I Dare You to Say Something Nice
Yesterday, as I was walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with a friend, our attempts to social distance, and a bit of distraction, led us into the bike path. As one “gentleman” sped by on his bicycle, we heard him address us with some emphatic expletives meant to highlight the fact that we were in his lane — the bike lane — as pedestrians. A grievous sin, clearly. I yelled back my thanks for the information and wished him a nice day with a smile. Seriously. What would have been the point in adding to his anger or negativity? The world has enough of that. I felt sorry for him, actually. Terrible things are happening everywhere, and he’s clearly struggling in his attempt to process them, self soothe, and otherwise bring balance to his emotional stability.
The Brooklyn Bridge is a de facto pedestrian’s bridge. There are lines painted on its pathway which are meant to give cyclists a lane, but on a normal day those lines are effectively erased by the sheer quantity of walkers — many tourists, some natives. That anyone who lives here would try to intentionally bike across that bridge without a copious amount of patience is ill-advised. That’s on a normal day.
Yesterday, given current COVID-19 events, was anything but normal. You could actually see the color of the bridge’s walkway — so scarce were the pedestrians. So this “gentleman” must have felt especially put out to have to shift his route one foot to the left or right to avoid us. And he made sure we knew we’d inconvenienced him. Instead of ringing his bell so we could be alerted of his approach and move out of the way, he had expletives locked and loaded.
In addition to the coronavirus, something sinister is spreading as we gain greater and greater social distance from each other — anger and anxiety. And each often gets expressed as aggressive words or behavior — sometimes even violence, sadly. We are no longer relating to each other face-to-face on as regular a basis, and that distance has made space for an erosion of kindness, civility, and patience. Some (just some) of the “teachers” among us — the ones with lots of articles to share and best practices to disseminate, have forgotten that they’re speaking to peers — not imbeciles or children. Rather than trying to be…