When I ran up to the corner, a car was waiting to make a right and I slowed down, wary of the young woman driving because she was texting on her cell phone. Lost in her electronic reverie she didn’t move so, I jogged past, giving her a wide berth. Good thing I did. 

Looking to her left, she gunned the engine and, if I hadn’t given myself margin of safety, she’d have run me right over. As her brakes screeched, I looked at her through my mirror shades and shook my head. Upset, she shook her fist at me, which pissed me off. 

“You are an idiot,” I yelled. Because I popped her faux sense of personal automotive space – or more likely she was now confronted by a howling man whose eyes she could not see – she burst in to tears of fright. Good. Sometimes, lessons have to be learned the hard way.  Maybe she’ll look next time. Resuming my run, I wondered if I’d saved some unknown runner in the not too distant future. 

A few miles later, I came to a busy intersection and, no fool I, stopped at the crosswalk and waited for traffic to respect the rules of the road. When the cars stopped, I started to jog across when a red sedan blew right through the crosswalk, prompting the other drivers to honk their horns in solidarity with my fury. “Motherfucker,’ I said to myself. Feeling my form falter as anger erupted in my chest, I slowed to a walk to catch my breath. I needed the break anyway. Then again, my vehicular close calls were partly my fault. Not in a legal sense mind you. If any of those morons had hit me, I’d’ve sued them for enough money to put my daughter through Harvard five times over and have a science wing named after me. No, my mistake was being lazy that morning and starting my run after 7:30 AM. If I’d started at 6:30 like I’d planned to, I’d have avoided most of the morning rush and enjoyed relatively clear roads, but I’d decided to sleep in a little but longer. My bad. 

I like to think I’m good driver and, while I’ve made my share of mistakes over the years, I take the safety of pedestrians seriously. So, I get quite aggravated when other drivers don’t give me the same consideration. But then again, people are assholes – and the pandemic made many drivers into even bigger ones. Is it just me or are people no longer signaling turns, running red lights more and treating stop signs and crosswalks as friendly suggestions? A few months ago, I watched aghast as a produce truck blew through a red light while a mother and her tykes were crossing the street. Furious, I followed the truck to a restaurant, took down the license plate number and reported it to the police when I arrived at work. 

“We can issue him a ticket,” the desk sergeant said. “But did you see the driver? Could you identify him out of a lineup?” 

“No,” I said. “I didn’t feel like confronting him in the parking lot.” 

Shaking his head, the cop said, “These companies hire anybody they can find and, when they get dragged into court, their lawyer will bring in several guys who all look alike and ask, ‘Well who was it?’ If you’re not certain who the driver was the case gets thrown out one hundred percent of the time.” 

“That’s bullshit,” I said. 

“Way it is,” the sergeant said, “I don’t make the laws, I only enforce them.” 

Resuming my run, I started down a residential street without sidewalks near my job, jogging in the direction of oncoming traffic, which is usually sparse on that road. Keeping my eyes focused twenty feet ahead, I spied a pickup truck barreling down the street, hugging the curb. The driver, you guessed it, was on his cell phone – with a cigarette dangling from his mouth. Jumping left onto someone’s lawn, I felt the truck’s slipstream wash over me as it blasted past. To add insult to injury, the pickup driver angrily blasted his horn, trumpeting his asphaltic covetousness. Turning, I gave him the finger, my lizard brain hoping he’d stop and get out of his truck, but he kept violating the speed limit right past a school. Which is just as well. Something tells me the mayor wouldn’t appreciate my getting arrested for assault. 

After three vehicular close calls in twenty minutes, my concentration was shot, and I decided to walk home. Nothing puts my heart into overdrive like anger. “This is why we can’ have anything nice,” I muttered to myself. When I got to my house, I jumped in the shower, aggravated that my routine had been derailed by thoughtless jerks but, as warm water cascaded over me, I realized I was being a bit of a hypocrite.  When I worked the Bistro, I couldn’t stand the legions of cyclists who came into the restaurant to refuel midway during their jaunts to and from Manhattan. Fifty year old men in spandex look ridiculous and goodness, those stupid shoes click clacking and scratching up our wooden floors! Then, after several glasses of wine, the weekend warriors would depart, cycling home in various states of inebriation. I couldn’t stand them – and they were lousy tippers to boot. 

To this day, I still have residual animus towards those guys, so much so that, when I pass a gaggle of them on the road I say to my wife, “Hey! Want to be famous?” Of course, I’ve never indulged my homicidal fantasies, but it’s illustrative of the sickness American car culture engenders. When we’re behind the wheel, we like to think we own the road and fuck everyone else. Despite my protectiveness of pedestrians, my tender feelings don’t seem to extend to cyclists. Sure, it probably results from waiter PTSD but, in the final analysis, that’s my problem. Feeling somewhat chastened, I got dressed, went to work, and discussed my close calls with a co-worker. 

“That’s why I gave up running,” she said. “That and my knees.” 

“It’s crazy out there,” I said.  

“You should run on trails. No cars there.” 

“Twisted ankle city. No way.” 

“There’s another thing,” my coworker said. 

“What’s that?” 

“Some people hate seeing other people exercising.  It reminds them of how much they’ve let their health go.” 

“You know,” I said. “I never thought of it that way.” 

Back behind my desk, I thought of what my co-worker said. Throughout my life I’ve run into people who would smoke, drink, and eat double cheeseburgers every day and then lambast fitness buffs as “pussies.” Most of them ended up toe tagged in the morgue before they hit sixty. Was their disregard for exercise a way for them to hide from the anxiety of what they were doing to their bodies? Did seeing someone cycle or jog make them angry because they were unwilling or unable to do so themselves? There’s an old adage, “Fear is the wish” and when people get scared, they get angry. Perhaps that’s why we can’t have anything nice. One thing’s for sure, running has given me a new appreciation for sharing the road with the carless. Self-serving? Too little too late? Perhaps, but late is better than never.  And let’s face it, I’m running because I’m also scared of ending up toe-tagged in the morgue. 

The next day I went running with a new attitude towards drivers- they’re all 100% out to kill me. 

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