Yesterday, in freakishly hot weather, my husband and I thought it would be great fun to take the kids biking on the Schuylkill River Trail. The kids have actually done the ride several times, but it was a first for me.
The ride down was lovely. Even though it was hot, we had a wonderful breeze and made the 5.5 mile trip to Manayunk in good time. The Boy did have a close run-in with the lone King Cobra that lives along the Schuylkill River and did freak out, and the Baby was obligated to greet absolutely EVERYONE who passed us, but other than that, the trip was uneventful. Unfortunately, the ride back left the Boy never wanting to bike the trail again. And it is here that my Villiage Idiot story begins.
Most of the Schuylkill River trail is car free. Nice wide paved or hard-packed gravel lanes belong to walkers, bikers and, of course, King Cobras. But there is one section, after leaving Manayunk that has a short area where cars can go. It then wraps up a hill where cars cannot go–or maybe they can for all I know–but the trail is wide enough for two bikes and, did I mention, it curves as it goes up a hill. A short but VERY steep hill. It is here that we encountered the Village Idiot.
I know, I know, I’m not supposed to use the word ‘idiot;’ it is one of the banned words in our house–even when referencing our animals. We have several animals who qualify for the ‘idiot’ word, and it requires CONSTANT reminding TO MY HUSBAND, that it is not polite to call the cat ‘idiot.’ I prefer the name the Girl gave the cat, “Dumberful” a combination of “dumb” and “wonderful.” Cosmo, is definitely ‘dumberful.’
But back to the Idiot, the curvy, steep hill, and biking. As we were reaching the hill, the Boy, who doesn’t have any gears on his bike, actually attempted to attack the curvy, steep hill on his bike. Me, having gears, but no muscles, opted to push my bike up. We also had Granny and Grandpa with us on the trail and the 7 of us were in various states of exhaustion as we pedaled/pushed our bikes. Once I reach the top of the hill, I move to the side and wait for my clan. The Girl, who is somehow ALWAYS faster than us, is on the other side of the path and I call her over to my side. Suddenly a car comes from the place where you CAN drive and goes up the curvy, steep, hill just as everyone is coming up like little Noah’s ark animals. Flying up, the car swerves passed and parks right where my daughter had been standing only moments earlier. Because of how it curved, if she had still been there, the driver likely wouldn’t have seen her. He also came VERY close to my nervous, ferociously pedaling son. As the car whips into the non-parking spot, I gathered my nerve to say something to the driver.
Too often, when slighted or injured, I tend to remain silent. And by silent, I mean, not saying anything to the party who injured me, but providing my friends and family with an in-depth analysis and diatribe of the entire situation, right down to firm, irrevocable decision that the person’s parents certainly were NOT married and that, in fact, the person is most definitely a domesticated male member of a certain odd-toed ungulate, horse family (look it up). Eventually my family and friends tire of my rantings and I then turn to you, Dear Reader.
This time though, this time I thought I would actually address the person who had scared the Boy and almost run over the Girl. As the domesticated male member of the odd-toed ungulate, horse family, hereafter simply referred to as, Village Idiot, got out of his car, I POLITELY said, “I really don’t think you are allowed to drive her AND, you almost ran over my kids.”
I was expecting one of two responses. A normal person would have likely replied, “Oh, sorry about that, I didn’t see them.”
A jerk might have said, “Bite me. You can’t tell me what to do.”
Village Idiot said, “You effing, effing, eff, effer. You ain’t the mayor of this town. You ain’t no governor. You can’t effing tell me what to do. Ef you and your family and your family’s family. You aren’t in charge of the world.” (Obviously, he didn’t get the memo.)
At this point, my father, a former hippy and most laid back guy in the world besides my husband, stepped in, and I, like the wimp I am, got back on my bike to catch up with my kids. Village Idiot was getting his bike out of his trunk and I was terrified that he would be near my kids on their bikes. For a moment, I worried that either my father or I would be shot where we stood. I could just see the evening news, “Mother of three killed today on the Schuylkill River Bike Trail. Shot by Village Idiot.” As I pedaled away, I wimpingly called out, “The proper response should have been SORRY, a-hole.”
Sure, on the way down to Manayunk, I must have passed three police officers on bikes–the way home–nothing. If I’d been thinking, I would have written down Village Idiot’s license plate and called it into the cops. I KNOW he wasn’t parked legally. If I’d been HALF the words he called me, I’d have gone back and keyed his car or flattened his tires. If I’d been the mayor or governor that he’d accused me of being, I’d have sent him to the next town over. And I’m really lucky that I didn’t get shot.
Things have changed. There used to be a day when it really did take a village to raise a kid. If I did something wrong at the town playground, you can better believe that one of the neighborhood moms had seen it and reported it back to my mom before I ever got home. And God help me if one of the neighbors saw me driving my car where I shouldn’t be.
When I was a kid (before dinosaurs roamed the earth), if an adult saw a child being picked on, the adult spoke up. If a child was doing something dangerous or stupid, an adult intervened. Now days–not so much. I’m afraid to. I was at the playground with my kids and yelled at some boys that were, in my opinion, being a little rough. They weren’t doing anything wrong, they were just being boys. But, there were little kids on the playground, and the older boys–around 12 or so– were chasing each other and had almost collided into several of the smaller kids.
Now I didn’t “yell” yell like mean old Mrs. Potter who was always screaming at us to “git out of my yard.” I simply hollered, “Guys, you are being a little rough, can you take it somewhere else?” To which they responded, “You can’t tell us what to do.” and continued racing around. Wow. I really cannot believe that kids are raised to speak to adults like that. What kind of parents do those kids have? Oh, no–I’ve become my father! Whenever I did anything wrong, the first thing he would say wa, “What are the neighbors going to think about me?” and I always thought, “The neighbors probably really don’t care.” But now that I am a parent, I DO catch myself wondering what kind of parent would teach a child that it is okay to speak that way to an adult.
Some of my friends admit that they don’t like other adults telling their kids what to do and would prefer that the adult come to them. But I’ve said things to parents, “Your son cut in front of my son in line.” and have been GLARED at by the adult. Where is our village? Where is our community? If I don’t feel comfortable correcting a child, then who will feel comfortable correcting mine? I miss knowing that, as a child, I knew that grownups–people wiser and more experience than me—were watching out for me. Did I like getting called to the mat because Kelly’s mom saw us take flowers out of Mr. Silver’s garden and had called my dad? No, but it did make me more respectful of other people’s property.
Our village needs ADULTS acting like responsible ADULTS and CHILDREN respecting those adults. The kid who told me, “You can’t tell us what to do.” will likely grow up to be Village Idiot who drives up a bike trail and screams at a woman and her two kids.
If we don’t start taking responsibility for each other, we will end up having to be responsible for the village we created. And all the idiots in it.