Over the years I’ve developed a few different theories when it comes to observing people. If I ever decided to go after a Ph.D. I think I’ve got a few different things to test and look at. Still, there is one theory that I have that I give great weight to, and that is the idea that who we truly are comes through in our driving.
I’m a big believer in the idea that, “Who we truly are is how we act when we think nobody is watching.” When we are alone and there is no accountability, what do we do? How do we truly act? If there were someone else around would we say/do THAT thing? This is just one of those considerations I have that results in a lot of self-reflection. Now, I could also add the factor of a “higher power” as that incorporates the idea that we are never truly “alone” and so anything inconsistent with what we believe our character to be would have to be rationalized or excused…but that argument goes to a different place.
Anyway, the idea of that “real” us coming through in our driving has been with me for a while. One day I realized that if I looked for the time when we interact with the most people we DON’T know during the day, it would be when we’re driving. Tens of people (at least) who we don’t know passing by us, and interacting with us while following the “rules” that are expected of all of us (usually). Mass interaction with what is perceived as almost maximum anonymity.
Why do I think there is some level of anonymity perceived by us? Because we engage in things in traffic that we wouldn’t probably do if we were around the same people without cars. We sing, we pick our noses and who knows what else. But, when we’re caught in those situations…things change. I remember once when I was driving a group of friends back from 7-11 to school during our lunch one of my friends noticed the woman in the car next to us picking her nose. He was kind enough to catch her attention by mimicking the act. She was obviously not too proud of having been caught. I’m sure my friend’s exaggerated mimicking didn’t help, but my point stands.
While this isn’t exactly what I mean, I think it drives home the point of us losing that anonymity, even in a misunderstanding.
Look at how people react many times when they realize they’ve pulled a “bonehead” move in traffic. If possible many of us will drive away as quickly as we can from the place where we were “confronted”. When that person behind us hits that horn because we’re not paying attention when the light turns green, how often do we take off faster than we would have if we’d been paying attention?
Oh sure, it’s easy to rationalize that you’re going faster than normal because you’re making up the lost seconds resulting from being a space-case, but let’s be honest. You’re going faster because you lost your anonymity. You got placed on the radar. You were seen and noticed doing something that embarrassed you, and you’re trying to outrun the shame. Of course, the thing we don’t realize is that the same is coming from us, nobody else. Nobody can make you feel shame. You have to be open to generating it yourself FOR them. Unfortunate but true.
Look at how you drive when you’re late. Do you do the rational thing and make a call to say you’re running late and drive at a regular pace, or do you go faster than usual getting frustrated with others who had NOTHING to do with you being late being “obstacles” to you reaching yoru destination? Do you get more frustrated than usual with that person who isn’t going two miles over the speed limit in the left lane as opposed the five you would prefer? Be honest now.
Get in, get out. Sing our songs out loud, pick our noses, flip the bird to those who have no chance of confronting us (which always turns out bad when they do). So many things we do when we think we’re anonymous…surrounded by glass…that can usually be seen through. It simply makes no sense when you stop and think about it. We actually don’t have that anonymity. We can be seen. Our license plate can be memorized if necessary. If we drive the same roads often enough people DO know us.
Still, I think how we act/drive when the traffic conditions aren’t “ideal” brings out some elements of who we truly are that we would do well to recognize. Well, if we actually wanted to take responsibility and change any we didn’t like that is. Or we can just keep constructing our illusions of anonymity, which in today’s day and age makes about as much sense as thinking you can’t be seen in traffic.