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Journal: pedestrian litmus test

Journal by dandelion_wine

Today marks my first day of unicycling this year. It was pretty sunny and warm out earlier, and turned cloudy and windy and cold well before the time I got home, so was a bit of a wear in all -- over 2 hours of near-continuous uni, and I'm pretty sore and beat. Today's run of reactions from people, on tally, were a part of that.

I'd like to say that most people greet the sight of a unicycle with smiles or a wave or at least a raised eyebrow. I'd like to but I can't. And this has made me reflect on the nature of all unusual public activities, human nature, and personal joy.

Little kids, pretty much uniformly, stare, smile, wave, run inside to get siblings, etc. Parents will usually do the same. It's nice. Happy young couples, also, seem to disproportionately greet the unicyclist positively. I'd also like to say that the mass of positive reactions make up for the few negative ones, that I brush those off and just keep peddling. I'd like to say that, but the fact is that I'm so blown away that anyone would react negatively that it takes a bit of effort to shake.

Sure, drunks taunt me, but that's not unexpected (actually, they like to sing circus music, which is hilarious). But people frown. People grumble. More than I think you'd suspect. Today a woman told me that she hopes I hurt myself. No one has yet tried to kick my ass, but I sense that it's only a matter of time. So my question is, what is it with these people?

I think that unicycling may be one of those social litmus tests, the way that young couples (reservedly) embracing or kissing in public are. Those of us that are happy are happy to see it. Those who are bitter just seem to want it to go away. I get the definite sense that seeing something unusual on the street, something playful, doesn't produce bitterness or joy so much as brings it to the surface. I see it emerge in their faces. The elderly are another group that disproportionately seem able to tap into a sense of play.

Now I'd like to put out there as a disclaimer that I don't unicycle in order to elicit reactions. Depending on mood, I'll hit less or more populated areas, and mostly just want to be left alone. Thus, I don't think I'm necessarily attention-seeking or require positive strokes. This isn't for them; it's for me. My god, this is far too much work and pain to do for anybody else for more than a day or two, and I've been riding for awhile. It's a good chance to people-watch, though, since they're being provoked in an unusual way, and let's face it, without some kind of provocation, it's difficult to tell a person's nature.

Sometimes, it seems that people in this town just don't know how to smile.

"Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago." -- Bernard Berenson

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