It’s been established that I’m a Ruler. I believe in rules, I follow them, and I think other people should too. But generally, they don’t.
The other day, Mr. HalfFull and I were riding our coasting bicycles into town when he veered off the path. We weren’t on a bicycle trail, but we were following a narrow connecting path from one neighborhood to the next. It was possible to stay on the sidewalk and enter one end of the path, but this required a tight, awkward turn that wasn’t meant for bicycles. So Mr. HalfFull traversed the nearby mulch to enter the tiny path on a better angle.
After catching up to him post-detour, I commented on him riding through the mulch, and he told me about desire paths.
In Finland planners are known to visit their parks immediately after the first snowfall, when the existing paths are not visible. People naturally choose desire lines, which are then clearly indicated by their footprints and can be used to guide the routing of paths.
In Mr. HalfFull’s mind, paths created by wearing down the grass in different areas are more valid than those laid in concrete. But I disagree wholeheartedly.
I always try to walk on the paved paths to protect the grass from repeated trampling. Walking off the pavement ruins the landscaping and might make your shoes dirty to boot! It’s just respectful to stay on the sidewalk.
But Mr. HalfFull says I’m the exception to the rule (or X2R, as he likes to say). According to him, most people don’t follow the rules when inconvenienced. He claims that my rule-following nature is the root of my frustration with others. I expect that people will follow the rules and when they don’t, I’m annoyed.
I live near a Metro station. When I first moved here, there were crosswalks to the Metro, but no traffic light. Before the traffic light, cars from my side street could turn left or right onto the main road. But when constructing the traffic light, they also inserted a triangular block of concrete to prevent cars from turning left onto the main road. The concrete clearly directs traffic to the right and also disallows left turns from the main road onto the side road. Plus there are signs prohibiting left turns in both locations.
But the signs and concrete don’t seem to deter drivers. From my dining room, I watch cars and even large trucks make those left turns (sometimes with tires over the curb) and it irritates me.
The concrete makes the left turns from the main road quite dangerous since cars have to drive on the wrong side of the road (either on the main road or the side road) to complete the turn. Part of the reason this is so ridiculous is because it’s not a huge inconvenience to follow the rules since the side road is U-shaped and connects to the main boulevard twice, just two-tenths of a mile apart. Plus, the main road has plenty of opportunities for U-turns. It’s really not a big deal.
Not only does this intersection have cars, but there are also plenty of pedestrians who make their way to and from the Metro. The traffic light was constructed largely for pedestrians (and partially to allow busses and other traffic to more quickly exit the Metro). If a pedestrian presses the button, the lights will change to allow him to cross. It’s a safe and effective way to get across the street.
But there are plenty of people who find the extra steps to the crosswalk just too far. Instead, they cross at a nearby point in the road with a blind curve and proceed to walk through the parking lot instead of using the sidewalks. Perhaps they save a bit of time, but they make me very nervous as a driver. I’m always watching the people teetering on the curb and wondering which moment they will chose to dart across the road. It’s just not safe.
Our street is well-patrolled by the police; you might call it a speed trap. There are some nights when I see blue lights flashing in my windows several times an evening, keeping speeds in check. But sometimes we have officers during the day who give tickets for jaywalking. Ordinarily, this seems like a rather ridiculous ticket, but I think it’s warranted around here.
The DC area is known for traffic congestion. It’s a constant topic of conversation and dictates when and where we chose to drive.
Years ago, they started using the shoulder lane on I-66 outside the Beltway as a traffic lane during rush hour. When the lanes are open there is a green arrow overhead, and when they are closed, the sign displays a red X.
Some drivers only use these overhead red X signs as a suggestion when traffic is heavy. They stay in the shoulder lane with their blinker on, as if they are attempting to merge into traffic. But since they are speeding past the cars in actual traffic lanes, that turn signal is really meaningless.
This blatant disregard for the rules is infuriating to me. The rest of us are sitting in traffic too.
Drivers also misuse the shoulder lanes when exiting the highway. There are specific signs before each exit that read: Begin to Exit Here. But people drive in that red X lane long before the sign. So those of us who follow the rules have more difficulty merging into the exit lane since there are cars whizzing by. It should be a simple move into a lane with no traffic.
To Follow or Flaunt the Rules?
Perhaps it’s the American ideal of freedom and the desire to be a free-thinker that makes breaking the rules so appealing. But it seems like rule-breaking just encourages more people to break the rules too.
Following the rules is a lonely path paved with resentment. I know I shouldn’t care what other people do. But in situations like traffic, their lack of rule following does impact my drive, time on the road, and mood. I guess my expectations for rules and justice are not helping me to be at peace with the world. Perhaps this Ruler needs a new outlook.
- Are you an X2R?
- Have you ever gotten a ticket for jaywalking?
- What blatant disregard for road rules have you seen?
- How do you react when others break the rules?