You: Older gentleman in business casual, liquor on breath, sense of self worth fueled by demeaning other people
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Me: Diminutive girl with light purple bike, grey helmet, still hopeful, heart hurting
I shouted at you and your friends to get out of the bike lane and was met by a chorus of jeers. I turned around, got off my bike, and politely asked that you and your friends and your wife, who was holding your beautiful, sleepy tow-headed child, if you could move your conversation from the bike lane to the sidewalk so other people on bikes wouldn't have to swerve around you into traffic, and so you wouldn't be at risk of getting hit by a less attentive cyclist.
I said please and thank you. I called you sir. You called me an entitled bitch and told me the world would be a better place without me and people like me.
Your friends laughed while tears of shame and anger burned in my eyes.
Your wife smiled and shrugged when you told me you hoped I got hit by a semi and splattered all over the street.
You told me that pedestrians have the right of way no matter what*, and that I was wrong, and that I would get what was coming to me.
Your child looked at me with big, round, curious eyes, and began the lifelong process of learning how to treat other humans like garbage.
I hope you wake up tomorrow in your comfortable bed, a slight hangover creeping into your graying temples. I hope that you feel gravity wearing on your bones, every step to your bathroom sink a shuffling chore, the repetition, the mundanity of your life exhausting from the moment you wake up. I hope you splash your face with cool water and look into the mirror, bleary, and see your reflection, and see yourself as I saw you, your entitlement, your brazen lack of empathy, your inability to consider the implication of your actions. I hope your son clings to your leg, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, and begs you to give him a horsey ride even though now he is getting too big. I hope that you feel a pang of regret, even just a twinge, thinking about his bearing silent witness to your verbal abuse of a stranger.
I hope you tell him to try his best to be nice to people, even when they aren't always nice back, just like my father told me.
I hope he listens.
* Chicago municipal code:
9-60-050 Pedestrian to yield right-of-way when.
(a) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
9-60-060 Pedestrian crossing.
(a) No pedestrian shall cross a roadway at any place other than by a route at right angles to the curb or by the shortest route to the opposite curb except in a marked crosswalk.
(b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to yield.
9-60-120 Pedestrians to exercise due care.
Nothing in this chapter shall relieve a pedestrian from the duty of exercising due care [the conduct that a reasonable man or woman will exercise in a particular situation, in looking out for the safety of others].