It was a welcome mild temperature after the uncomfortable warmth the day before. A perfect day to be outside--walking, playing, or bicycling. There were plenty of people--children and adults alike--doing that.
I was enjoying the drive back home on the city streets when I spotted a guy on a bicycle, about two car-lengths ahead of me. Was I seeing what I thought I was seeing? I felt the smile across as my face as I neared the bicyclist.
He was slightly overweight, and wearing shorts and a tshirt, with closely cropped hair. And seemed to be enjoying his ride about town. So, why the smile on my face? Because, his butt-cheeks were pressing their way out of the shorts and the crack was on display. I suppose it is the ten-year old in me--the sight of a butt-crack always amuses me.
There was once a ten-year old in my life who loved asking people who came to our home a simple question: "where you born during an earthquake?" The adults were always confused when he asked them that question. I mean, wouldn't you be too if a kid asked you whether you were born during an earthquake? You, too, would reply with a "no." Right?
To which the kid always followed up with, "then how come you have a crack?" And then he always laughed so hard. The adults then typically looked at me, only to find that I was smiling. How can I not smile at a ten-year old having such a great time over a simple butt-crack joke?
Butt-cracks! So, of course, I started smiling at the sight of the butt-crack on the bike. But, that smile was along with an appreciation for how the bicyclist was clearly enjoying the day, and enjoying his life. It has been a while since I had that simple pleasure of biking my way about town. As I get older, I fondly recall the simplest of pleasures from my childhood--from bicycling to playing ping-pong on the dinner table to even wasting time doing nothing. Those simple childhood memories are our "Rosebud" moments. If only I could also be like him and enjoy the afternoon slowly biking around, whether or not my butt-crack was out in the open.
We reached a traffic light and the bicyclist once again pulled ahead. I looked at the rear-view mirror to check the traffic behind. The middle-aged woman driver and her female passenger, who could have been a college or a high school student, seemed to be laughing and they seemed to be looking at the direction of the bicyclist.
There was something odd about their laughter. And then I saw the passenger take her smartphone seemingly taking aim at the bicyclist. As the light turned green and we started moving, I kept checking the rear-view mirror. Yes, she was definitely taking photos, or perhaps even shooting video clips, of the bicyclist.
I felt my smile evaporating into a worry. Perhaps she would post it on Facebook, and she and her friends would all make awful comments. The friends would then share it with others.
When did we become such awful people? Were we always this mean to others? Assuming she was doing what I thought she was doing, would she have done that if she were an obese person herself instead of the young and fit White person that she was? If the driver were an obese person, then would she have taken those photos?
Making fun of a "different" person won't happen if we knew really well one of those "different" people. When we don't have a "different" person in our inner circles, then it becomes all the more possible to laugh at the other, or say mean things about the other. The overweight, or the different ethnic group, or a different religion, or a physical disability, or ... first they come for the butt-crack showing bicyclist and then, before we know it, they come for the Mexicans and the Muslims and the brown-skinned and the strange accents and the homeless and ...
We humans are screwed-up. I admit I am. But, I am trying to get better.