It was on Joliet Street in La Salle when someone yelled the N-word at me from their truck.
I was running north on the sidewalk, about a block away from the stoplights before the road turns into St. Vincent Avenue, and there it was — a big fat racial slur yelled into the night.
For those who do not know, I am not black or a person of color. And as far as I could tell, there were no black people around me. There were no people in general. So this person was either screaming his slur into the void and I my ears were hit with the collateral damage or he was actually yelling at me. Either way, it’s not a good look.
I get yelled at often when I’m running. It’s usually not as offensive as what I described above, but it can often be perplexing. And my biggest question is why? Why yell at someone on the side of the road? Because I’m exercising? Do you walk into gyms and shout weird things at people trying to max out on the bench press? Or is it easier from the security of a moving vehicle?
Being a pedestrian around here isn’t very fun. I think it gives a lot of perspective on how bad we all suck at driving. I see a lot of arguments about truck drivers being the problem, or cyclists being the problem, when in reality it’s all of us. We all suck at driving — sometimes — and it becomes very noticeable trying to navigate local roads and sidewalks on foot. I’ve seen some things.
And being out after dark is even weirder. I like to run at night, especially during summer, because it’s cooler. It keeps me away from those death rays that fiery boy in the sky likes to shoot down on us. But it comes with challenges of its own and people seem more willing to yell at you from their car.
My goal here is to point out some of the odd or annoying things people like to do. I might just be inviting more of them upon myself, but maybe it will at least spark some sort of original insult. So, here is my list of what not to say or do to runners when passing by in your vehicle:
1. Slurs: I've been called a racial slur as noted above. I've been called a bundle of sticks — that's certainly a more popular one. I've been called some of your more standard curse words. And pretty much all of these are coming from grown adults — teens at the least. The most encouraging words I get when I'm running are usually from younger kids. Thanks kids.
2. Catcalling: This one really makes me feel bad for women. If my "average Joe 12-pack" looking self is getting catcalled, I can't imagine what women have to go through when out running — especially if they're like me and want to run at night. Is it flattering? Not really. It usually sounds more like a heckle than a sincere admission of attraction.
3. Overused movie quotes: For those that don't recall, there was a recurring line from a film in the 90s where the titular character runs away from bullies. These creative individuals like to flaunt their vast knowledge of obscure film trivia by quoting the most popular line from the sixth highest grossing film of the decade. I'll tell you right now, you're not the first to yell "Run, Forrest, run." If you had a time machine to go back to July 1994, there would be some originality to it. Otherwise, if you have to yell a movie quote, I'm looking for something original.
4. Excessive honking: Are you a goose? Or am I in the way? When you are blaring your horn, you're making me think I'm in the way. You are making me think my safety is at risk. You are making me think I'm about to get hit by a car. And then when you drive on past without issue, you make me think you are a goose.
5. Rolling coal: It’s always fun dumping large amounts of black smoke on that sucker who’s using his legs to get around. He probably didn’t want to breathe clean air anyway, right? Well, I’ll have you know you’re not the only one who car emit exhaust — although mines a little more methane-based.
6. Just yelling: "AAAAAHHHHH!!!!" Are there bees in your car or are you just afraid to see me?
Brett Herrmann can be reached at (815) 220-6933 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_Herrmann.