A space for us all

Image: Niagara

OK.  It was bound to happen sooner or later in this blog.  This post comes with a *curmudgeon* warning.  In some ways I'm surprised it hasn't surfaced sooner.  So here goes...

On friday night  Peter and I went to a gig at the Forum in Melbourne.  It's one of my favourite places to watch bands.  It always feels special because the theatre itself is so beautiful.  We got their early and lined up outside waiting for the doors to open.  Upon which we staked our spot.  We bumped into friends and watched the first two band as part of the happy throng.  The vibe was great and people around us were chatting away, excitedly waiting for the main band.  Then, all elbows and bad manners a group of twenty-somethings pushed passed us to get closer.  When Peter remonstrated, a young girl yelled back at him 'I paid for my ticket just the same as you'.  This group proceeded to sway and sing along, however they also kept elbowing me, oblivious to the fact they were touching another person.  The 6 foot tall couple in front of me start making out, which meant they completely blocked my 5 foot 4 view of the stage.  I ask you - why pay $70 for a ticket just to suck face?  Watch the fucking band or move to the back.  I was staggered at this groups lack of self awareness.  They had no idea how they were impacting on everyone around them.

A guy next to Peter leant over explaining that in a crowded band setting "everyone is somebody's cunt".  Yes, perhaps we all are.  As much as they pissed us off, perhaps we were 'those' people to someone else.  And as easy as it would be to start a 'young people today' rant the reality is it's always been the same.  As I've mentioned before, I've had my shoes stuck to the sticky carpets of Melbourne's pubs since I was 16.  There is one etiquette for most of us, and then those pushy arseholes who spend their time at the bar, rock up late and push the fans who have been glued to the spot for 3 hours out of the way.  When I was in my 20s there were annoying cunts, and now I'm in my 40's those people still exist.

On sunday we were driving into town down Sydney Road.  It's a defensive driving course on the best of days and juggles lots of cars, trucks, bicycles and pedestrians.  We were stopped at the front of the lights with a row of cyclists next to us.  A young blonde lycra clad girl sailed past the line of fellow cyclists and parked herself in front of my car.  Lights change, and of course not even a drug fuelled Lance Armstrong could take off with the speed of a car.  I had to swing to get around her.  Again, Peter remonstrated saying 'Get in the bike lane!'  We were met with the roar back of 'Get out of your fucking car you hero!'  Now, my ex was a cyclist and you can't drive around the inner city without encountering bikes. I'm really super cautious and check my mirrors and give way to the two wheelers.  However, I'm sure if I had been driving in the bike lane lycra girl would have been apoplectic with rage.  And rightly so.  So if she's cycling in front of my car why shouldn't I be pissed off?  I get angry when I see motorcyclists and people on scooters (scooterists?) in the bike lane I wish there was a cop around to point out that if it has an engine it should be with the rest of the traffic.  For everyone's safety we have allocated space on a shared road.

So my question is this: what ever happened to self awareness...and why can't some people see how they affect others?  Are we SO blinded by our own sense of entitlement and self importance?  If we all adhere to the spacial etiquette most of us live by, there would be space for everyone.  There are just some people spoiling it for everyone.

I caught up recently with a friend who's spent weeks driving across America.  I asked about the traffic, and he said even in New York everyone was polite.  I was reminded of my travels through the U.K.  I loved how people made eye contact in narrow hedge rowed laneways, or truck drivers flashed their headlights on the motorway to signal they were giving you space to merge.  I quickly learnt the click of the hazard lights to reply 'thank you'.  I was gobsmacked that the jam packed roads were full of politeness.  It seems to be a similar story in the States.  So what's up this us?

Where does our sense of entitlement at the cost of others come from?  Why haven't we learnt to share and play nicely with the other kids?  This made me contemplate how Australia deals with asylum seekers and immigration.  The racist element of our community take the 'fuck off we're full' approach.  While many of us appreciate the amazing influence of multiculturalism and embrace diversity - particularly if it helps protect vulnerable people.

Something has gone wrong somewhere.  The pushy 'me first' attitude does not serve us well.  Maybe it's my cranky forty-something-self despairing at the state of the world.  But as I said, there have always been pushy arseholes, and perhaps we are all someone else's cunt.  But maybe if we stopped for a moment and looked at the people around us, there would be space for us all.

