Short one tonight.
Most of the time when I run, it’s either in the dark of the wee hours or it’s off the beaten path away from traffic. Today, however, I went for an evening run in the vicinity of the main drag near my house. Why an evening run? Well, I missed the chance to go this morning, but more and more in my life of late I am realizing that momentum matters, so I didn’t want to just let it slide, so after the sprout went down to sleep, I laced up.
It was hot out, but the sun was down and a breeze was blowing through courtesy of the cold front that’s on its way in, so it was all pretty pleasant. And then I hit the little side street by the post office where the sidewalk disappears for about a thousand feet. I was alternating between the curb and the runaway grass when I heard a honking horn and a brash male voice shouting at me (from the opposite side of the road, let the record show), “Keep running, faggot!”
Not that it matters, and certainly not to generalize where generalizing would be inappropriate, but he was driving a big ol’ truck, probably to match his enormous manhood.
I have to say, I’m perplexed.
First of all, I know that for all the “progress” we’re making in the world, there are still people out there that have no truck with forward thinking and want to stay racist and homophobic and idiotic and drunk all the time. But it’s a little saddening to me to learn firsthand that we still live in a world where an idiot feels just fine — probably righteously justified or even compelled — to lean out the window and shout at me for no other reason than that he thought he knew something about me.
Second, I really don’t know what he was implying. Was he implying that there was something I was already running from and should continue to flee? His own indignant and puny and inwardly terrified hate speech, for example? Or was he in a weird and twisted way trying to offer encouragement (keep going! You got this!) and then forgot himself and added the homophobic epithet at the end?
Third, I cannot for the life of me think what he hoped to gain by his shout. A momentary chuckle and boost in the eyes of his paleolithic social circle? That superior feeling you get from watching over-made-up faux-celebrities pull each others’ hair in a flurry of bleeped language on reality TV (well, at least my life isn’t THAT crazy)? More likely, he just wanted me to feel like an idiot. I have news for you. I already know. You don’t go running during the waking hours in Georgia in the summertime if you don’t have at least one or two screws loose. Or maybe he wanted to hurt my feelings. But sticks and stones and all that. All I really felt, ultimately, was sorry for him.
I know this is a biiiig stretch and a helluva long way to walk, but I wonder if this is an inkling of what women must feel when guys (is it ever anything other than idiotic, small-minded guys?) catcall them for running or in fact for just being a woman in public. I’m not saying I know how it feels, but I’m saying maybe I can empathize a little bit. For just a moment — I mean a brief, fleeting, lightning-strike of a passing moment — I felt hurt. Not because he’d struck at the depths of my soul with his comment, but because it was just so egregiously disrespectful. Then after that, I felt sad, because for one reason or another, this walking (and driving!) bacterium has made it through his life without anybody telling him that that sharknado is totally out of line and uncalled for, regardless of whether it’s true. Finally, I felt frustrated that this spineless sack had occupied as much of my thinking as he has, as evidenced by the fact that I took the trouble to write about this little interlude. I’m sure I was out of his gadfly’s brain without a second thought moments after the encounter, but he stuck with me, and I wonder if that doesn’t make me at least a little bit of the idiot in this tale.
Is there anything more cowardly than the drive-by shouting?