Have you watched the news in recent years and said to yourself, “Wow, what a great time to be alive! Everything is so wonderful these days!”?
No, of course not. What you probably said was something like, “Our entire planet is losing its collective mind!”
Now, here’s the scenario that evoked those responses: you’re stopped at a red light, and you get a bit distracted by the scenery, or you’re changing the station on the car radio, or any one of 10,000 other things that divert the attention of motorists these days. (OK, let’s be honest: the number one motorist distraction nowadays is the ubiquitous smartphone.)
Anyway, when the light finally turns green, you don’t notice. After a few seconds, the driver in the car behind you beeps his horn. And that’s when you respond in either of the two ways described above.
Not too many decades ago, the vast majority of citizens would’ve reacted the first way. They would’ve understood that their inattentiveness was holding up traffic, and therefore the only proper response would be to offer an embarrassed apology and start driving. Very few people back then would have responded the second way. And the reason very few people responded that way was simple: back then there were very few self-absorbed, angry lunatics roaming around society.
Nowadays, based on my unscientific research (which consists of observing other drivers on Connecticut highways for multiple hours every week), I’d have to say that at least 30-percent of all drivers are self-absorbed, angry lunatics.
Although still in the minority, going from a half-percent to 30-percent is quite significant. It’s kind of like going from one bee sting on your leg to 60 bee stings all over your body. The first is surprising and slightly annoying; the other makes you wonder if you’re about to die.
Years from now, when historians look back and try to figure out exactly why the United States collapsed into total chaos during the first half of the 21st century, all they’ll have to do is look at the way people behaved while driving. Driving behavior is a window on the soul of society. Based on what I observe everyday on I-91 and I-84, our society’s soul is quite ill. We are becoming a nation of self-absorbed, angry lunatics.
In the meantime, I suggest the next time the driver in front of you is distracted at a light, just wait it out quietly. Unless you have a bulletproof windshield.