I do not consider myself a principled individual. This is not because I do not claim to have them, but rather because they have never been tested in any meaningful way. To claim the hardiness of my principles would be like buying a race car, turning it on once, playing with the steering, turning it off, and declaring it ready to race. No, the only way to see if it is ready to race is to race it.
This is not to say that turning on the car-a slight test-is not at all indicative of a car’s race readiness. Indeed, if the car did not turn on, it would not be ready to race. In this vein, I am a principled individual, who has had his beliefs slightly tested, a man of petty principles.
One of the principles I have concerns shouting at elderly pedestrians. I was with a friend, walking my bicycle towards the Williamsburg bridge when this screaming alerted our attention. An elderly chinese woman was stepping up on to the sidewalk, her back curved and her step shuffling. She was looking up into the face of a man who towered at least a foot taller her than, wearing a running t-shirt with the sleeves cut off that exposed his brilliantly pale but muscular arms. He was wearing headphones and a perfectly styled head of hair on top of his head, and he was trying to scream the damn thing off at this old lady.
Apparently, this woman had stepped into his way as she got out of the street, and this caused his long-simmering rage about people being in his way to veritably explode. Now, I don’t disagree with his annoyance-pedestrians contribute to the traffic anarchy that is Manhattan like everyone else. They are even more unpredictable, leaving the sidewalk without warning and popping out between parked cars like disturbed whack-a-moles. And while I am often annoyed or sometimes scared, I generally refrain from yelling. Its not really my thing, and anyway, screaming at old ladies is especially something to avoid.
My friend and I parted ways at the bottom of the bridge, and I hopped on my bicycle. The bicycle path on the Williamsburg is nice becase there are two paths on either side of the bridge, one for pedestrians and one for cyclists. It proves a nice respite from the Brooklyn bridge, wear pedestrians are forever walking into the bike path, stopping to take pictures, or stepping unexpectedly into the path with nary a glance to their environment, so focused are they on getting the perfect photo.
As I reached the top of the bridge, what should I see but thickly gelled curls in between a pair of sickly white arms, shining brilliantly like beacons. It was the old lady yeller. And here is where my principles stepped in, or at least my sense of poetic justiuce. If one is to be so irate about any one individual being out of place, it seems logical that that same standard would be applied to oneself, and bike paths would not be encroached on. But here he was, taking up a whole lane, jogging slowly with not even a spot of self-consicousness.
As I passed him, it took only a point to the other side of the bridge for him to get what I was saying, and for him to start yelling irately. I couldn’t quite hear him but he gestured and preened like a 7th grader playing Don Corleone in the Middle school production of “the Godfather”. I pointed again in response to his yelling, which caused him to gesture more, and then, in response to his theatricality, I mimed putting my hand to my ear. Maybe he just thinks everyone is hard of hearing.
I may not have very dramatic or admirable principles, but that doesn’t stop me from being satisfied by them.