Main Street USA
At the intersection
Have you ever been sitting in your car at a four way stop sign and really observed the interaction taking place as people take turns moving through the intersection. Let's say it's three or four cars deep in every direction. As we approach the intersection, we have already had to make several decisions. Are we going left, right of straight? Is there a turn lane? Should I use my turn signal? Where are the cars in front of me going? Is this a good time to send a text message?
Once you come to the intersection you must now determine when the appropriate time to proceed is. Who got there first? What direction are all the other drivers going? Are there any pedestrians trying to cross the street? All the while your making brief eye contact with the other drivers who are also waiting for their turn to go. They are making eye contact with you and we are all making dozens of observations and formulating spit second decisions base on what we have learned from our experience. Not one word is spoken, not one horn is honked, not one person will think twice about it as they make their way home, and we have hundreds of those kinds on non-verbal episodes everyday. To me each one is really a minor miracle and the highest form of cooperation our society can display.
That simple act of approaching an intersection and slowing to a stop, creeping up one by one to take our turn, then safely proceeding to the next intersection and doing it all over again, only this time all the actors have changed except you, and once again, you and the other drivers proceed along unhindered with a quick glance a from time to time a polite wave even. Just as interesting is, how quickly we will honk and holler obscenities at each other if one of us screws it up! We have very little tolerance for any driver going out of turn! Breaking the unwritten social contract and why it makes us so angry with other drivers is a topic for another Hub.
Traffic most days, as we zip here and there it's much like a well choreographed and practiced dance. We go from here to there and can anticipate where the other cars around us will be and the path we will choose to navigate through it all. With the greatest of ease our brains handle all of these thousands of "micro-decisions" we must make every minuet while driving. On top of that and simultaneously we are listening to the radio and singing along, looking at the clock to see if we are still on time, wondering what to do for dinner, and wondering whether or not it's going to rain tomorrow because you just noticed your wiper blade is torn!
With all of us on the roads, with all of this stuff to distract us, it is absolutely a miracle more of us are not killed. Driving to and from work everyday is the most dangerous thing many people will ever do in their lives. Yet we are able to put aside the obvious and inherent dangers and show no fear what so ever when we get in our cars and drive about tending to our lives. We have to give away trust, and have faith in each other out there on the roads. Faith and trust that we would never give to a stranger otherwise.
Next time your waiting for your turn at the stop sign, pay close attention and appreciate the real minor miracle that is taking place. Independent and free thinking people cooperating at the highest level for the benefit of the whole. Imagine what we could accomplish if we where to focus this kind of cooperation on our countries economic and social problems. That would really be something!