In the many trips we have made around the sun, our driving skills have been tested by thousands of miles and countless hours. Many are well into the hundreds of thousands – racked up by years of summer vacations, trips to grandma’s house and carpools for club sports. A few can even boast to be million-milers. These souls have logged a good deal of their lives behind the wheel – and, invariably, behind other motorists. In this mass accumulation of experience and memory, patterns of human behavior begin to emerge.
We’ve all seen folks stop, having missed the proper turn from the roundabout they are circumnavigating, seemingly perplexed by what the next step is. After a momentary pause to reconsider the appropriate subsequent action, the bewildered driver lunges back into motion, rounding again until the proper exit reappears. Recently, an auto antecedent to my own was informed by some chirping Siri that the proscribed exit had passed. Therefore, this determined person not only stopped but threw the car into reverse – seemingly undeterred by the danger or peculiarity of the act. The investment of the seconds required to navigate one additional trip around the roundabout appeared too much to expect.
Likewise, we find ourselves cut off in traffic only to have the interloper promptly apply the brakes. It seemed they had nowhere to go but needed to be in front. Gen. George S. Patton Jr. is credited with proclaiming, “Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.” What is it about human nature that so routinely and intentionally keeps us from committing to any one of these camps? When should we lead? When should we follow? And, when should we step aside? Are we making the choice or simply backing up in a roundabout?