After many, many comfortable carefree years of taking the train, I returned to the white-knuckle endeavor that is my daily commute to work.
I do not like driving. I openly admit that I am not a good driver. I can operate a car and I can get from one place to another. But, I do not enjoy the actual activity of driving. I think the main reason for this is other drivers. Other drivers are angry, aggressive, impatient, self-centered and oblivious to their surroundings and other drivers. I am very wary of other drivers making last minute decisions to change lanes without signaling. I try to make myself aware of that particularly erratic driver who — I just know — is not going to make that turn he has been promising for over ten blocks via his blinking turn signal. I keep alert to be ready to hit my brakes when the vehicle in front of me decides to stop, activate its hazard flashers and remain in an active lane, despite the availability of numerous curbside parking spaces.
More recently, I have witnessed a driving phenomena that just baffles me. I see it nearly every morning in the span of my forty minute commute to and from work. My morning and evening drive takes me through several small, residential Philadelphia neighborhoods. Like most neighborhoods, there are houses packed tightly into to a checkerboard of streets. There are cars in driveways and on the street and children running across lawns and sidewalks and sometimes into the street to chase an an errant ball. With all of this activity, I am still shocked — shocked! — to see drivers failing to stop at red lights on a regular basis.
Almost every single day, I as I apply my brakes at an intersection where the traffic signal in my direction is displaying a red light, a car next to me continues without slowing down and with no regard for the automated signal. However, a new twist has been added by some particularly brazen drivers. This new trend, which seems to be gaining popularity every day, involves an actual stop of the vehicle. The driver has acknowledged the existence of the red light and has stopped his vehicle accordingly. But, then, the driver has determined that the length of time that the red light is displayed is too long. He's got places to go and things to do and cannot waste any more precious time waiting for this silly light to turn green and allow him passage. So, taking the law into his own hands — and after stopping for his assessment of a reasonable amount of time — the driver proceeds right through the red light. Since he stopped, he is very conscious of what he has done. It is much different from "Oh, I didn't see that the light was red!" Instead, it is, "Oh, I saw the red light. I just had enough." I see this a lot. An awful lot. I have even seen this occur with a police car stopped nearby.
What have we become? Why are the basic rules of society breaking down right before our eyes? It's not just blowing a red light. It's refusing to wait in line. It's taking photos at a concert or play, despite pre-performance announcements of "No photography, please." It's demanding substitutions in a restaurant when the menu clearly states "No substitutions." It's parking in places that are obviously not parking spaces. It's not owning up to our own mistakes. It's a lot of things.
A civilized society is supposed to evolve. At least I thought that was the plan.