The High Cost of Selfishness in Society

I’ve just gotten home from work. Something happened tonight on the way home that upset me. I was driving along my city’s main north/south highway when I saw a car on the shoulder that was jacked up. It had a flat tire, I guess. Anyway, as I was driving by in one of the middle lanes, too far to just get over quickly, I thought I saw a person under the car. There was definitely another person standing to the side of the car waving their arms. I thought someone might be trapped under the car. Maybe it fell on them when they were trying to change the tire?

As soon as I could get safely over to the right I exited. Immediately I searched my mind for the best way to get back to them. I could have called the police, but they would take longer than I would. I needed to approach them from the south, so that I could come upon them from behind. I had been driving north. I had to go two highway exits back. I knew how to do it. I could see the layout of the streets in my head. I came around on a surface street parallel to the highway in the left lane. It was a big surface street with lots of lanes. I had to stop for a red light and I was hoping it would turn green in a hurry. It did. The only problem was that some pedestrian had to choose that moment to try and get across the crosswalk, not even leaving the far right side until the light going my way was a second or two from turning green. His way was definitely red. I saw him, barely. I honked. Dammit, I needed to get going and he was holding me up. Somebody’s life might be in the balance and this fool had to get across. I don’t know why. Does it matter? You know what he did, of course. He flipped me off. I sat there watching him as he passed in front of me with a raised middle finger. I waited with my light green until he was not only past me, but also until I was certain he wasn’t going to stop dangerously in front of me, or go past me and come back. Just because he seemed in such a hurry to get across at everybody else’s expense didn’t mean that he didn’t have the time to complain when someone confronted him about his behavior. As he was giving me a two handed salute, I sped away. I did give him a half-hearted salute of my own with my left hand as I got going.

At the next intersection I almost caught the green arrow. I would have, I think, if he hadn’t held me up. I was in the turn lane, and a little way down, when the light changed. I don’t have lights and sirens, so I couldn’t just go after the arrow turned red. Besides, no matter the consequences, I was not certain I had seen what I thought I saw. I had no right to just go against my red light. I had to wait through an entire light cycle. What if the person was suffering and they had to suffer that much longer? Was the pedestrian’s need to get across worth their pain? You’ll be glad to know I hadn’t seen what I thought I had. I got back to the spot, this time in their lane, and nobody was under the car. If they had been, imagine the additional suffering. It’s only minutes, for sure, but minutes pinned under a car.

As if to compound the lesson given me by my fellow man, on the way home after that at several intersections people were crossing in the crosswalks in the downtown of the city against their red lights, while mine was green. That happens downtown. You have to anticipate it because there are so many homeless people there. It’s become so common that I feel they act more like the animals I got used to crossing the highway from when I learned to drive in the mountains. You learn to expect the unexpected from animals because they can’t think like people. They don’t know what kind of danger they are in. They aren’t capable of doing the geometry and realizing they can’t make it. Only, of course, even the homeless can do the math. They just think they take precedence. That’s what’s going on, isn’t it? They do whatever they want because their individual situations are so desperate, according to their own interpretation, that they have some kind of right to go that supersedes the rights of those whose turn it is. To them, it is like they have blinders on. They can only see their own plight. You know what, so can every Uber driver who thinks that making a u-turn in front of oncoming traffic because they need to get to the side of the street their fare is on. Likewise, when taxis sit in the middle of a single lane one-way street for several light cycles worth of time either waiting for or dealing with a parting ride. Ditto for all the bicyclists in my neighborhood who run red lights without looking and look at you as if it is your fault if you come upon them and they almost get hit. It wouldn’t matter if the rest of us were pinned under a car, they would do it anyway. The jaywalker who held me up wasn’t any of those things, and he did it. Speaking of Uber, it’s what happened when that homeless woman was hit while jaywalking the other day by a self-driving car. She was in the wrong. Throughout society there has been a gasp as people think about it. It’s the same gasp that jaywalker made just before he flipped me off. Most people seem to think that rights align along the path described by the severity of the consequences surrounding an action, not that rights are tied to right-of-way. If not that, then rights are somehow attached to need, without reference to society. To see clearly sometimes you have to look farther down the road. Most people can only see what is right in front of them.

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