“Everywhere-You-Look Rage”

You can tell what’s important to a culture by the number of words it has for certain things. For instance, among the Eskimos, there are a multitude of words for “snow.” Obviously, snow is quite vital to Eskimos. What’s important in the United States? Apparently, “rage” since we have a whole lot of words for it.

There is “road rage,” which, everyone knows by now, describes those screaming, cursing, tail-gaiting loonie tunes behind wheels (which we call around here “Bay Area drivers”). Then there is “going postal,” coined after those mad postal workers who went berserk-o on the job.

New terms for rage are popping up on a regular basis: one is “sidewalk rage.” Apparently, this means an average citizen going insane not while driving, but while walking.

Then there is, “pet rage,” that is, when a law-abiding citizen goes ballistic on a pooch. This word has been applied recently to a sad case in the tony, East Bay town of Kensington, where a jogger apparently had a serious case of “pet rage.”

A woman was walking her dog (off leash, against the law) near a Kensington elementary school. The small pug apparently ran over to a jogger who kicked her away (the dog, not the owner). It was a powerful kick; the dog went flying, which led to the pug’s premature demise.

The story inflamed heart strings all over the country. Newspapers, from east to west, covered this purported case of “pet rage.” (By the way: I like dogs just as much as the next person, but I sure wish stories about people being horribly abused around here would capture the attention of the local and national news as well.)

The opinion from the cyber public on the “pet rage” story seems divided between those who, having had more than a few run-ins with unleashed dogs, side with the jogger. The rest feel he overreacted and that the dog walker was in the right.

As for me, I’m a bit divided on the subject, given that I live in an area where there isn’t just road rage, people going postal, sidewalk rage, and pet rage. Here we have “everywhere-you-look rage,” which basically means people losing their marbles about pretty much everything. That’s what happens to a population under continual stress from bumper-to-bumper traffic, sky-high housing costs, aggressive panhandlers, and an obscene amount of street crime.

Personally, I’ve been almost run over by many a runner, who won’t allow pedestrians, cars, little old ladies in wheelchairs, etc. to stop him or her. But while many joggers are a danger to the public, bicyclists and skateboarders take the cake. It amazes me to see little girls, with their mothers close by, racing down the sidewalk on skateboards, almost mowing down anyone who may be in their way. And then we have the truly maniacal bike riders, who never found a stop sign or red light worth slowing down for.

Of course, I’ve been accosted on many occasions by those off-leash dogs, for instance, on the sidewalks, parks, and even in banks and drug stores. You can be trying to relax with a cup of tea and a muffin at a sidewalk cafe, when all of a sudden Rover is jumping on your lap to procure your pastry.

The reason that we have “everywhere rage” around here is pretty simple: it’s because people do not follow the rules. When people don’t follow the rules, it creates chaos. Chaos makes one feel afraid and threatened, which can lead to acts of rage. Thus, people flaunting the law simply because they want to, and because the authorities let them, leads to an uncivilized, frenetic, and, yes, enraged populace.

To restore some emotional balance to all of us out here means restoring law and order. But what do you do when so many people feel that the rules shouldn’t apply to them?

Not much, I’m afraid. Road rage, sidewalk rage, pet rage, and everywhere-you-look rage will be the norm around here, not the exception. Sadly, human beings and little pugs will end upon the receiving end of all of this rage when grown adults and undersocialized children are unwilling to follow the rules.

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