Friday, December 3, 2010

"You Go And Then I Go"

A phrase has been puttering in the back of my mind recently. "You go and then I go. You go and then I go."

Jon Stewart said this at the Rally To Restore Sanity (and/or Fear) at the end of October. He used some horribly congested roadway outside Washington, D.C. to symbolize collective rationality. As a great number of lanes merge down to a single stream of cars, "You go then I'll go," is the prevailing attitude. Yes, he said, there will be some assholes who ride up the shoulder and cut in line, but we all hate them. Everyone else tends towards cooperation.

I believe this is either out of selfish fear or (meaninglessly) selfish hope. We let others go first so that the next person will do the same for us. Perhaps this is out of fear that they will not if we do not do the same. Perhaps it is out of hope that others will treat us the way we would wish to be ourselves.

Sadly, I tend towards the fear angle, because it's the only thing that seems to make any sense from the way I've seen people drive.

I was heading into work a couple days ago during a fairly bad rain storm. Now, having gone to a very moist college, I wasn't too hindered by the rain, but even I was a bit tepid driving through a series of blacked-out traffic lights on a six-lane highway. But do you know what I saw?

"You go and then I'll go. You go and then I'll go."

Across six lanes, school buses, pick-ups, big-rigs, compacts, minivans, everyone was being courteous. Three lanes willfully gave up right-of-way to a couple of vehicles trying to make it across the busy street. These drivers then yielded to our three lanes because we had rounded a corner into this mess and it was easier to let us go and pass undisturbed through our wake.

I say it was a common fear of the road conditions that spurred us to kindness and good will. Cooperation in the face of possible death has always been Man's greatest tool in evolving grand-scale society.

Do you say differently? Do you believe perhaps instead it was kindness that prevented collisions that day? Perhaps the poor conditions simply tugged at our heartstrings and helped us decide to be better people than usual, because everyone deserves to be treated well, even on a bad day.

Well then why the hell don't people drive like that on a calm Spring day?


  1. It might be fear, but maybe not. Say you had knowledge of the future such that you knew there was no way you could die as a result of reckless driving on that rainy day. Wouldn't you still drive courteously and carefully?

    I think it's more a case of social norms than everyone sharing a selfish fear. Then again, what started the social norm might be that fear.

  2. If I knew I was immortal I would brobay drive nicely for fear of killing someone else and going to jail. Monkey's Paw, my friend. Unintended consequences are a bitch.


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