December 19, 2016
Sometimes, the smallest things can bring smiles to strangers’ faces or – in the case of street-based behavior – avert the sort of road rage that begets headlines and court-docket additions.
That Philadelphia has been home to an ongoing war between motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians is known by most, if not all, folks around these parts.
Underlying that is the perception that the other two populations don’t respect the demographic into which you fall. If you’re a driver, you might think bicyclists and walkers are the worst; if you’re a pedestrian, you’re all, like, cars and bicycles suck. Et cetera. So on. So forth.
Again, that’s not anything new. We revel in our harsh edges, after all. You live it, so you know it through the lens of your favored type of transportation.
But as I contemplated that dynamic while commuting by car recently, my mind drifted back to a couple of life experiences that I’d forgotten about.
Like how, when I lived in South Carolina back in the mid-1990s, I didn’t mind when someone in front of me in a drive-thru line just chatted up the employee in the booth for a few minutes instead of getting on their way so I could get my lunch quicker.
It was a passive, non-aggressive courtesy that said, “Life’s too short to get angry that you have to wait a few minutes for that chili cheeseburger at Checkers. Besides, the wait will make it tastier!” A honk of the horn would have torn that all asunder, and I was living amongst a friendlier people, so I’d regularly relent.
And how, a couple months or years ago, I saw a Tweet that said something to the effect of, “People who think waving to fellow motorists who let you cut into the traffic flow could heal the anger of the world? Yeah, they’re totally morons.”
Well, it’s Christmas week, a time to embrace positivity, so I’m here to tell you that extending common courtesies like that COULD, in fact, put a temporary dent in anger’s lead over positive energy. And, let’s face it, we need that kind of thing now more than ever before (provided you didn’t live through the Sixties.)
I don’t think enough Philly motorists do that anymore, based purely on anecdotal, observational evidence.
And, despite seeing it on occasion from bicyclists when I make sure not to block their path near Kelly Drive parking lots, I don’t think enough of them do, either.
Same goes for pedestrians who have a penchant for walking slowly in the intersection even if the light’s already turned in their disfavor.
The tension between those groups is so deeply ingrained now that each branch thinks the other two are out to get them. (Trust me on this; I’m just as guilty as everyone else.)
So, instead of taking a second to extend a token of gratitude (for not breaking the laws of the land or common courtesy), we’re more inclined to just move along.
Well today, December 19, 2016, I’m here to say enough’s enough with all that. It's time to make a good faith effort to set aside our inherent biases in pursuit of a kinder transportation world.
To the motorists of the Delaware Valley, if another driver allows you into a lane in front of their vehicle, take less than a second to either wave out the window or in front of your rear-view mirror.
It matters not if they see it and reciprocate; what matters is you took the time to acknowledge their common courtesy with a common courtesy of your own. You'll feel better, and they probably will, too.
To the bicyclists of the Delaware Valley, if a car stops so you can pass, give that driver a nod or a little wave, too. It never hurts to show someone else you appreciate their courtesy.
And to the pedestrians out there, if there’s a car or bike that halts so you can continue on your way safely, would it hurt to smile, nod or give 'em the ole thumbs up? I think not.
Remember, folks, we’re all in this together, and the better we treat one another in public, the warmer our hearts will feel on the inside.
And maybe, just maybe, these little tokens of acknowledgment will start healing the rifts that keep us apart by the modes of transportation we choose.