I was walking home from work last night when someone in their car slowed to a gentle crawl alongside me, rolled down their window, and screamed “GET A JOB! FUCK!” And then zoomed away.
It reminded me of this great comic A. saved out of one of the local freebie progressive newspapers, back when we lived in Duluth. The artist was describing how he walked everywhere, and got yelled at with incredible frequency and vitriol (with varying creativity and intelligibility, thanks to the Doppler effect) while walking. I too have received many strange communications, made more interesting by the frequency change, lots of WHOOOOOOO and UUUUUUGHS and HEY YOOOs. In our previous hometown, as A. and I and our dog did our nightly walk, a young fellow stuck his head out of a truck’s passenger window and shouted, “SUCK MY DICK, FAGGOT!”
Barring a certain unattainable longing hidden in the pejoratives of that last shout, what is it about the act of walking that pisses off certain drivers?
1. They are angry that I am not driving. Is it the idea that I possibly do not have a car?* That I might not be part of car culture at all? And that, if given the opportunity, I would not be able to join them in a shouting match about which car make is better, Chevy or Ford? Are they worried about the death of the automobile in favor of public transit? Are they stockholders for some auto or oil corporation, and are merely taking the least menacing route to securing their fortune?
2. They are concerned about my safety. A woman walking home at night in a tiny town. No reflectors or blinky red lights, no bright yellow Look At Me I’m Walking Here safety vest. Sensible shoes, though. But still I am a woman, walking alone. I am the definition of acceptable, blameworthy prey. Or I am someone/something to be protected. Either way, I should not be daring the universe by traipsing around on foot. At least here we have many, many sidewalks. In some of my previous hometowns, whole neighborhoods were lawn to the curb. Urbanless suburbs are the bane of my existence, and I hope to never ever live in one again.
3. They had a bad day, or they realized that their life is going nowhere and they feel like they can’t do anything about it. Speaks for itself!
But honestly, I don’t care. Take your catharsis and shove it. It doesn’t work anyway.**
4. They think I am a dirty bum? Or they are drunk/high/sugar-frenzied? They are kids?
I hate to pass things off as “kids these days.” It is also possible I put too much weight on the power of inferiority complexes. But it is even MORE possible that the strong sure strides of my legs spark a deep yearning of inadequacy in the Walker Heckler’s soul. Longings, yearnings, deeply smothered desires–this is the maelstrom of emotion churning within the Walker Heckler.
Overall I don’t know what to do about the Walker Heckler, other than my current strategy which is keep walking and enjoy the profanity. They’re less harmful than, say, Driving Texters, and (sometimes inadvertently) funnier, too.
*Sadly this is not the case. I have a car and a truck. I also have a bike.
**I recommend reading the original Bushman et.al study, Does Venting Anger Feed the Flame? Catharsis, Rumination, Distraction, Anger, and Aggressive Responding. It changed my idea of catharsis completely.