Rob's Soapbox Archives
April 7th, 2008
PEOPLE ARE NOT GOOD
I have officially, fully and completely lost faith; not in my firm spiritual belief of how the universe is designed or my version of “God,” but rather in the American society, and perhaps the human race as a whole.
For years, I have wavered between the two extremes of believing that on the one hand, this culture was too far gone to be saved, and on the other hand, that people were still innately good, if even only on a chemical level, and we had just “lost our way” as a society. Sadly, that second thought was nothing more than a delusional dream. I have made enough excuses for this group of cretins we call a population and will do so no longer.
There are, of course, countless examples of wretched human behavior around us, ranging from pedophilia to emotional abusers to animal torturers, but I tend to focus on the more fundamentally rude parts of our society. To me, that’s where it all starts; if you are so self centered and/or oblivious to your fellow man that you can’t even hold open a door for them, wave a polite thank you when one of them allows you into traffic, or politely excuse yourself when you bump into them in the grocery store, then you have fundamentally lost your ability for empathy and caring and you are simply beginning the path towards whatever level of sociological failure you will ultimately become.
This past Saturday was a bad day for me. I live a charmed and fortunate life and have found over the years that even my worst days are still better than most peoples’ good days (that, by the way, is what we call relative empathy; the ability in the most difficult of circumstances to understand that there other people suffering far greater than you are. I proudly possess this trait, while most others don’t; up yours). Despite my fairly blessed existence, I do still have bad days; they are a fact of life that cannot be escaped. Bad days for me usually involve the rudeness and inconsideration of others, which always serves to remind me why I stay out of society as often as possible. Watching the decay of the culture is a mostly voluntary act that I choose not to participate in more than I have to.
Saturday, I was reminded of how self involved people are while also suffering through what most people would describe as a “bad day,” culminating with the devastating news of a dying pet.
It began simply enough; running errands about town with my wife. Along the way we had the misfortune of walking into a sporting goods store where 6 employees stood on the floor of the retail showroom doing nothing while one employee manned the register while also answering the phone, ignoring the customers who were trying to check out.
From there, we witnessed one of my favorite forms of rude selfishness at the Starbuck’s drive thru. As we attempted to pull up the ordering area, our car couldn’t quite reach the area where we could be heard on the other end of the speaker. The reason? The person two cars in front of us, having already placed her order and now rudely ignoring the rest of the world, had left a gap of half a car length between her and the car in front of her. Just enough space to insure that people behind her would be unable to place their orders. Why should she care? Her little world was content and controlled and apparently, caring at all about the other people around her is not in her DNA.
Nowhere else can we see, on a daily basis, how rude, indignant, self involved and uncaring people have become than on the roads while in their car. The most glaring example of this has always been in the “fast lane,” the far left lane of any given highway. The simplicity of the laws and rules makes the fast lane the perfect example of our angry, inconsiderate society.
It’s a basic premise; if you are in the fast lane and someone behind you wants to go faster, you must yield to the right. Period; End of story; badoop. It is not your job to act as society’s policeman and attempt to control the speed of the car(s) behind you by insisting that no one else drives faster than what you have deemed to be safe. If you truly feel threatened, yield to the right and call 911, allowing the actual police to arrive, observe, and do their job.
Additionally, if you are in the fast lane it is your lawful and moral responsibility to be paying attention to your surroundings so that if someone behind you wants to go faster, you notice such a fact in time to properly and in a timely fashion yield to the right. Being oblivious is not an excuse; it’s an act of selfish rudeness.
Usually in these moments or examples, the person behind you is perhaps late to a meeting. Maybe they have had a bad day and are just anxious to get to their home. Perhaps they’re just an asshole who likes to drive dangerously fast. In admittedly rare examples, it may be that they are doing their best to drive their dying pet to the UC Davis emergency hospital in an act of desperate compassion.
The situation occurring in the car behind you is irrelevant for all of the reasons we discussed before. It is not your job, responsibility or right to decide whether or not the car behind you should be driving a certain speed. The more galling aspect of the situation, however, is the inability of this society to empathetically embrace the possibility that the driver does, in fact, have a legitimate claim to the road.
