d put at 45-50 mph.
Next thing, we heard the squeal of tires as the cretin driver slammed on the brakes before the next block.
I spent the rest of the short walk home stuffing cranky Mike back into his box.
After that, we took a short but luxurious nap, assembled a picnic to go, grabbed the camp chairs, and it was off to SummerDance to see the Fat Babies.
There we ran into Ellen and Ulrich Sandmeyer, who operate the gem of Printers Row: Sandmeyer’s Bookstore. We talked, relaxed, took in the Summerdance tableau, and Ellen and Ulrich minded things while Beth and I took a couple turns on the dance floor.
Happy Mike won.
Must be the jazz.