(Prelude to) Asshole #3

Culture is defined by “The American Heritage Dictionary” as: the totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns…of a community or population.” Like Angels and Assholes some cultures allow for gratifying behaviors some for astonishingly asshole behaviors. A thought is that we may not necessarily act independently out of free will and choice, but as pawns of the established codes of a culture. The “socially transmitted behaviors” therefore may foster angel behaviors, or asshole behaviors that we may be able to rationalize as acceptable in a certain culture. Of course cultures change and evolve over time…for the better and the worse.

Contemplating the culture of driving on our roads and highways, I would suggest this may be evolving for the worse. Road rage is rampant, for example (Asshole #1). People who in their family culture or work culture, exhibit normal, expected behavior that is conducive to other members can exhibit behavior on the road more appropriate to battlefields. The road culture should allow an individual to drive more cautiously and, thus slower, in the right lane. Right? It not acceptable behavior, although to drive slowly in the left lane…especially when they’re going the same speed side by side with the car also going more slowly (but, acceptably) in the right lane. Now we have laws that attempt to tell us what’s acceptable in our various cultures i. e., no tailgating. But, I’d venture socially transmitted behavior transcends law?  I admit when I’m traveling, as I frequently do between my cabin up north and town home…a trip of about 240 miles… get a bit impatient with “left lane parkers” and encourage them to get their ass over into that lane where slower is acceptable, and it won’t take me six hours for a three and a half hour drive. I haven’t for years honked at someone or flashed my lights (because one time it was my daughter-in-law’s mother), but our road culture would probably allow for that. Every time I have to pass on the right (which IS more dangerous) I look at the person driving to see if there might be a reason, like an apparent handicap (although I could not, if you asked me, come up with an acceptable handicap), or they’re old (although I really don’t think we get stupider, necessarily, as we get older). Cautious, maybe, but there is that right lane!!  Or, of course, they might be in the middle of an intense conversation and forgotten they were driving, or, even, maybe they’re in the middle of a very important text. Although I really don’t understand what those cultural deviants in the left lane are thinking, the only ones I’d label as assholes (the texters are just plain ignorant and should just be removed from the road culture entirely, maybe even locked in their rooms with their smart phones, iPads, and all the social media instruments of mass destruction to keep them off the roads) are the 20-somethings in their BIG trucks, baseball hat on backwards, cig in hand, beer in cup holder apparently marking their territory. What I’ve always imagined is a police helicopter with a huge magnet dangling lifting the left lane delinquents in the air and dr0pping them in a nearby lake where they can dive as slowly as they like. Ok, sorry, that’s sounds a little like rage and probably not acceptable socially behavior even in the battlefield on our highways. (But they could just lift them and drop them in the right lane…and give them the message that next time it’s the lake.)

Just kidding (a little) of course. What I’d actually suggest is that the road culture is evolving for the worse because of the change in our “at large community culture,” especially in our cities. Life seems to have gotten more hectic and we’re all late for something and in a hurry to get there. For instance, I’m always amazed when I see a van in my rear view mirror weaving in and out of traffic and when it whips by me I see a young mother driving with the faces of young children looking forlornly out at me. When I was a kid, a century ago (figuratively), the thought of my mother or father driving me to football practice or a baseball game never entered my mind. I even rode my bike, or, heaven forbid, walked. This anxious mother probably was late getting her daughter to soccer practice, her son to his music lesson, and the tot to the swimming pool, and McDonald’s drive-thru fast food was not fast enough. If we try to merge into traffic we have to realize, if the person speeds up and is not going to allow us to merge in front of them, that they are late for their appointment, meeting, or picking up their child and may be delayed precious seconds, making them even later. So, not an asshole, but completely acceptable behavior in our evolving road culture.

Where am I going with this? you might ask. Would I hurry up and get to the point. Well, sorry, but this is simply preparing you for Asshole #3 next week, where the asshole is an entire culture, which affects us all and, for me, maybe the biggest asshole of all. I am not considering ISSIS (please don’t let an extremist Muslim read this as I assume in their culture do not consider themselves assholes), or Boko Harem (which I thought was a music group), as I hope you are not associated with or affected by. So, until next week: good bye and good luck.