Being polite and being a pushover are not the same

Listen: Pushover 1

Listen: Pushover 2

I sat on my bicycle at the top of the zigzagging trail, pondering the differences between being “laid off,” and being “on vacation.” My final deduction that one reduces stress and the other adds to it, came to me as I gazed down on the huffers and puffers below, making their way up the switch back earthen ziggurat.

Two women in nearly identical workout gear walked in lock step with each other while two men in cargo shorts did the same thing twenty feet behind them. Those four were followed by another couple and then a lone man.

Some of the hikers had dogs, and some didn’t. It was hard to tell which was which because the dogs weren’t on leashes, even though there were signs everywhere indicating that they are required to be.

Personally, I love dogs, so others having them off leash is not a problem for me. But I also know that not everybody feels the same way, and when in doubt, it’s always best to follow the rules, whether they are merely customary, or in this case, posted law.

Another bicyclist was working his way up the same path, weaving his way in and out of the little groups. He was standing up on the pedals and rocking slightly from side to side as he slowly made his way up the hill.

“Passing on your left,” he would say upon approaching the groups, occasionally startling them. As I sat resting, I felt a twinge of empathy for him, seeing how I had just done exactly the same thing.

I gazed off into the distance and took a drink from my water bottle. The loud screeching protest of a bike’s brakes being applied abruptly brought my attention back to the path below.

The cyclist was now standing on the ground straddling his bicycle while a medium sized dog nipped and yelped at him. The dog was so aggressive that the bicyclist was forced to hold his front tire up, using the rubber to keep the dog at bay.

“Shoo!” said the bicyclist. The dog didn’t listen.

The couple behind the bicyclist and the man in front of him both turned towards the display, but none of them made a move to intervene.

The dog kept yipping and nipping at the bicyclist, impeding his way. There was still no response from any of the other three people in the immediate vicinity. Two other off leash dogs followed the couple, but those two, like the couple, seemed only minimally interested in the display.

“Whose dog is this?” asked the bicyclist after a few minutes of bobbing and weaving.

“It’s mine,” finally replied the lone man.

“Can you do something?” asked the bicyclist.

The man shrugged.

“You know, your dog is not supposed to be off leash, especially if you can’t control him,” said the cyclist, a little exasperated.

“A**hole,” replied the man.

“What did you say?” asked the man on the bike.

He didn’t wait for an answer, instead the cyclist launched loudly into a slew of expletives, all followed by him getting off his bike.

“How dare you call me names when you can’t even follow simple rules. There’s a sign right there,” he pointed. “It’s the law, you idiot.”

These days pointing at a sign or suggesting that someone else follows the rules will almost certainly get you into an argument. As if there is an argument to be had when the rules are clearly posted. But there is an element out there who believes that rules are for other people. And that element counts on the belief that other people aren’t going to fight back, that other people aren’t going “to want any trouble.” And often it works, which just serves to further embolden those rule breakers.

That bicyclist, however, did fight back. His behavior and the display that followed was uncomfortable to watch and definitely over the top. But he was also right.

Leaving me with these thoughts

-Being polite, and being a pushover are not the same thing, just ask anyone in the service industry.

-In physics there is an axiom, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” One wonders why there isn’t an axiom like that in psychology.

-All a posted sign means, is that some jerk has already pushed the issue.  

-“The ones who go looking for trouble are not much of a problem as someone who’s ready for them,” said Dalton, Patrick Swayze’s bouncer character in the 1989 film “Roadhouse.” 

  -If you believe that your rights allow you to abuse others without consequences, then we really aren’t talking about rights, are we?