What would you spare for a stranger in the name of common decency? Polite consideration? Manners? Good form? Fuck, would you even do some small tidbit of niceness for someone you don’t know in the name boredom or trying something new?
Would you even bother to spare a mere five seconds of your time on this planet even if it didn’t line your pockets with gold?
Would you bother to move a finger a couple of inches for another human being? No, I’m not talking about The Finger! I’m talking about the supreme effort required to do something as simple as using your turn signal.
These questions occurred to me this evening as I drove down the street. I was even minding my own business and hadn’t done anything overtly provocative. 🙂
When the chips were down, I have no doubt that some people on the Titanic were selfish assholes. You know, the “every man for himself” type of thing. On the other hand, I’m sure some stepped up. You know, giving up their seats for women and children in exchange for certain death. That’s a fairly bold move. You might even call it an “ah ha moment.” I’ll be honest. I’m not so sure that just because someone is a “woman” or a “child” they automatically deserve a shot at life and I don’t. So I’m not exactly sure what I’d do in the same situation. (However, peeing myself is a given.) But I can certainly acknowledge the awesome level of sacrifice that some voluntarily made to make such a decision.
So I guess the real question I’m struggling with is, as a society, how much do we really give a shit about each other?
- I was driving down the road. I was the only car as far as the eye could see. At a cross street a car had just arrived and was about to cross. Based on my rate of travel and distance, there clearly wasn’t enough time for the driver to go. So naturally they went anyway. I had to hit the brakes to avoid plowing in to them as they deserved. (Trust me, it would have been my pleasure.) It would have taken an additional five seconds or so for me to clear the intersection. Moral of this story? “I can’t spare a mere five seconds for you in order to proceed safely and courteously and have the whole street to themselves.
- I was driving down the road. Suddenly the car in front of me slams on the brakes. There is no turn signal. They slow to almost a complete stop and then turn right. Moral of the story? “I can’t be bothered to play ahead and/or use my turn signal even failure to do so might kill us both.” Again, turning on their blinker about five seconds earlier might have helped.
Finally it dawned on me. This five-second thing is a trend. It must be significant. A hypothesis was slowly beginning to germinate in my mind:
When a society reaches the point that members can’t be bothered to spare five-seconds for each other then that society has reached “critical mass” and must leave the planet immediately.
We are the five-second society. The five-second rule is now in play.
When I was a kid, I learned about this thing called “the honor rule.” You know, when the teacher has to leave the room and tells everyone “you’re on your honor?” I don’t remember what grade I was in, but I know it was still an “elementary” school. It’s hard to put into words, but the significance of “being on my honor” has stuck in my mind ever since. Today, I’m a 54 year old man who asks himself every day, “did all these people somehow not get that lesson in school… Or anywhere?”
You know, regardless or where you live, or what you call the system you live under, EVERYTHING depends on the honor rule in the end. That rule is THE fundamental difference between the civilized and the savages. And the test, oh yeah there’s a test, is coming!
“These are the times that try men’s souls.” – Thomas Paine 😐
So, my last post was about my slight paranoia I’ve been having while driving and thinking someone will hit me. Thank you! You have now added to that paranoia!
Back to your post. In general I think as a people, are very selfish, but in a crisis and extreme situations I think we would sacrifice our own lives for others, even complete strangers.
I didn’t comment but I did see the pictures and I loved them. 🙂 And no need to be paranoid when driving if you always maintain a total state of awareness like me. 🙂
No doubt some have sacrificed for others. I’m still not so sure what I would do. I might give up my seat on a lifeboat in exchange for one last steak before I go. Oh yeah.
Total awareness, huh? Lets just say I’m skeptical about that (:
I’m not sure what I would do either. I won’t lie, I would hope in a situation like that I would fall into the “women go first” category.
I know that the world is full of jerks and bad people, but I really do believe there are a lot more good, caring & thoughtful people than not. I also know that we all have it in us to be a little bit (or a lot of bit!) of both, depending on the situation. I spend most of my time trying to lift people up, support and encourage them, but if someone is rude, or blatantly mean to me, then I guess I can turn into the jerk in about 5 seconds flat! Oh well, I may be a mutant, but I’m still human. 😉
The thing that gets me is the son of a bitch who decided to risk death rather than waiting five seconds for the street be clear so he could pull out safely. It’s like he looked left, looked right, then shrugged and said, “Fuck it. We all gotta die someday. Maybe I can take this guy with me,” then headed right for me. It’s not just that it was a stupid decision, it’s that he was proactively being an asshole.
