When I was in India, one of the things I noticed is how there are no rules of the road. Cars do not necessarily keep right except to pass. Sometimes they even pass on the inside right. And they often head straight out into traffic, playing chicken with oncoming speeding cars. There are no rules for pedestrians it seems either, sidewalks are mob scenes, no polite keeping to the right. And you take your life in your hands when boarding buses or trains. It is a fight to the death to get through the doors. I was thinking of this as I weaved and dodged my way along a 4th Avenue sidewalk yesterday, noticing more and more how our rules of the road have been slowly breaking down.
In the sixties, when I was in elementary school, Dad used to say that Vancouverites were the most courteous drivers anywhere. Not anymore. Red light running is common. And it’s not just the ordinary man or woman, it’s people on the job, supposedly there to serve us. The other day as I waited for the light to change so I could safely step into the crosswalk, I saw a guy in a Park Board truck race through a very rosy yellow light while looking down at his cell phone. I regularly ask transit and cab drivers to please not talk on their phones when I am a passenger. On the sidewalks, more and more people are ignoring these rules, keeping left or hogging the middle so you can’t pass, and no one seems to pay any attention to the bike path signs. At the Broadway and Commercial SkyTrain station, people rush on to the train now before passengers have exited.
Remember that book by Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten? His list and commentary on basic common decency included: share, play fair, don’t hit, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. Are they still teaching these things in kindergarten I wonder? Maybe it’s just that we are moving so fast now, our brains so distracted and fragmented by constant stimuli, that we think we don’t have time for these bothersome rules designed to keep us safe and somewhat orderly.
I for one don’t want to live in a society that pushes and shoves its way through life. I’m off to the pool for a sit in the hot tub, followed by a long, slow, relaxing swim in lanes that have nice clear “keep right except to pass signs.” Most swimmers obey the rules, except for the odd bully speedster who swims over you like an SUV.