Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Effect of Anonymity and Cockroaches on Road Rage

I came across another one of those SmartCars, in someone’s driveway up on Westover. I stopped my bike (obviously -- how else would I have taken this picture?) A couple of pedestrians walking by saw me see it, and stopped for a brief conversation about it. (They want one too.)

The thing about biking? You have these friendly little exchanges with people all the time. Unlike driving, where instead of making your way among other people, you’re negotiating among conflicting rivers of Moving Metal Deathtraps. And usually you can’t make eye contact with the drivers – which makes everyone anonymous, in other words not necessarily a human being. And that’s when we have what in the States has been dubbed Road Rage.

People are upset up-to-here about something, like the fact that their daughter has just had a large cockroach tattooed on her smooth, perfect, youthful neck. And they can’t do a damn thing about it because it’s done. She’s over 18 and had no legal obligation to listen to you when you told her that when she’s 50 and her neck starts to go, the last thing she’s going to want is a cockroach on there.

Are we talking about SmartCars yet? Is this a bike blog, or what? Yes, it’s a bike blog and we’re talking about the origins of Road Rage, which is pretty darned important whether you’re in a bike or in a car.

Anyway my point is that people have a lot of anger stacked up inside them, not about driving but about other painful things, and then what do they do but climb into a Moving Metal Deathtrap where no one can see who they are and start operating heavy machinery which it says, right on the package that the anger comes in, that you shouldn’t do.

Next thing you know, a mistake is made, which is bound to happen under the influence of such a toxic substance. A driving error is committed. The amazing effect that anonymity can have is that it frees one up to be: a big jerk. As in, No one’s watching. I don’t know you, you don’t know me, so for now I can flip you the bird; and if you flip me the bird I’m hopping out of my car and kicking a hole in the side of your car and I’m out of here in a few seconds, Have a nice day, drop dead, g’bye.

Anyway, back to my original topic, I want a SmartCar. You know, as opposed to a DumbCar. But actually, we’re not getting one. We’ve discussed it up one side and down the other and I’m resolved about that. But it doesn’t stop me from wanting one (whine…).

Now I’ve run out of time. So tomorrow’s topic will be: why not a Smartcar?


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