Caning it

Columns | Christopher Anderson | May 2009

Dear Diary,

I know Vienna has a reputation of being a safe city, but there is a danger lurking in the streets of this city that not many people are aware of. I’m not speaking of disillusioned teens, drug dealers or even the police. Yes, I’m talking about elderly ladies with walking sticks.

Case in point: While riding my bicycle down Lassalle Strasse, I came to an intersection at which the bike lane crossed to the other side.  With an open sidewalk ahead of me, I decided to continue down the three meter wide strip of concrete, although cautiously.  I realize this is technically illegal, just as crossing the street against a red pedestrian light. Thus, I always proceed slowly and cautiously.

On this particular afternoon, I came upon an odd sight: an elderly lady gesticulating wildly at me in the middle of the path. As I coasted towards her, she bellowed at me slightly bent over, wielding her walking cane above her head. I slowed and steered to her side, uttering a riposte of "Bitte," in response to her exaggerated and unnecessary reaction to my presence on the sidewalk.

Just when I thought I was out of the clear, I felt a whack upon my backpack. Anger welled up inside of me. Still I quelled the urge to retaliate and rode slowly further down the street until I rejoined the bike lane farther along the way.

In retrospect I realized that I was in the wrong; what I was doing is something verboten in this city. But did that give her carte blanche to joust at me?

I know, I know. Some of you reading this think I’m just another craven youth and you would have taken no small delight in doing the same. Some of you might have gone even further and swung the cane yourself, or poked in between the spokes of my wheel, Indiana Jones style, just to see me flung up in the air like some outlaw.

Sure, sure, I may be in the wrong, but does it give you the right to unleash your wrath upon a fellow citizen?

Let’s think about the next time we see someone doing something wrong. There’s a right way and a wrong way of handling the situation. Please, for me and my back’s sake, please choose the right way!

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