I’ve recently started bicycling to and from work again after a very, very long hiatus.
My route home from work takes me past the Boston Public Garden:
Because Boylston and Arlington are both one-way the wrong way, I have to make a loop around the Public Garden by taking Charles to Beacon to Arlington.
Or, at least, I would have to do that if I weren’t doing this instead:
That is, I was cutting through the Public Garden. That would be fine if it weren’t for the “no bicycles” sign posted at the Garden’s entrance.
I rationalized what I was doing: “I ride slowly and carefully… I always yield right-of-way to pedestrians… I’m not hurting anybody.” Given how much I hate it when other people pull shtik like that, I was being a grade-A hypocrite.
Well, today my hypocrisy came home to roost. As I was slowly and carefully riding through the Garden, a crotchety old guy stepped in front of my bicycle, forced me to stop, and then proceeded to chew me out, with a lecture that began with, “Can’t you read!?”
I argued with him, because accepting criticism from strangers is not one of my (nor, I would imagine, most people’s) strengths.
But he was right, of course.
Although I can’t thank the crotchety old guy, I can say there that I’m grateful to him for reminding me to live up to my own standards. Thanks to him, starting tomorrow, I’ll be “taking the long way home.”
The three weeks leading up to the Jewish fast day on the Ninth of Av, and especially in the eight days preceding the fast, are supposed to be used, among other things, as a period of introspection, self-examination, and conscious effort to improve one’s middot, i.e., one’s behavior toward one’s fellow man and toward society. Whether I ride through or around the Garden may seem trivial, but in fact, no aspect of one’s conduct in this world is truly trivial, and I’m grateful for the reminder.