I’ve enjoyed writing for many years. I'm dedicating more time to the craft in my retirement days.
In early 2021 there was a writing prompt question tossed out on another writers community website: "Who owes you an apology?" I wrote this piece in response to that query. Part two is still in draft form and will come at a later date...
When I first saw the prompt/question, “Who owes you an apology?” I knew immediately at whom I wanted to point the finger. Or fingers, I guess I should say. There were at least three people immediately to mind from whom I’d love to extract bygones. On following days and weeks, I drafted an outline in my head during daily walks with my dog Jesse.
On the day I wrote this particular piece, though, while I was walking my dog Jesse, and while Jesse was trying to eat a really nasty and who-knows-how-long-it-had-been-laying-there-dead bird, and while I struggled to get that gawdawful thing out of her jaws (success!), I heard this from psychologist Steven Pinker talking on the podcast I was listening to:
“The stance of the sophisticated person is to cry what isn’t working rather than to celebrate what is working.”
Pinker was talking on The Hidden Brain episode called “Beyond Doomscrolling,” which originally aired in October 2020. As a reminder: by that point, we were all living and working our way through a wild-ride year that included a morphing-virus global pandemic, numerous riots and unprecedented political division that made the Grand Canyon look like the sidewalk crack you avoid to keep mom safe. It can be hard, Pinker said (paraphrasing here), to see the era we are living in as the best-ever time to be born and to be alive. In all of world history.
But it is. And if you sit back and think about it for about, oh, a couple seconds, you totally know it is. And we can, and should, try to move our focus beyond all the negativity that gets thrust into our faces every. Single. Day. And see all the wonderful things that are actually going well.
So that’s when and why I decided I’d head a different direction with this demand for apologies. At least for now. I’ll put something together on the other topic at a later date. I still want my apols, mind you, but I’m tacking a different direction here first.
In other words, instead of simply decrying the three douche bags who wronged me on three different days when I was out on my bike, I want to thank a couple people first. Consider this sort of a celebration of what works for me before I bemoan in future that which really doesn’t. Here we go:
Several years ago, while commuting to work on my bicycle in winter, I arrived at an intersection at the same time as a white Toyota Camry. It was dusk, getting on toward dark here in northwestern climes, but I recognized the driver of the car. It was the wife of the local state university president. She likely was on her way to pick him up from work. That’s my guess, anyway.
As I was saying, we arrived at the intersection at the same time. Though she knew me, she could not possibly have recognized me: I was wearing full-up winter cycling garb, to include a face mask and goggle-eye glasses. What made the moment extraordinary to me was this: she waved me through the intersection, allowed me to cross as vehicles began to line up behind her.
I waved heartily, crossed and went along my merry way, smiling as I rode home. Since I knew the good doctor (she’s a well-respected MD in a major city south of here) didn’t recognize me, I was even more thrilled and impressed with her consideration for cyclists.
Fast forward to more recent days here in our little town: I had a similar incident happen to me not just once, but twice in the same day. And at the same intersection, no less. It’s a crosswalk that sits at an exit of the local bike path as the path crosses over the road, onto and then through the university campus. Most days I have to stop and wait for cars to pass by before I can continue. Not on this day, though. On this day, vehicles stopped at the crosswalk between the two sections of multi-use path and allowed me to cross directly in front of them. This happened twice!
In one day!
Now this might not seem like a big deal to you. But around here, and on a scale between things that are just plain good and those that are far out miraculous, this event falls — in my mind, anyway — on the high side much closer to miracle than not. It’s pretty far out there, anyway, and I was (am) oh so grateful.
So on the day I next write for this "who owes me an apology" prompt, I’m definitely going to go on and on — and on, even — about who owes me apologies, and I’m going to do it up big. Today, however, is not that day. Today I want to instead tack this way:
Thanks to those of you, those friendly few of you, who crossed paths with me and chose to give me the right of way. I really appreciate it. I mean that with all sincerity.
Who’s sophisticated now?