The Samaritan’s Dilemma

We’ve all been here: You’re creeping forward in bumper to bumper traffic because of an upcoming lane closure. You and dozens of other drivers dutifully merged into the appropriate lane as soon as you saw the sign signaling the lane closure ahead because…well, because you’re not an idiot. As you continue to crawl forward at approximately 7 miles an hour according to your Waze profile, you see some leech whizzing past, signaling, “Please let me in” in the lane that both you and he know will close in the next 100 yards.

traffic jam 2This is when my blood starts to boil because I know some “nice,” but misguided, person is not going to understand that this signal light is really saying, “Let me in because I’m so much more important than all of you suckers who merged two miles ago.” And this, of course, is also why the merge lane is so slow: We have to come to a complete stop to let in Mr. Selfish. While whoever lets this person in is probably trying to be a good person, he or she (OK, let’s call our person Eddie to make it easy.) is not taking into consideration that he is also making that decision for the hundred people behind him. Eddie has failed to realize that in being a “good person” to that one parasitic line jumper, he’s being a jerk to the hundred people who are in line behind him. And despite what Paramount tried to convince us of in Star Trek III, The Search for Spock, the needs of the one do not outweigh the needs of the many. (Sorry, Leonard.)

Herein lies the dilemma. We’re all basically nice people–except for those self-absorbed line jumpers who never learned to share their toys.  We’d all like to cut a guy a break. But on the road, you have to be judicious: It isn’t just your relationship to one other person.


Picture4Not so long ago, my car and I were victims of someone’s misplaced do-gooder impulse. I was entering town on a busy afternoon, and traffic was backed up for a mile or so to reach the main intersection, no surprise. A tiny, steep, non-road exits the back of a Walgreens onto a busy, five-lane bridge. A woman in a blue SUV chose not to exit at the front of the lot (which would have taken her a tenth of a mile out of her way to a traffic light), but rather to impose on people to create a hole in this wall of traffic to let her in, and not just in that lane–no, she intended to cross all the way across the bumper-to-bumper traffic with a left turn. (I’ve drawn you a diagram. I’m pretty proud of myself.)  Now, I could not know that Mr. Nice Car had stopped to let someone pull out. In my sedan, I could not see over his SUV, but Miss Self-Centered assumed that everyone was looking out for her, bowing to her needs, so she plowed right into the side of my car.

You may be thinking that I judged her too harshly, but apparently hitting my car jolted her out of the stupor in which she had apparently been driving, and she reversed back into the lot whence she had come, suddenly deciding that the legitimate exit was looking pretty good right about now. You heard right, my friends: She fled the scene of the accident she caused. Some true Good Samaritans helped me to gather my wits to call the police who let me know I could pull my car into the lot if it was drivable (It was). Some more true Good Samaritans ran down Miss Self-Centered to let her know they had her tag number, so she had better return, and yet another true Good Sam checked up on me, gave a statement to the police, and waited with me until my husband came. (As a side note, the “Good Sam” who actually started the whole incident with the initial impulse to be “helpful” did not inconvenience himself by sticking around to do anything actually helpful, such as giving a statement as the best eye witness.)

My poor car! It took a whole new front door, a new panel on the inside, and new front corner, and, of course, fresh paint.

When the police arrived, they discovered: This woman did not have a valid driver’s license; her car tags were not valid for the vehicle on which she had put them; and she did not have insurance as required by law in Tennessee. So, you see, her attitude of considering herself above the rules the rest of us follow was not confined to something seemingly trivial like expecting a few hundred cars to “scunch up just a little” so she could pull out exactly where she wanted; it was her whole lifestyle. So, my insurance company had to pick up the repair cost; I had to pay a deductible; my rates will go up. All even though the police determined I was completely blameless. Why? This woman’s selfish irresponsibility was enabled by a well-intentioned person reinforcing the validity of her latest poor decision.

Is this woman an aberration? I really don’t think so. Both my husband and I have seen many near accidents caused by almost the exact same selfish actions and attitudes. I know that I don’t expect people to make catering to me their priority on the road. If there is a way to pull out at a light, I always do that. I merge as soon as I see the signs. In fact, I don’t personally know anyone who behaves like that woman–or the line cutters. So, you see, decent people who understand that civility is a two way street are not the ones you’re letting make those cuts. You’re confirming someone’s arrogance in feeling no need to take personal responsibility. I’m as civil a driver as anyone to my fellow travelers when pulling out at a light simply isn’t an option, or when the unexpected happens; I just don’t think anyone deserves to be rewarded for rudeness.

I don’t want to help those who think they are above the rest of us: They’re already helping themselves enough–at our expense.

I guess this wasn’t whimsical, but it was on my mind. I was out in heavy traffic this week, and while for the most part people were respectful of the inherent dangers, and thus responsibilities of driving, too many obviously thought the rules  (traffic, gravity, physics) didn’t apply to them.

Here’s a simple rule you can pass along to …well, you know who.

Just. Pull. Out. At. The. Light.


3 thoughts on “The Samaritan’s Dilemma

  1. Tracey! Your poor car. I don’t really like the content here, because your car got munched, but I do like your post. (And I love your diagram! Wicked skills! How did you do it?) I cannot believe she hit your car and then drove away! Gak! I honestly and truly believe that the world is filled with really good people who mean the best and try to do what is right, but every so often I run into someone, like this, who makes me doubt my Pollyanna life-view. Why do those people exist? Grrrr…..

    Liked by 1 person

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