When I’m driving these days, it never ceases to amaze me in how big of a hurry most other people seem to be. No matter the time of day or night, it is inevitable that someone will be driving close to my bumper and pass me at first opportunity. I drive the speed limit, so this sort of behavior seems uncalled for. People pull out in front of others at intersections without regard for who got there first. They drive behind you with either high-beams on at night, or they use those god-awful high-intensity halogen headlights.
Yet, it continues with impunity. No matter how many police officers hand out tickets to speeders, no matter how many times local TV stations and newspapers talk about defensive driving, the recklessness continues.
There exists a silent populist conspiracy directed against speed limits, the rules of the road, and common courtesy. A certain class of people, a majority, in fact, sits inside of hermetically sealed car interiors, often behind tinted glass and jacked up on lift kits and nineteen-inch wheels, wrapped up with their plans and schemes and discussing them over a cell phone held to the ear by a shoulder, and directed to their destinations by satellite-guided maps.
These people do not care about you, if you follow the rules of the road. You are simply an impediment to their travel, a bump in the road from their point A to point B, and the sooner they can get around you, the better to be done with you.
I think that this is part of a larger cultural change in this country, a dangerous deepening of narcissism in the last thirty or so years. The idea that other people exist and have separate agendas and motivations is something of a mystery to the narcissist; the world is, for the most party, simply an extension of their consciousness and perception. It is not a full-fledged philosophical solipsism (the idea that one’s consciousness is the only thing that exists), but rather a frustrating inability to put himself or herself in another person’s place, even briefly. This is the kind of empathy necessary for both social etiquette and common courtesy.
This condition can be easily observed at a grocery store or in any large city. Watch carefully as others walk down the aisle with their grocery cart; in most cases, they are wholly focused on their grocery list, the products on the shelf, or a conversation on their cell phones. These people will often stand there, wholly unaware that others need to get around them or pass by them, or they bumble along into the path of others.
The problem is, this mode of behavior has become so pervasive and acceptable that it is difficult to point it out as something troublesome. No one wants to be accused of being narcissistic, and it always seem to be the other person who is responsible. I fear that one day, voices like mine will be drowned out in the distracted din.
Be careful out there.