I live in a pretty cool place in California. I have everything I need, a constantly-changing variety of new things to experience and opportunities to expand my horizons. Until my beach house becomes a reality, this is where I’m going to work on the butt grooves of my writing chair.
When my sweetheart first talked me into visiting this little berg, there were hitching posts in the downtown area. Seriously. For horses. They became central to my argument against settling here, but lucky for me, my sweetie was more persuasive. The hitching posts were removed shortly after we bought our house and I began to appreciate my new surroundings.
In a move dripping with irony, a couple of decades after putting down roots here, I served on a civic committee that worked to put hitching posts back into the downtown area, this time to attract tourists. Not that we tie them up there, but to make people remember when we had them for horses.
Our area attracts a lot of different people, activities and special events. We host a generous visitation of singing cowboys and cowgirls every spring, our aquatic center accommodates Olympic-style competitions, there is an annual PowWow that teaches us about Native Americans and our Fourth of July parade is passionately patriotic. We have a performing arts center that attracts some amazing entertainers and I can guarantee that you’ve seen our city in commercials, TV shows and movies.
One of the events we hold here is the Amgen Tour of California. It’s a world-class cycling event that attracts a following of visitors eager to watch the colorful blur go by and drink in some of the excitement that accompanies the race. I’m the kind of cycling fan you could classify as “curious” – I’ve seen the race several times and covered it as a reporter a few times as well. It’s not my cup of tea, but variety is the spice of life and I appreciate that my city officials invite the cyclists to zip through town for those who do enjoy the sport.
In other words, it’s not all about me.
Cycling is a sport with incredible health benefits. Their cardio is off the charts, spandex sales are expanding and it’s a great way to get outdoors and enjoy the scenery. Coming out of their cubicles or homes to watch the riders might be the only time some people get out for some fresh air. And it is awe-inspiring to see how these riders are disciplined and dedicated to their sport. Today, they rode in the rain, a special event in and of itself in this parched state of California.
Why would anyone complain about this world-class, put-us-on-the-map, exercise-inspiring event coming to town?
Sadly, social media – and in the past, letters to the editors of various media outlets – have been flooded with people who were slightly inconvenienced by traffic because roads were temporarily blocked to accommodate the race. You would think we were forcing them to sit naked in a puddle of toxic waste the way some of them bitched and moaned. Some claimed to have been delayed HOURS (I call bullshit on that one), their children scarred for life because they failed to plan an alternate route. Some people were mystified as to the reason for the snarled traffic – despite the city’s extensive efforts to publicize the closures (seriously, I’ve seen it everywhere).
In other words, some people truly believe it is all about them.
I am convinced blinders have been handed out at every Starbucks (the only place or event that is universally known) that keeps people from being aware of their surroundings. The phrase “I never knew” seems to be the mantra. Ignorance seems to be epidemic, but most of the victims are Teflon. I know we’re a busy community, but seriously?
Think of how boring life would be if our routines were never disrupted, the ennui of daily life a never-changing horizon. Do people really want that? And I suspect that some – if not most – of the complainers have been part of a traffic problem themselves at a different time. (School drop-off, or Target parking lot during the holidays, anyone?) Some people just love to be miserable or as my mom used to say “you’d complain if someone hung you with a new rope.”
Don’t worry, it didn’t make sense then either, but it does offer perspective.
All these complainers seem to forget that they enjoy the benefits of what our municipal agencies provide. Sadly, a sense of entitlement oozes out of doorways and comprises the exhaust of their vehicles that fight over parking spaces at the mall, clouding their ability to see that what pays for our more than adequate public safety, professional city staff, abundance of parks and well-maintained roads might just be those “events” that are such an inconvenience.
Did anyone notice that those cyclists attracted hundreds of spectators? Are they all locals? No. Many of them – including some of the competitors who are sleeping here overnight – are visitors who are spending money on hotels, restaurants, souvenirs and other ways of investing in OUR local economy. We benefit from that, every complainer and fan alike.
That investment comes back to our city in its ability to finance a better quality of life that everyone takes for granted and –perhaps to a greater measure – enriches the cultural atmosphere that we all enjoy. Anyone like sports? Performing arts? History? Youth activities? Supporting worthy charities? (Heads up, people, the second largest Relay for Life in the state will take place at Central Park this weekend. It might affect traffic, but I’ll take the delay if it offers hope and help in the fight against cancer). It’s the circle of life (Amgen pun intended) on a fiscal plain.
And for those of you who notice that I have not named my beloved city, it was on purpose. These blinders are typical in many communities. I’m encouraging people all over the country to get out and appreciate the beauty around us every day. Even if we’re sitting in stopped traffic, we can notice birds or flowers, or people on the street, new businesses opening or restaurants we’d like to try. It’s much healthier to set an example of gratitude than entitlement.