I go to the library several times a week, and have consistently found its environs to contain the most insane, criminal, and otherwise desperate people in Eugene. Yesterday, a wild-eyed man leapt in front of my bicycle and screamed, but I expect such things and was not startled. Mostly I am invisible to the crowd, and am therefore free to look and laugh at their appearance and antics.
Today, a young and attractive woman inside the library laughed at me, and I knew why. I wore a helmet with a yellow rain cover; gauntlet-length yellow mitts hung from my neck; the right pant’s leg of my thirty year old trousers (I stocked up) was rolled halfway to my knee and secured by a rubber band (to protect it from the bike chain); my shoes were paint-splattered; and I wore no less than one sweater, one fleece jacket, one windbreaker, and one rain coat beneath which a large daypack protruded.
I remembered my own youth and how ridiculous I thought older people looked. I pitied them because I assumed they were so out of it that they didn’t know any better. Now I see that that they were exercising the very nonconformity on which I so falsely prided myself—my own attempt at individualism consisting of long sideburns and a sleeveless military shirt that I wore unbuttoned over my regular shirt. My friends were identically individualistic.
As there are always several people entering or leaving the library when I am, I usually hold the door open for someone. Older people are more likely to acknowledge my courtesy than younger, and women are more likely than men, but most pass without recognition.
Such discourtesy offends me as do the times people in cars cut me off on my bike even when I have the right of way. I know they do this intentionally because they hold eye contact as they await my reaction. Sometimes, I reward them with obscene words or gestures, but mostly I go my way as if they were ordinary road obstacles, which in a way they are.
"Once your have determined that your fellows are unprincipled buffoons, and that you yourself are nothing to brag about, why then should you be shocked and outraged by their bad behavior? Should you not instead exercise compassion, and thereby endure them as best as you can given your own pathetic nature?" Marcus Aurelius
Such thoughts are a great help. I attempt to treat people as if they possess every virtue, not because I believe they do, but because it is a way I can make the world a little better at no cost to myself. In fact, being kind infuses me with kindness.