Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Nimble Thimble Fingers

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As a runner, I have experienced bad behavior at the hands of passing motorists, rare though it may be. I’ve heard similar stories from others on foot, on bicycles and motorcycles, wheelchairs and walkers.

I’ve had a bottle thrown at me, exploding glass on the curb next to my bare legs. I once had to jump on a car hood to prevent its bumper from smashing my legs as its owner rolled around a corner through a red light without stopping or looking. I’ve had crushed ice thrown at me from a passing school bus, which doesn’t sound like much until you experience the velocity of sharp speeding shards of ice on your bare skin.

The occasional shout for directions can cause a pratfalling distraction but is not scary like the taunts from passing drivers. Several times I’ve had a carload of adolescent boys threaten me verbally in passing or menacingly drive towards me in their car, once doubling back after shouting “Faggots get off the road!” (I was actually on the sidewalk, and wearing nothing to designate my sexual orientation.)

What brings all this to mind is that twice in recent weeks, I’ve had motorists scare the bejeebies out of me by unnecessarily blaring their horns rather than giving a precautionary tap. It’s not like I wear earphones. And in each case there was no reason for even a cautionary tap. Better yet, if they were so concerned, they might have slowed down to the posted speed limit.

Runners are not equipped with horns but most of us have a middle finger.

That was my only defense, my only available “hammer of justice,” but in the first case, the driver was long gone and in the second case, I painfully twisted my shoulder to give the desired indication of displeasure in the driver’s direction.

I immediately thought of the disclaimer, “This is going to hurt me more than it does you.” I experienced this in a very literal way, my shoulder sore for the rest of the day.

“Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord. There’s a practical reason for such advice.

During a talent show on a retreat I heard a masterful, humorous re-telling of an unfortunate children’s sermon. An older woman had decided to teach the children about thimble fingers, which for her was a middle finger. She urged the children to stick their middle fingers into the air, and though they hesitated, one boy absolutely refusing, she then said, “This is the way you can remind people to look up to God.”

I doubt very much that the driver saw my finger as a sign to look up to God!

But I did, remembering this story while finishing my run.


Other posts on running:

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  1. Rudeness from strangers in the street makes me go absolutely nuts, but as I'm a woman I tend to button it down. Mainly because I don't want to start any fights!

    My pet hate is when people honk horns because they've seen my blonde hair from the back. It makes me jump out of my skin.

    1. A woman is particularly vulnerable in almost any culture, and I usually keep my feelings to myself in such settings as well. But every once in a while... My brother was a professional bus driver and learned how to dispell motorists' anger with an apologetic shrug to avoid road rage. Thanks for writing!

  2. Very funny! Thank-you for sharing, Chris. The disdain some people show those who choose a healthful lifestyle by running is perplexing, to say the least. Stay safe out there!