Friday, 2 September 2011

Don't Be An Idiot

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, asserts in his 1996 book, The Dilbert Principle, that: “Idiocy in the modern age isn’t an all-encompassing, twenty-four situation for most people.  It’s a condition that everybody slips into many times a day.  Life is just too complicated to be smart all the time.”

 This blog is dedicated to exposing those bouts of idiocy, perpetrated by pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike here in the fair city of Winnipeg.   Let’s be honest; they’re – WE’RE – all fairly rude to one another.  Pedestrians leap out in front of cyclists and motorists, blithely confident in that in any situation they have the right of way.  Cyclists are, by and large, unheedful (and by extension, unaware?) of traffic laws and / or how to obey them.  Motorists, endangering and endangered by both of the others, have the greatest presence on the road and often demonstrate the least responsibility.

No one group is any better than the others, and no one group is any worse (Well, actually, that’s not true – in my opinion cyclists are the worst of the lot, but we’ll get to that).  If you have never jaywalked or crossed against the green; if you have never ridden on the sidewalk or jumped the red light queue; if you have never cut someone off in traffic or talked on your cell phone while driving; then you need not read this blog.  You’re perfect.  This doesn’t apply to you.

I am all three: walker, biker, driver, and I obey the rules as best I can in any given traffic situation.  As a pedestrian, I cross at intersections (generally) and indicate my intent to enter a pedestrian corridor by extending my arm and waiting for the traffic to stop.  As a cyclist, I signal my turns and stops and *GASP!* wait my turn in the red light queue.    As a motorist . . . well, let’s just say I haven’t had any sort of ticket for a long time.

I’m not perfect by a long stretch.  Winnipeg is situated on two rivers and connected by a series of bridges and on some of those bridges there simply is not enough room for motorists AND cyclists – in those cases, I ride on the sidewalk.  IT’S SAFER.  Sometimes, I’ll blow through a stop sign . . . after slowing down to make sure there is no oncoming traffic (oddly, I will still signal a turn if no one’s around).  It doesn’t make sense for me to give up momentum if it’s safe to proceed, but if there IS an oncoming vehicle, I stop.  Period.  In a confrontation with a vehicle the cyclist always loses.  No exceptions.

The key is “safety” and it seems like the only person who’s looking out for mine is me and I can’t stand it anymore, especially since I am so conscientious about everyone else’s.   I have become deeply infuriated with commuters who believe they are so special that they live in a universe where the rules do not apply to them, that the rules are for everybody else.  I’ve had enough.  I’m taking a stand and here’s my battle cry:

“Your personal convenience does not outweigh my safety!”

 . . . or anyone else’s, for that matter.   

How hard is it, really, to extend some simple courtesy instead of insisting on your “right of way”?  Having the right of way does not necessarily mean you are required to exert it.  Will those extra eleven seconds it took you to pass the cyclist really make a difference?  What’s wrong with waiting for the traffic to stop BEFORE you enter the pedestrian corridor?    Isn’t it more reasonable to signal your intentions to the cars around you instead of hoping they’ll read your mind and not turn you into a two-wheeled street pizza?  This is kindergarten stuff: 

“Play fair.”   

“Wait your turn.”   

“Don’t hit people.”   

At the end of the 1991 movie Hook, Peter Pan advises his Lost Boys on how get along once he’s gone: “I want you to take care of everything that's smaller than you.”   Motorists, that would be cyclists.  Cyclists, that would be pedestrians.  Pedestrians . . . I guess you’ll have to watch out for children and animals.  Argue if you will that Neverland is a fantasy, but following Pan’s concrete advice could put us on the path to making Winnipeg’s streets safer for everyone.   

In her 2010 book, I See Rude People, writer and columnist Amy Alkon speculates that we’re rude because we can “get away with it,” that our brains are wired for much smaller social groups and thus we reserve common courtesy for people in our immediate social circles and feel free to offer rudeness to the stranger we will likely never see again.  The solution, she writes, is simply to stop allowing people to get away with it. 

Stand up.  Speak up.  Call it as you see it.  Tell it like it is.  Ask for courtesy, and give it in return.  

Hence, this blog.  I will be posting images and video captures of commuters – of any variety – who demonstrate exceptional aptitude for idiocy.  My fellow idiots, you can no longer anonymously disregard the lives and safety of others.  I will post your idiocies here for the world to see.  I will shame you into doing what’s right if you can’t figure it out for yourself.

Remember: no one is a complete idiot, but we are all prone to bouts of idiocy, even this writer.  Some days, I will be THIS IDIOT (hopefully, those days will be few and far between).  Actually, I hope that as this blog progresses there will be fewer and fewer entries as we learn from each other.  It would actually be a great day when it wouldn’t be necessary to post at all.

In the meantime, if you don’t want to see yourself on this blog, the solution is simple:

DON’T BE AN IDIOT.

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