What do you do when a stranger swears at you?

by - Saturday, October 14, 2017


"Stay the f#ck out of my way".

I stood dumbfounded on my driveway, in disbelief of what I just heard.

I had, only seconds ago, walked out of my house in my running gear ready to start my Saturday run, when this grey-haired man in sports sunnies and a black shirt swore at me under his breath. He may have been running on the sidewalk at such a pace, determined and focused, but definitely had enough oxygen spare to swear loud enough for me to hear.

And what did I do wrong? Apparently, stood and waited in the near proximity of a sidewalk he had claimed for himself.

My area is relatively friendly "morning" street greeters. The type that, if you're not occupied in a group chat or phone call, you would give a nodding gesture, a "morning" in passing, a friendly smile-by.

But it seemed to be that patiently waiting in my own driveway for a man to run past me before I crossed the street was a swearable offence.

I stared at the back of his head as he didn't give me a second thought, my mind in doubt of my own ability to hear. I crossed the street, started my run in the opposite direction, and then began to get really mad.

"How dare he!"

It wasn't music filling my head or my footsteps matching a beat of a song. My hands were clenched, my arms swung at the air, and frustration hit the ground with every step.

I frowned as I replayed the fleeting scene in my head, mulling over the few seconds of interaction. All I literally did was stand there in my driveway, waiting for him to pass.

The further I ran, the madder I felt. In some ways, running was a good way to use my energy. But it was a bad way to fill my head with a thousand alternative endings.

"I should have yelled at him. Followed him on his run," I thought. "Tripped him up. Did he notice I was Asian? Maybe this cranky middle-aged man is a racist too."

"He wouldn't have sworn at me if I wasn't a 5 foot 2 female. I should have got in his way. Maybe I'll run into him again. Maybe I'll get in his way. He can move out of the way for me!"

This was my brain for at least 10 kilometres. In that distance, I ran past everyone, looking to see if it was the same jerk. Part of me wanted to face him and finally, defend myself. The other part of me just wanted to go home.

An hour and a half later, the anger had finally been replaced with tiredness. My feet ached and I could feel the blisters forming. I headed back, and as I did, I prayed I didn't have to bump into anyone again. I just didn't have the energy for it. Or the confidence to deal with another confrontation.

That thought didn't last long. As I came up towards the hill, I spotted a woman ahead of me, walking her border collie dog. As I thought between passing by her from the road, or just crossing the street completely, she heard me running behind her. Pulling her dog to the side, she patiently told her dog to sit as I ran past.

"Thanks," I quickly said, moving as fast as I could out of her way, relieved how painless it was. I ran one final loop of the street and headed back towards home.

I was only metres from home and from where that jerk swore at me when once again, I came across the woman with the border collie dog. This time, she was coming towards my direction.

Once again, she pulled her dog to the side out of my way, but as I came closer, she recognised me from minutes before.

"Keep going, you're doing well!" she told me, smiling as I passed.

I smiled and said thank you as best I could with my limited breath, and with that, there was almost a relief from my heart. As if the darkness from hours before was removed from me. And I almost felt I had the energy to run again - but I didn't, because blisters aren't cured by encouragement.

As I took the steps to my house, I thought of how differently my run started to how my run ended. Had it not been for that woman with the dog, I think I would have sat in my bad mood bubble for the rest of the day.

The moral of the story is that there are people in this world who are jerks. They will be selfish, and cruel, spread negative energy and spoil your mood.

But for every negative person out there, there is also a good person who will cheer you on - even if they are a complete stranger. A smile and word of encouragement make a difference to someone's journey.

And it also proves that dog people are truly good people. Thank you border collie lady.

You May Also Like

0 comments