”Always Free and Worth Every Penny”
I often marvel at the extraordinary level of trust interstate drivers have in their fellow drivers ….who are complete strangers…….
….think about it ….. you are cruising at 65 mph – 30 feet behind a car from Pennsylvania…. 50 feet behind you is a car from Georgia – (5 feet if he is from New Jersey!)
on your left is an 18 wheeler full of something toxic quietly passing …. as you cruise past a tanker truck on your right carrying 18,000 gallons of extremely flammable gasoline.
……At that moment we all trust each other – the stakes are very high – if anyone does something stupid …..suddenly change lanes….. or hit the brakes…… it will have catastrophic consequences. Everyone knows exactly what they can do … and what they cannot do…… except maybe the guy from New Jersey –
Just as an aside – Why do north bound NJ drivers scream along in Virginia at 90 mph – weaving in and out of traffic ? What in the hell is in NJ is that makes them want to get back so fast ???
so we have extraordinary trust and skill at 65 mph….But slow down to 5 mph …….and introduce a 4 way stop – suddenly everyone just turns stupid……
The rules are not that complex. FUFO – First Up, First Out. … if two arrive at the same time the car on the right goes first. Simple enough. …. even a Clemson grad can keep that in his/her head…..
But it breaks down all the time – you have seen it… someone who has the right of way starts just as some knucklehead decides to go …… they both stop 10 feet into the intersection….stalemate … They wait.. ….then wave each other on…. Until they both start at the same time… stop and start the ritual again…… just crazy….
I have this friend ….there is a 4 way stop just a mile or two from his house ….and it is an endless source of entertainment for him … he is an odd fellow …. He has an overdeveloped sense curiosity….. you might say he is juvenile… childish… or maybe just a jerk. Rather than being a good citizen and follow the rules to get through the four way stop – he occaisionally uses the intersection to conduct experiments on human behavior….. and derive lessons about how people act in uncertainty…
On occaision he will drive through when he does not have the right of way….or when he has the right of way he will start and then stop – just to see what people will do…. When others yield to him he will wave them on… and then he start…. Sometimes when he has the right away he will just wait to see how long others will wait to go ahead… and he has experimented with all kinds of waves, gestures, eye contact, horns…. Just to study how people react….
Now just to be very clear, I would never condone such experiments – you must agree this is totally unacceptable behavior and completely inappropriate… maybe even illegal…….…but since they have already taken place I see no reason why we all should not create some benefit from this foolish behavior….
After many years of experiments he offers these observations and potential lessons:
- Hesitation creates doubt – When he hesitates – others hesitate… when his actions questions the rules….others question the rules……
- Excessive politeness creates confusion– Often times it is as if those obnoxiously polite chipmunks - Chip N Dale– have wandered into the intersection
He waves and signals “You first”
The other driver signals “ No, no no – you first”
He gestures back “Thank you but I must insist, you first”
Other driver – “ You are so polite, but I couldn’t possibly – after you”
He signals – “That’s so polite, thank you”
and on it goes ……
- Eye contact alone does not work – it gives both drivers the illusion that communication is taking place. My friend has discovered it confuses things- for the quickest resolution he looks down or looks the other way and waits – the other driver will take responsibility and take action.
Looking away clearly signals “I have no intention of communicating with you or moving – you are on your own and you better figure out what you are going to do. This technique is also sometimes useful when delegating to someone who does not want to take responsibility and constantly asks for direction.
- Clarity of intention – if you clearly signal to others that you intend to go – even when you do not have the right of way – people will always yield. He has learned to slowly start into the intersection just as the previous car reaches halfway. He has demonstrated clear action before others (He drives an old car so that also signals he has less to lose.)
- Don’t stop too quickly or easily –When he purposely enters the intersection when others have started – the other car always stops quickly – he has learned that if he just slows down he can easily avoid any collision. In over 15 years of experiments he has never even come close to a collision.
So next time we pull up to a 4 way stop maybe we should….. well, just follow the rules….. and when we find ourselves with a group of people operating in uncertainty maybe there are some lessons from a 4 way stop…..
Have a great weekend !
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