Enjoy a Neutral Milk Hotel song on me.  Thanks Peter for introducing me to them and for taking me to the Forum.


Richard said…
I hear you.... especially about arseholes at gigs. And I guess that I would have to concede that can be someone who at times has a heightened sense of spatial sensitivity and can easily get upset when people rudely invade my space (invasive phone conversations and crazy-loud headphones on PT are my bugbear, but that's another story). I agree - we should all just be trying to get along. It's how I try to approach life as a bike commuter. I see a lot of crazy anger out there, from cyclists and drivers alike, and I find it baffling sometimes. I'm well aware that there is a perception in some quarters that "cyclists" (or some cyclists) are pushy or arrogant or have a sense of entitlement. Some of them do. But really, I tend to think that the fact that they're on bikes isn't the issue. Some people on bikes are tools, some people in cars are tools. Most people are sane and respectful, some just aren't and the mode of transport they're using isn't really the issue. I'm sorry that you had a run-in with an idiot cyclist, Andy, I often find myself getting all hot under the collar about SOME of my cycling brethren. What she did was rude and I especially get pissed of at riders who have the crazy sense of easily-offended entitlement and shout at drivers. I would have been pissed off if she'd jumped up to the front of the bike queue too. But there are a couple of generic points I want to make. I want to stress that they are not an excuse for her behaviour and they're not an attack on you. I guess that in a way I'm just trying to explain what might seem inexplicable to some drivers. First point: in theory, the reason that cyclists want to get to the front of a line of cars is so that they are clearly visible and drivers are aware that they are there and that's exactly the rationale behind those "bike boxes" at the front of the white line at a set of lights, which often explicitly place cyclists in front of the left lane of cars It's safer for drivers to know that they have to negotiate the cyclists (which sometimes might necessitate waiting 10 seconds longer than they might otherwise have in order to be able to safely get around them) rather than trying to squeeze past them in a too-tight space over to the side. Point the second: it is not a legal requirement that cyclists always stay in the bike lane - it is preferred if there is a lane, but the law says that cyclists have every right to "claim the lane" when it is necessary to do so. Sometimes it might not be polite to drivers, sometimes it might hold you up a fraction, but sometimes safety requires that we swing out into the lane - to avoid a hazard, because we see that a door is about to open, because there's glass all over the fricking bike lane, because a mad entitled pedestrian is having a very important phone conversation while gaily walking down the middle of the bike lane. Respectful cyclists will try not to do it willy-nilly just for the sake of it, like I reckon some roadies do just to piss drivers off and ostentatiously take up the whole left lane for 40k's. But sometimes it's just gotta be done and it's legal, it's not like the ONLY allocated space for bikes is the bike lane. I hope you understand that I'm just giving the cyclists' perspective here in theoretical terms and I'm not saying that in this particular situation she was in the right. I agree with you that she sounds like a fucking tool (perhaps I unfairly paraphrase your position...) Generally I hope that everyone, all road users no matter what they're driving, can get along and have the patience to work with each other. In my experience, having spent a large chunk of the last 20 years on the road on a bike, I've found that the degree of aggro you get from drivers seems to be very closely correlated with the degree of attitude you send out yourself. Anyhoo, I've crapped on a bit.... Cheers
Richard said…
Wow, that really reads like a crazy entitled-cyclist rant when it's all bunched up like that! :-)
Andy said…
Ha! Richard you made me laugh. I hope I don't come off as ranting either :) I think you summed it up by saying there are tools out there - some of them are on bikes, some are in cars. Thanks for clearing up the info about bike lanes. I saw a girl cyclist clipped by a car a few weeks ago by an idiot driver. People have to share the space and be respectful, and try their hardest not to put themselves in vulnerable positions. But we also have to try not to cause dangerous situations too. I despair at some of the driving I see.

I get the PT headphones too! PT is a test of social graces and patience.

Gig etiquette is a big one for me. Some people just don't get it. Whereas Peter went to a gig recently where there was a moshpit (like the old days) and people where looking out for each other and keeping it safe.

Here's to everyone being mindful and respectful and us all having a bit of space. Thanks for your comments

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