Catch 22!

A ‘Catch 22’ is defined as a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. Let me illustrate.

If the weather allows, I hit the bike trails pretty much every day. I generally get in 10-15 miles and this morning was just wonderful. I get most of the material for my blog posts from these rides, where I have time to just marinate on whatever comes to mind.

There are a few rules that riders are to be aware of such as limiting your speed to 15 miles per hour, staying in the right lane, being respectful of others, watching for those with dogs on long leashes or families walking as a group with young kids, and watching for vehicles at intersections.

In short, just be aware and be safe because (and I’m confident that most riders and runners will agree) the majority of those on the trails are either talking with one another, talking on their cell phone or listening to music with their earphones in. This results in a low level of awareness and people drifting all over the bike trail.

There is one rule, however, that I really struggle with. When you pass someone, you’re supposed to say, ‘On the left!’ I’ve really tried to abide by this rule until I finally concluded that it’s a Catch 22. The responses I consistently get fall into two categories.

  1. If I so indicate, those on the right will invariably respond back with something sarcastic such as ‘I heard you. You don’t have to yell.’ ‘Watch where you’re going!’
  2. If I don’t indicate, especially if there’s clearly enough room and no danger, the response will invariably be ‘You’re supposed to say on the left!’ That response typically comes from someone that I startled because they were paying no attention at all. It’s also often accompanied by a profanity of some kind.

So, what did I decide to do? I opted for making no indication at all, primarily because my bike is built to make a loud, continual clicking noise when I stop peddling, which I do for a few seconds when I come up behind someone. The second reason is that if I say nothing, I get the least amount of responses and I can live with that.

You’re probably wondering if I ever stop because of some ‘over-the-line’ retort. I don’t because I know that’s it’s a Catch 22 confrontation. The only outcome will invariably be escalation. It’s a waste of time to reason with someone that doesn’t want to be reasoned with. They just want to be angry and they just want to be right. I prefer investing my time and energy in enjoying a great ride.

I can’t help but think how that’s generally the state of human interaction in our country today. Easier to create a ‘Catch 22’, where the person with the loudest argument always wins, than to invest in a practical, logical approach that tries to help as many people as possible co-exist and even win.

Truth Be Told, let everyone else argue and shout. For the rest of us, let’s just lead by example.

Published by The Leadership Consortium

Maxie Carpenter was formerly Vice President of HR & Talent Development for Wal-Mart Stores. After a 27-year career, he began to pursue a number of other interests, which included alternative education, nonprofits, consulting, writing and public speaking.

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