Wednesday, September 02, 2009
We know it's a rule, but we know better
Do you see this sort of thing happening and imagine yourself doing something clever that turns the situation upside down? That your clever act of heroism will suddenly make disadvantaged all those who are gaining advantage by doing whatever they please?
It's not often when I leave the house that I don't see some sort of behavior that breaks rules that are there to keep things fair or safe. I'm sure I break some myself. I try really hard not to, and I try to consider how anything I do might affect those around me. It can be very frustrating as well when one is trying to do the right thing, and you are inundated with example after example of people thinking only of themselves. Just last night, as I stopped at the grocery store, I noticed a pretty good-sized sign that had been placed in the fire lane. It read: No Parking - Fire Lane.
Less than one car length past the sign, I could see the tail end of a silver Porsche. Parked in the fire lane with the driver inside. Now... they probably had to drive right past that sign to park like that. They most likely had seen the sign. But I don't know that they did. In fact, I would venture to say that someone who is that unaware as to think that they don't have to follow the same rules as the rest of us probably was not paying that much attention.
I looked at the sign. I thought, "Maybe I should drag that sign around to the front of the car and leave it there, so this guy can see it. And then he'll feel embarrassed and never park in fire lanes again." But considering the sign had about 80 lbs. of concrete at it's base, I feel pretty sure the message would have been, "I'm stupid enough to expend the energy needed to drag this heavy sign in front of you just to make a point." I have felt stupid in the past after trying to point out someone's inconsiderate behavior. They are not even considering what they are doing, much less doing it for the purpose I suspect and my behavior would be very pointedly meant to grab their attention by treated them poorly.
I really don't think that my efforts would have been all that effective. So, I just let go. Instead of putting a lot of effort into changing this person's behavior, I put much less effort into changing mine. I don't need to care about that person and what they do unless it is truly dangerous or criminal. Little I would do in that situation would be likely to change that person's behavior. All I can do is follow the rules myself. I walked on in the store, and seconds later, I had forgotten what was going on in the fire lane.
So... knowing that I tend to see little "injustices" everywhere, I try to use them as exercises to reduce that tendency.
Everyday, I take each of my children to school. This means everyday, I sit in 3 different car lines. For a while there, I think my wife had to seriously weigh the benefits of letting me drop the kids off (or pick them up). Could a few moments of peace and quite at home be worth the inevitable litany of injustices that I would bring back with me? I would find myself bringing up the car line in conversations. It was becoming a bit much.
Everyday now, I start the day with 3 chances to either get all wrapped up in what people are doing in the car lines, or 3 chances to exercise my ability to ignore people's unconscious behavior. That's something that made what folks are doing easier to stomach, the realization that most of us really are not thinking about what we are doing. We do much of what we do in our daily lives, especially that which is routine, unconsciously.
I still see the behavior, and I still struggle with some of it, but I try not to think about it beyond that notice. I am not truly ignoring it, but I don't carry it home with me. And I remind myself that it is unconscious behavior.
In the middle school car line, there is a certain entrance that the school wants us to use to enter the parking lots. They do not want us to let our kids out anywhere else than the steps in front of the school, under the watchful eye of 2 teachers stationed there to make sure the kids get in safely. You might guess that neither of these two rules is followed by at least half of the parents.
Those of us that do as the school asks spend a much longer time in the car line. There are two reasons for this: One, the kids that are let out in the street and in a second unofficial car line that has developed in another part of the parking lot have to cross through the official car line to get to school. So we get stopped a lot. Two, the cars from the impromptu unofficial car line have to be let back into the flow of traffic that is the official car line.
That's a situation that is just ripe for me to get all twisted up with what these other people are doing. But it is also my opportunity to do the opposite. Instead of grousing and such, I just remind myself that even though I don't think the impromptu car line is fair, it is necessary. The official car line can not handle the volume of kids that have to be dropped off each day. And the wait in the official car line would probably actually be longer if everyone used it. I make sure that my perspective of that other car line is, while maybe not 100% positive, it is a little less negative every day.
Then each day, just to be sure that I take this exercise to heart, I do one other thing that I never used to do. Where the two traffic lines meet. Where I would once have said to myself, "Hah! See if I let you back in!" to the drivers in the other car line. I stop my car and I wave at least one of the other drivers back into the flow of traffic. It feels better than going home and telling my wife about all that negative things I just experienced.