Spent this past weekend on the road and while trying to merge as a lane was shutting down, I grew annoyed as I watched cars behind me zip around opportunistically, effectively preventing me from inching over. This kind of thing happens at the grocery store too -- I was on line recently when a new register opened and the cashier singsonged, "Next one in line please?" and the lady behind me dove into place before I even blinked.
I'm not SLOW, you know. I'm from the Northeast corridor. I talk fast, move fast and (usually) pay attention. But it's every man for himself, it seems.
I remember a staff exercise during orientation week the summer I worked as a camp counselor. We played a lot of games meant to serve as character lessons. In one (I don't remember the name), a leader called out a number and everyone had to link up in groups. He started with ten.
"TEN!" he shouted and fifty people ran around linking arms until we had 5 neat groups.
"NINE!!" he bellowed next and suddenly we had to break free but this meant that five people would be displaced. Like free radicals, they bounced around, looking for a stray limb to grab but alas, none were to be had and the buzzer sounded its harsh time-out, leaving all five to slink dejectedly off the court. The winners beamed, happily ensconced in their group.
The countdown continued until there was only one person left on the floor. They shone with pride, having made it successfully through every competitive round.
Then the leaders spoke.
"Congratulations! You did very well."
Those that withstood the final rounds smiled and held their chests high.
"But did you notice how no one helped anyone else?" They continued. "Not a single person looked around at anyone trying to link up and said 'oh here, join us!' or 'take my spot!'"
I never forgot that lesson. I think of it sometimes, like when driving or standing on line.
Yes, we need to look out for ourselves... but we also need to look out for each other.