The area in which I live is replete with four-way Stop signs. If you don’t have one of these near you, it’s an intersection where everyone is coming in from different directions with a STOP sign in front of each of them. You are supposed to take turns going, if there is a line of cars. If there is only one car at each sign, it is usually whoever got there first, and go from there.
What’s interesting to watch is when two or more cars get to the intersection at the same time. If it is a tie, who goes first? I like to sit and watch what will happen. Sometimes the other driver pauses and waves me (or the other car that’s stopped) on. Sometimes the driver taps the brake but then shoots through so that they can be first.
Once it was especially fun to observe when there was a pedestrian in one of the intersections. Who should be allowed to go? I’m sure there are rules of the road for this type of thing, but in my experience the “rules” aren’t often followed.
It’s funny how important it is for many people to be first: “I am on my way somewhere important!” or “I have a right to be out in front!” or “I got here seconds before the other car, therefore I am the one who matters!”
Of course we don’t say these things to ourselves like this – well, maybe some people do – but it is the operating philosophy that many people have; “I should be first. Period. End of discussion.”
We observe kids operating with this attitude and we know it is their developmental stages that dictate this “it should be ME!” philosophy. On kids it is mildly acceptable, but adults may want to think twice about always putting themselves ahead of others.
It’s funny how we think we just don’t have time to be polite, or to let another person go first. Where are we rushing to? What exciting place can’t wait for an additional two minutes for us to arrive? The truth is that we often don’t have enough time to do what we need to do. I find that, for me, I am less polite in traffic (allowing others to go first) when I am late to pick up my kids somewhere, or I have a client waiting for me. If there isn’t something really important waiting, I have all the time in the world to be polite!
I want to practice being polite even when people are waiting for me. The few seconds, or possibly two minutes, that it takes to let another person be first aren’t going to compromise my life at all. I find it feels good to me when I can take the time to let someone else be out in front. I don’t have to be first to be happy.
Sometimes it’s hard to practice the concepts I talk about in these blogs. We are busy. We are distracted. And sometimes we just don’t want to do what we think, or know, we should. But to become more and more aware of how we are toward others, it’s important to notice these things. Next time you are driving, be more conscious about someone else being first. Make a deliberate attempt to let others go in front of you and take the second, or third, position.
You might not like it. It might be uncomfortable. But it will make you notice how you feel and what you are thinking as you drive. Be more aware of your choices – instead of just being first, be the first one to be kind to other drivers today.