24.9.06

Stop wasting other people's time

A friend send me today the link to Gene Weingarten's piece in the Washington Post of Sept 24th 2006, "Hurry up and read this ... and stop wasting my time." Gene describes the mental and emotional agonies that he has to go through when other people don't act as speedily as he would want them to.

For example, Gene suffers at traffic lights:
"Sometimes, I actually do scream aloud, but it is only when I am in my car, with the windows rolled up. Frequently this will occur when I am the third car in a line waiting at a left-turn signal. The light will change to green, but the driver at the light will not move. An interminable second or two will pass.
That is not the point at which I scream. That is the point at which I honk my horn. Often when this happens, the driver directly in front of me will angrily throw up his hands, as if to say, "What do you want me to do about it?" To the practicing Glass Bowl, that is the last straw. That is when I scream:
"I WANT YOU TO STOP BEING A PASSIVE JACKASS. I WANT YOU TO HONK AT THE GUY IN FRONT OF YOU SO WE CAN BOTH MAKE IT THROUGH THE LIGHT INSTEAD OF ONLY HIM AFTER HE FINALLY WAKES UP A NANOSECOND BEFORE THE LIGHT CHANGES AND BLGDGF SPRTRLFF."

From an economic point ov view, Gene gets excited about negative externalities, i.e. costs that someone imposes on somebody else whithout taking these costs into account. But occasionally, social institutions emerge that take the pressure of the externality-challenged. In Syria, for example, when you reach a crossing with a red traffic light, you are expected to drive as far as possible into a crossing and stop where you can't see the light any more. But no worries: as soon as the traffic light turns to green a violent honking starts right behind you. I always considered this as uncivilized madness. From the perspective of Gene Weingarten's article I now see it as an act of sublime politeness: By driving beyond the light you induce crowd-honking and any one driver behind you is not in need to impose on himself insufferable honk-restraint.

RAEM