This stuff is fun to talk about, and share amongst ourselves, who understand what it’s like to be on the receiving end. But for those who are really concerned and worried, for those looking for a way to “cure” the average person of this, it ain’t going to happen.
We are out in public, doing something unusual. Unusual things get unusual comments. Because unicycling is perceived as non-threatening, people seem to feel free to say whatever comes into their head. Sometimes this is well thought out, and other times there is clearly no thought involved. But people are going to say stuff.
Not everybody doing “unusual” stuff gets the same type of comments. A guy walking at a fast pace down the street in NYC at 2:00 in the morning carrying a spear gun (seen by a friend of mine) is going to get less comments. He’s scary, but we’re not.
When we’re dressed up in helmet pads, and big knobby tire, people seem less likely to say the more dorky things. We look a little more intimidating. People react to what they see.
For many people, seeing and reacting to something like a unicyclist brings out their true personalities. You get to find out right away what kind of a person they are. Responses also vary depending on who the respondant is with. If alone, they usually say less, or less-offensive things. When with peers, they can get downright dangerous.
When they’re drunk and driving an SUV, just get the hell away! They were probably just looking for an excuse to drive all over the school grounds. You made it easier for them.
So what to do? Be polite, or ignore. Most people, even if their comments are annoying, are just trying to break the ice. Comments like “Where’s the other wheel” usually represent a person trying to get in on the fun with you. So give them back one of the classic responses “On my other unicycle” and let them share the fun with you. For the nasty people, no response is necessary. Don’t give them the time of day. If you can make them think you didn’t even hear them it works even better, by not giving them the satisfaction.
As for the boy in the original post, what does he know? Non-riders have no idea about unicycling. Sounds like he was curious. So just tell him no, those were hard tricks!
We forget, as we learn more about unicycling, what the general public sees. I have to think back to my jr. high school days, seeing Jim Bossey of the Pontiac Unicyclists riding a five-footer over a jump ramp in my school variety show. I thought he was going to die. I had no idea what I was looking at. Today, I can tell a beginner from a comfortable rider in one second. I can tell which direction a rider is about to fall, when they start to loose it, whether the trick they’re doing is easy for them or hard, and even sometimes what they can and can’t do based on what I’ve already seen. I’m not always right on this, but I’m pretty consistent.
Give the people on the street the benefit of the doubt.