Total zen awareness in the car is pretty much unheard of these days, but it is possible. I’m here to assure you of that! It does require a certain level of mindfulness and commitment, however.
1. Take a moment and acknowledge that you are in a car. It is an object designed to move at speed and can weigh, on average, up to 4,000 pounds. Combine those two basic facts and you begin to understand the awesome forces that can quickly become involved. Driving into a tree at a very modest speed can literally kill you.
2. Part of my routine is to pause before turning the ignition and imagine a grisly car wreck. I’ve seen several in my day. This little moment of reflection helps me drive more safely. Whenever I see a stupid and pointless accident I burn it into my retina and thank the people involved for providing me extra motivation to drive carefully.
3. This is the biggie. As you drive you remain focused on the task of driving. You look ahead proactively. You keep your eyes moving. You identify potential problems before they happen. You remain mindful that you are moving.
Driving around the town where I live is like driving in a driver’s ed movie. Things leap out at you about every five seconds. (There’s five seconds again!) Cars do stupid things. Cars and pedestrians break the law. I do little things like look for shadows and look through car windows. If I see someone sitting in a car at the side of the road I react accordingly just in case they might fling that door open at just the right moment in time. (Which they usually do.) I watch oncoming traffic and evaluate their lane positioning. Are they about to crunch the left side of my car? Some people apparently consider lines on the road to be nothing more than annoying suggestions.
Anyway, I think you get my point. I don’t take driving for granted. I don’t make it a matter of routine.
A lot of people around here have committed involuntary suicide by car. These are also called SVAs or Single Vehicle Accidents. Short of some sort of massive mechanical problem or random outside occurrence (like a tree falling on your car) these are almost always caused by human stupidity. We hear about these every day. Like a beautiful and young high school senior who was a straight “A” student and had her whole life ahead of her and negotiated a curve at a rate of speed she couldn’t handle and died hitting a tree. When I hear about an SVA I think, “There is someone who probably wasn’t focused on the act of driving.”
The only other rule about driving that I try to live by is something my dad taught while teaching me to drive at the age of 16. “Don’t let your driving interfere with anyone else.” Such a simple rule but it has stuck with me all these years. That is a big part of why I personally choose not to pull out right in front of people. (Besides the fact that it is rude and dangerous.) I still apply that rule to my driving every single day.
/pompous mode off
When I drive, I pretend that all the other drivers around me are escaped mental patients. Keeps me focused. I never assume that a turn signal actually means they are turing or lack of one means they are going straight. I’ll give some people 10 seconds just so they can drive way in front of me where I can keep an eye on them.
Great idea! Now why didn’t I think of that? 🙂
#2 is a very good idea! I think I’m going to teach that to my teenager!
On #3. The last time I had an accident, I had just told myself to focus on my driving for some reason. Then I pulled out of the garage and hit my daughter’s car, which she had warned me the night before was parked there! I obviously didn’t take my own advice, because I was late for where I was going and that took over my thoughts.
There is so much that’s automatic about driving that it’s hard some times to focus on what you are doing — braking, shifting, calculating how fast others are driving. You are on auto pilot, which can be dangerous.
As for the drivers who didn’t give you five seconds — perhaps they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, which is not to excuse them, but means, as Amy said, they are escaped mental patients. A friend said someone clipped her bumper at a stop light and then drove off. My friend called 911 and chased her down and the woman did pull over. The driver said she thought she’d hit a curb. The police came and arrested her because she was under the influence of something. This was at 1 p.m. on a Sunday leaving a Costco parking lot.
I liked the connection between people being inconsiderate and driving. What is it about being in a car that turns people into jerks? (i was actually just drafting a post about this myself.)
Personally I believe it is four things.
1. Barrier. The body of a car represents a physical barrier between the driver and the rest of the world. This encourages a feeling of safety and emboldens the driver.
2. Distance. All other drivers, pedestrians and objects are likely to be three or more feet away from the driver. I think belligerence increases with distance.
3. Culture. From our parents to the person who taught us to drive to references in TV shows and movies, we have all be trained to accept belligerence as the norm. Quite simply it is monkey see, monkey do.
4. Impatience. Our hectic go-go society may be one of the most impatient of all time.
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