Where and when was it that we all lost this ability? If the driver is just an abject asshole, how does it harm you to yield to the right and let him be? What is it that you are actually losing, giving up, or sacrificing to that person by simply obeying the moral and legal code bestowed upon you by this society? Perhaps most importantly, why is it so important to you to “show that asshole who’s boss,” that you are willing to risk the 1% likelihood that the driver who wants to pass has a dying pet, a sick child or a finite amount of time to race to their dying parents’ bedside to say goodbye? Under what God, what universe, what plan, do you feel entitled to make such a decision and take such a risk with someone else’s life and emotional well being?
As I drove my wife and I and our cat Pepe (the greatest cat most people who meet him say they have ever met) from Placer county to the UC Davis Veterinary hospital (a 45 minute drive on a good day), I knew that time was a commodity we had little of. Our vet had diagnosed Pepe, with most likely, either a cat version of a stroke or a neurological disorder; either choice was not good and either one demanded the best veterinary care in the quickest amount of time. There are no kitty ambulances, so I was it. All I needed to complete my end of the deal was for people to be modestly considerate. While it is most likely true that weaving in and out of traffic at 85 miles per hour along highway 80 probably, in the end, only saves you 5-10 minutes on most days, on this day, I really needed that 10 minutes…Pepe really needed that 10 minutes.
I lost count at 6 times; that was the total number I remember of instances I looked ahead of me onto the horizon, a mile or two ahead of my position and saw nothing but literally, completely open road; all of it unused and all of it obstructed by some inconsiderate ass in the far left lane, driving 60 miles per hour and refusing to yield his position to left, allowing faster traffic to pass. I am sure that many of the cars behind him (or her, depending on the situation) were just assholes wanting to drive fast or impatient people wanting to arrive at their relatives’ houses quicker. Never mind all of that and all of them; they have just as much a right as I did on that day to drive faster than some selfish prick who was determining in his mind at that moment what was the limit.
Fortunately for me, and for Pepe, there are a few things in life I do well; one of them is drive…and if necessary, drive like a life depends on it. So, if you saw a White Cadillac Escalade being driven as if there were no tomorrow on Saturday afternoon and shouted to yourself or passengers “what an asshole,” it was me…and at that moment, in my world, there was no tomorrow. So with all due respect, on behalf of my cat Pepe, go fuck yourself.
Pepe arrived in time for us to be told he will most likely die soon, thanks to a genetic heart failure that is for all intents and purposes undetectable and treatable until it’s too late.
For those of you who presume that this column is nothing more than the rantings of a man “angry at God” over the loss of a pet, spare me your amateur attempts at psycho analysis and afford me at least a scintilla of the respect I have earned. The truth is, that as I write this my universe is 180 degrees better, relative to how it was formed on Saturday afternoon at 3pm when; while accompanied by a hysterical wife faced with the death of her most beloved pet in history, the universe was dark to say the least. Many hours and a few medical miracles later, the prognosis was better and although we had to leave him at the hospital Saturday night, we brought him home Sunday to a hopeful, though un-guaranteed future. Relative to that 3pm moment, this was a miracle, a blessing and whatever other cliché you would assign to the outcome; and it was a welcome one. We were not prepared for our 7 year old cat to die; the opportunity to have him home again for another day, another month, or another year in his normal, happy state, was nothing short of a gift. There is no anger in this column; rather there is sadness; not at my pet’s condition, but at my resolved realization of the state of our union.
In the end, as I drove home on Sunday, with our miraculously healed pet, Pepe (who was happy and animated as though nothing had happened), people still sucked. I was no longer attempting to race against time itself to save our pet’s life, rather I was trying as best as I could to get home as quickly and safely as possible so that my wife and I could savor our new found time with the greatest cat we’d ever met. Yet, regardless of the presence (or lack there of) of a legitimate urgency on my part based on your interpretation, the behavior of people never changed. I still had to endure, absorb and adapt to the abject rudeness and selfishness of others. I counted 8 times I saw open road on the horizon this time. The only difference was that this time it wasn’t my cat that was dying; it was what had been left of my faith in society.