My favorite / most convenient place to run is Lake Montebello in East Baltimore, which is just a couple blocks away from home:
The lake has a lane around it for running and walking, and a lane for bicycle riders. Car traffic is on the far outside, separated from the exercisers in some places by a median, and in some places directly outside the bike lane without any separation:
Seems like a great place to run, right? Absolutely! It's a perfect spot to walk, run, or ride a bike - or at least it WOULD BE, if it weren't for - OTHER PEOPLE...
A lap around the running lane is 1.35 miles. Along the track there are signs painted in the road and on signposts on the curb between the running lane and the lake that clearly indicate which lane is the running lane and which is the bike lane, as well as which way people should be going on each lane:
Now there are 36 of each of these signs (yeah, I counted them), which by my calculations means there is a set of signs about every 200 feet. In order not to see the signs, you would have to be legally blind; in order not to understand what they mean, you'd have to be suffering from some form or mental retardation. Yet every time I've ever been out on this track, there are people - and I'm not talking one or two - who somehow come out to this public facility, look at all the signs giving these clear directions, and make the decision to walk or run the other way:
Now, it used to infuriate me to no end to see people like the guy in the above photo. I mean, really, just because your head is back a bit, you can't see that arrow you just jogged past? But after running so many times on this track, I came to realize that people do many more maddening things than running in the wrong direction - I mean, you've got parents of young children who pay no attention to their youngsters wandering in the paths of runners, people who come out with dogs, and walk away from them dropping loads right on the track, groups of people who decide to stop and have a conversation smack in the middle of the track, blocking the way of everyone that's trying to still work out, and on and on - but still, there's something about people who come out to a public track and run opposite to all of these arrows pointing the way they're SUPPOSED to be going (or in the LANE they're supposed to be in) that has provoked my intellectual curiosity. What is the mentality, the thought process, involved in coming out to the lake, seeing all the signs, and saying, "Fuck it, I'm gonna go whatever way I damn well please"... I could see if there was some actual benefit to going the wrong way, but there isn't; the scenery's the same no matter which way you go, and the path and the curves are so long that you're not going to build up your legs by running the curve the opposite way. So then, what's the point?
I've come up with a few possible explanations:
- Maybe the person is so oblivious, so much of a space cadet, that somehow, against all odds, they just don't notice all the signs and symbols showing them the way they should be going;
- Maybe the person is so self-absorbed that they are the type that feels that whatever they're doing at the time is the most important thing happening, and if they want to ignore the signs and run against the flow of traffic, then dammit, that's what they're going to do, because none of those other people out there matter anyway;
- Maybe they feel that rules don't matter and are made to be broken. Live and let live, do your own thing;
- Maybe they are "wish a mutha fucka would" types, in a perpetual pissed off attitude, always looking for a fight, and hoping somebody will say something to them so they can get something going;
- Maybe their lives are so pathetically and joylessly controlled by others that running or walking the wrong way is their way of having one thing they are in charge of;
- Similarly, maybe their lives are constantly guided by rules, that ignoring them on the track is their act of freedom or rebellion;
- Maybe they are attention whores so desperate for people to look at them, that they don't care if most of those people are looking at their actions with contempt. Hey, negative attention is better than no attention, right?
- Maybe they are antagonistic types who get off on intentionally doing things to get under people's skin;
- Maybe they are egotists with superiority complexes who make conscience decisions to run/walk the wrong way to show that it is beneath them to have to follow the same rules as all those "little people" on the track.
- Maybe they are "fight the power", "rebel without a cause" types who reflexively oppose any rule, and lacking a real injustice to fight against, take it out on the people trying to exercise and have some respect for the rules of the road...
So those are just a few possibilities; I'm sure there are other reasons I haven't considered. And I have actually tried to ask a few offenders about their thinking in going the wrong way. Amazingly enough, I've never gotten a real answer; instead, I've gotten cussed out, laughed at, told to mind my business, stuff like that. Not one person has ever given a response along the lines of, "I choose to come out to a public track, see all the directional signs, and choose go in the wrong direction anyway, because..." Now, to be fair, I may not always have asked about it in the most pleasant and understanding demeanor, but still...
"C'mon, Angry Nerd", some of you may say, "What's the big deal which way people run? It's not that serious..." Well, the fact of the matter is, that in addition to simple rudeness and lack of consideration for other people sharing a public facility, ignoring the directions often becomes a safety issue. I have seen people running into or tripping over each other, bicyclists wiping out, small kids getting knocked down, and even a dog getting run over - and in EVERY instance, the incident was caused by someone who didn't following directions mattered.
So readers, help me out: what is it about following simple directions - especially when there's no point or benefit to NOT following those directions - that so many people think is unnecessary?