Most days I wonder if we’ve lost all sense of compassion for one another. Specifically, I ponder this sort of thing while driving. You know those days when you just want to pull over on the shoulder and call a cab to take you home?
Have you met the little old lady in the VW Bug? She flies around you, honking her horn, shaking her fist and displaying that one finger grandmas should never wag around in public? Or the pretty blonde who can’t seem to pick a lane because she’s too busy yelling at her cheating boyfriend via text message (probably in all caps), applying lip gloss, sipping her soy latte, and fumbling around for the map quest directions she just knows she remembered to bring with her. What about the boy who can’t be a day over sixteen in the lifted pick-up? He travels ten miles under the speed limit, black smoke billows out of his modified—to the point of being obnoxious—smoke stacks which seem to be at just the right height to asphyxiate you on your journey through the harbor tunnel. There’s usually a street racer somewhere behind you, too, but he’s so close and his car is so tiny that you can’t see him in your mirrors. And as if you haven't had enough fun for one day, he’s about to play chicken on the double yellow lines.
A few days ago I had the privilege of sharing the road with all of these people. But just about the point I was ready to tuck and roll into oncoming traffic or call that cab, I got stuck in a long line of traffic that inched toward the toll of the Key Bridge. If anything makes already frustrated drivers even more erratic and nonsensical, it’s being forced to sit still.
After about two hours and forty minutes of people honking and getting out of their vehicles to throw their arms in the air (as if that gesture would provide them with the knowledge of what was causing the holdup), I was next in line to go through the toll. There was a tractor trailer in front of me, so I couldn’t pull all the way up. When I glanced over to my left, there was a pickup truck sitting next to me, with his blinker on trying to merge in my lane. He was in the E-Z Pass lane and I assume he didn’t realize his mistake until it was nearly too late. When the truck in front of me moved, there was enough space to let the guy over. So, I wound down my window and waved to let him know it was okay to switch lanes. As the guy pulled over a round of horns sounded. The people behind me were not thrilled that I’d set them back another vehicle.
It was then that I really wondered about our society. Is everyone really so stressed out that helping someone who accidently got in the wrong lane will send them into an uproar? It saddened me to think that doing something nice for someone isn’t second nature, but tearing each other down seems almost automatic. I understand that everyone is in a hurry, but at what cost?
I was pleasantly surprised when it was my turn to go through the toll and the woman in the booth wouldn’t accept my two dollars. At first I thought she was merely signaling that she wasn’t ready yet. But as I sat there, still patiently holding my bills, she gave me an annoyed expression.
“That guy in front already paid for you.” She said loudly, waving me to pull forward.
Most days I wonder if we’ve lost all compassion for one another…
And then someone surprises me.