So much for my good record of not using bad language around my kids. The example I set today was pretty poor all around, in fact.
It happened near the end of a long run through Schenley Park, for which I had taken Alex in a jogging stroller. I’ve been running between Schenley Park and my home in Greenfield for seven years. I’d like to think I know how to do so safely. Apparently someone disagrees.
At the end of the Greenfield Bridge, I crossed Alger St to reach the island and wait for a walk signal so I could proceed up Greenfield Ave. (Unfortunately, the satellite image and Google Street View images are out of date and do not show the newer, safer crosswalk across Alger, so you’ll just have to imagine a clearly marked crosswalk that lines up with the east side of the triangular island.) When I reached the island, I heard someone behind me yelling. I turned around and saw a man leaning out the driver’s window of a large black pickup with over-sized tires, stopped at the intersection of Alger St and Exposition Way.
At first I thought he was yelling at another driver, but it soon became clear that he was yelling at me. I couldn’t make out everything he was saying, but I could hear him berating me for not taking notice of him when I crossed. Apparently he thought he’d almost hit us. He’s right that I didn’t notice him. As I approached the crosswalk, I didn’t see anyone driving toward the intersection of Beechwood Blvd and Ronald St, let alone waiting to make a right turn onto Alger St. I crossed because the path seemed to be safe and clear. I believe he drove up quickly from the bridge and didn’t pause much before turning on to Alger St (and there’s no stop sign). I contend that I couldn’t have known he was coming, and he was the one who failed to be adequately aware of his surroundings.
That’s basically what I conveyed to him. The problem is that I chose a poor method of doing so and set a bad example for my son. I should have ignored the buffoon instead of yelling at him. Accusing me of something for which I believed I was innocent hit a nerve and put me in a belligerent mood. He was too far away to hear the details of what he was saying, but it’s safe to assume he wasn’t politely suggesting that I be more observant in the future. I yelled back at him saying, “It’s called a crosswalk, asshole!”, the implication of which being that he’d failed to wait for me to cross, as the law and common sense dictate. He yelled something unintelligible back, followed by finger pointing and vehement assertion that I needed to watch where I was going. Again, I yelled back saying, “Pedestrians have the right of way. YOU should be watching where I’M going, jagoff!”
With that, I ended the exchange by turning around. I assume the jerk in the truck drove proceeded through his intersection. I awaited the walk signal at my intersection and started to process what I’d just experienced. The guilt hit me pretty quickly as I contemplated Alex repeating my words at some time in the near future. Imitating my loud and angry argument with a stranger would be undesirable well. I really didn’t want either to happen, so I told him that I would explain what he’d just witnessed once we crossed. As we proceeded up Greenfield Ave, I gave a simplified explanation of how I perceived what happened, why I was so angry, and why I was wrong for reacting the way I did. I explained that kids aren’t the only ones who make mistakes, and sometimes adults use mean words when they’re angry.
I don’t know how much Alex understood. I don’t know what right or wrong lesson he learned from me today. I just hope his preschool teacher doesn’t inform me he called someone an asshole or a jagoff this week.