Recently, I timed a race which went very extremely well for everyone. The participants had a great time, the race directors were happy and there absolutely no issues with the data or timing. It was what we would call a flawless race. When I got home, I got this nasty email from a participant informing how we really fumbled the ball and didn't manage our timing properly. His anger and frustration were over the "fact" that his time was incorrect and that our timing was not managed well otherwise his time would have been accurate and reported correctly. He then went on to describe how we didn't even have his name in the database correctly and it was being reported with the wrong number. Once I looked into the issue, I found that his time was correct and that he was being reported correctly with the right bib number. I asked him about it. After some time, he admitted that he made a mistake and was looking at last year's results. Whoops!! Bet that was embarrassing. Besides the fact that it was his entirely his fault, he was an absolute jerk about and initiated with a totally inappropriate request. To his credit, he did apologize and explained his mistake.
It reminded me of other situations that we have seen over the years. I am always amazed but no longer surprised at the behavior I see from some participants at events. I saw it when my kids activities in little league, football, dance, etc. I see it at high school events (especially with parents), and I see it all the time at road races. People behaving badly when they feel slighted. I completely understand that things can happen and it can be a little frustrating when we feel wronged, but there is a way right to handle a situation and escalating from the get-go is not it. There is an old saying about attracting more bees with honey than vinegar. We intuitively know to attempt to resolve things peacefully, but instead people will lash out for the jugular and attempt to hammer the other person into getting it resolved. I don't know about you, but my personal response is to treat them like the child they've become. There certainly can be a valid issue, but if not it's a lot less embarrassing to find out if approached correctly.
There are certainly situations that come up in races that need a response, but I have never seen a sitatuion that merited a hostile response. I talk to race directors and timers all over the country and I hear the same frustrations. It's a universal problem. There are always situations that can be easily resolved if you simply inform someone of the issue and allow them to look into it. Hitting them with a two by four is not the proper way to do it. Most people I see handle issues with grace and good behavior but there are those few unfortunately that never grew up. I hope that when you are at an event and in the rare case that things don't go your way, you will handle it with grace and a willingness to work it out. I know that race directors and timers everywhere will appreciate it.