This is a rant I wasn’t going to write.
I was just going to ascribe my accumulating annoyances to middle-age crankiness, take a deep breath, and murmur my summer mantra: “Maximally muffled motorcycles.”
Until a twenty-something skateboarder came careering by me on the sidewalk, so close that I could feel the air move. A turn or two later, she lost control and went sprawling. Picking herself up, she readjusted her ear buds, gathered her skateboard, and started walking back up the New Chardon Street incline, presumably for another Giant Sidewalk Slalom run. Irked at being pressed into service as a gate, I voiced my pique as we passed.
“You’ve gotta be more careful. You almost hit me.”
“Sorry,” she said, the pinched looked on her face conveying her true sorry, not sorry sentiments.
No surprise there. A certain generational cohort seems to have lost any sense that there are other people in the world, let alone a need to be mindful of them. I used to think smartphones were to blame. After all, there’s nothing like an incoming text message to make a gen-zer or millennial forget that other bipeds — albeit with far less urgent social-media lives — occasionally like to use the sidewalk as well. Their apparent rule: Proceed in a bubble of unapologetic obliviousness, and others will avoid you. (It seems to work, though I’m always amazed at the confidence in the rule displayed by kids who jaywalk with eyes locked on their screens.)
Yet these days that self-absorbed cluelessness seems to transcend technology. It’s as if cell-phone solipsism has so thoroughly reprogrammed a younger generation (or two) that its members remain in phone-drone mode even when selfsame device is pocketed or absent.
An example: June is field trip time on Beacon Hill, a period when busloads of high-school students come to see the State House sights. All well and good — except that the kids array themselves in the hallways like a dense square of soldiers at Waterloo, clogging the entire corridor as they wait for all of their group to clear security. Half the time, the teachers ostensibly supervising the outing seem as unaware as their adolescent charges are that others occasionally need to pass through the corridor to get to work.
Time was, I’d say, “Excuse me, guys, could I get through?” But I’ve replaced that with a sharper, “C’mon, guys, let’s have some situational awareness.” As often as not, that draws blank teenage looks, but it usually prompts some belated verbal herding from their teachers.
Mind you, I’m not claiming I’m never at fault. Last summer, I got into an Uber for a trip to Roslindale to see Carla Ryder play. Not long after I had settled into the back seat, a bumblebee the size of a B-52 started bombing missions around my head.
“There’s a bee in here,” I said.
removal intentions didn’t seem entirely adequate to the moment, but I was too busy bobbing and weaving to point that out. The second the music venue came into site, I told the driver to stop and threw open the door. And, in doing so, nearly hit a bicyclist, who had to swerve sharply to avoid the car door. He wasn’t pleased — and he let me know. His words stung.
I thought of protesting, “But I’m fleeing a bee.”
To what end, though? I was at fault, and I knew it.
“Sorry, really sorry,” I said. And I meant it.
After all, someone has to set an example for the younger generations.