Captain Mellow Checks In: Publicly Private, or Privately Public, or… hmmm

I contacted the Captain recently about some little political dilemma that was keeping me up at night. Though we didn't make much headway with that discussion, he did bring up some curious incidents from his daily comings and goings.

The first incident, however, began with a simple debate about the meaning of privacy. It seems the Captain has become confused as of late over the definitions of public and private. Many people seem to be mixing the two these days, or getting the respective meanings of the words turned completely around. In particular he couldn't understand why people would store nude photos of themselves, on their phone-like things, their computer-type devices, and other what nots. He was especially surprised by the reactions of these very same people who proceeded to feign shock and outrage when said "nudies" made sudden coming out appearances across the interwebs. The Captain does not believe he is the least bit prudish, and pointed out that he rides around in public wearing nothing but a thin sheen of lycra most days of the week as evidence, but was quick to point out that unless someone is seeking attention, "nudies" are best kept privately out of sight.

From there we moved on to incident number one: It seems the Captain had to pick up his progeny from a night time event at the local school recently. This necessitated driving, something which (and I did not know this) the Captain does from time to time. As he turned onto a long straight-away of a street, another driver came rushing up behind him and proceeded to drive on the Captain's bumper for the length of the street (about a mile). For clarification, the Captain noted that this is a collector street, lined with houses on both sides, on which the speed limit is twenty-five miles per hour. Just as the Captain was about to reach the end of this street where he would turn to reach his destination, the driver of the following car abruptly turned into a driveway and gave a nasty honk of the horn. As much as he hated to admit it, this perturbed the Captain to no end, and so he stopped and slammed the transmission into reverse.

When he yelled out the window what the problem was, the Captain was berated for driving on that particular street rather than going out of the way to take a parallel major street, which would have added extra distance and time to his journey. The Captain was understandably taken aback, as this was a street that he frequently rides on, and was unaware that, at least in the eyes of this one local resident, had at some point in time become a private thoroughfare upon which no one else was welcome. Initially the Captain believed that this person was angry about being forced to drive the speed limit, but after some back and forth yelling and accusations he realized that this person was just as perturbed by his mere use of the street. The old "this is my street, MY STREET, I tells ya." Quite typical, actually, people feeling more entitled to a public space they have come to view as their own.

The Captain, who has always been too Mellow to have ever been a member of a debate team, and therefore lacks the training to come up with quick retorts, failed to recognize the hypocrisy of it all until later. Yes, the local resident, who lived at the very end of the street, drove the entire length of it rather than taking some other nearby, though still out of the way, major street just as the Captain did. No different. Clearly this person believed that they had more right to the public street, simply because their private front door opened onto it.

Anywho, the back and fourth degenerated into mostly incomprehensible yells and invectives, until the Captain decided enough was enough, that the debate was going now where, and anyway he had people waiting for him.

It was about this point in the conversation that I informed the Captain that the incident and reaction was especially un-mellow-like. He shrugged his shoulders, and offered no defense.

From there we moved on to the second incident. While admitting that the first was an anomaly, the second he believes is more general and insidious - the use of public roadways as private racecourses with no concern for the well-being of any other users. The Captain was out for a ride one day on a street with a slight downslope. He was feeling good and let the wheels freely spin, picking up speed incrementally with each rotation. As he approached an intersection where he was going to make a right turn at speed (the light being green), he positioned himself to take full use of a right turn only lane. A hundred feet from the turn an SUV came around and in front of him. The Captain (by now, formerly known as Mellow) gave the driver 'the glare' for making him slow down before the turn, and was about to mutter some invectives under his breath when a second car gunned its little engine, passing both the Captain and the SUV, which was by then a mere ten feet from the turn, and slammed into the same turn cutting across the line of the SUV and missing its front bumper by inches. The momentum carried the car across three lanes of roadway; how the driver avoided running up onto the grassy median, and in fact across it into oncoming traffic, let alone flipping all together, the Captain does not know. 

Though the Captain could only see the back of the SUV in front of him, he easily imagined a multitude of incredulous countenances, wide eyes, gaping mouths, perhaps even some racing hearts belonging to those within view of the foolishness. He muttered "geez, what an idiot" at the same time ten others nearby did, and shook his head from side to side in disbelief. Clearly some people don't realize that the street is a public space, and that certain norms, rules and personal behaviors are required to limit chaotic use. What is it that makes some people ignore those at the risk of, not only their own well being, but of others around them as well?

Before I knew it an hour had passed and it was time to say adios. It was past time to get on with some kind of ride of discovery of my own, for I had new thoughts to ponder, observations to make, and theories to explore.