The other day, while stopped at a light, I observed something that I often see. I'm sure you've seen it yourself. Driver X is attempting to make a left hand turn through an intersection and is forced to make a decision - do I let the pedestrian at the crosswalk go first, or do I gun it and come just a wee bit to close to them? I'm sure you've been faced with this decision many times as well.
This particular car decided to gun it, and as you'd imagine, the woman on foot was none too pleased. Actually, she was irate. Driver X saved a precious 7 seconds from his day. What will he do with all that extra time???
This got me to thinking about issues of character, and how some of us tend to act differently when we get behind the wheel. What is it about that veneer of glass, alloy and rubber that allows us to behave in ways we otherwise wouldn't?
Way back when, when I was a student at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, I was told that the definition of integrity goes like this: It's doing the right thing when nobody's watching. In a similar vein, I think we could define character like this: It's behaving the same way inside your car as you do outside of it.
It's kind of like how you behave on the internet (Facebook, message boards, etc.) in contrast to real life. We treat each other so much better when we don't have the security of our box on wheels, don't we? We are much more polite with our words, and we certainly don't curse at each other- nowhere near the frequency we do in our cars.
And who among us would have the audacity to go up to the front of line and try to sneak in? Nobody would stand for it. But when when it comes to merge lanes in stop-and-go traffic, we see this all the time, don't we?
Do you schedule business calls or important personal calls knowing full well you'll be on the road when it comes time to take them? How do you think that makes the other person feel? Have you ever been on the other end of one of those calls, you being 100% focused on the call, but periodically interrupted and distracted by the sound of turn signals, car horns, and the like?
Do you let people in when they're trying to merge, or do you instead ride the person's bumper in front of you and make it difficult to get in?
Do you bury your nose in your phone when you're #1 at the light, only for it to turn green and waste those oh so valuable seconds when everyone behind you is trying to get through, too? Or are you heads-up, hands at 10 and 2, ready to get out of the light so the people behind you can get to where they're going on time?
Do you consider yourself a law-abiding citizen, but own a radar detector and speed your ass off?
Do you park it in the passing lane and force others to pass you on the right? Do you use your turn signal when changing lanes?
Is your car a mess? Or can I come sit shotgun with you and not get the "Oh, sorry about this. Let me clear all this crap out of the way for you." Um, no thanks.
We can all do better with this stuff. Especially me. Is my car dirty at times? For sure. Do I sometimes make a lane change without using the signal? Totally. Do I sometimes text while driving? You know it. Have I ever kissed the bumper of the person in front of me to prevent someone else from getting in? You bet your ass I have. Do I occasionally speed? Um, certainly.
But you know what? Every time I get in the car, it's an opportunity for me to decide who I want to be. To work on my character; even my integrity. Do I want to be one person outside my vehicle and another inside it? How can I do a better job of letting things go? How can I be a little nicer and, dare I say it - generous? Isn't it funny how generosity seems to go out the window when we get in traffic?
I'm curious to know - when it comes to your car, what is one thing you want to do more or less of to be in better alignment with your true character? No explanation needed - just list something :)