Social Contracts


(George) What do bus schedules, crosswalks, and speed limit signs have in common? Give up? They are all examples of social contracts that modern day society has with its citizens. The bus schedule is a contract between the bus company and me, setting out when bus “x” is going to serve my stop. The crosswalk is a contract between me and the city, establishing where I may safely cross the road in the absence of traffic lights. And speed limit signs are part of a large contract called “rules of the road” between the state and drivers that allows these folks the luxury of taking their own private conveyances wherever they want instead of having to do the sardine routine with those of us having to settle for public transit.

This morning I was waiting for my bus. The schedule said that bus #10 and bus #187 were both due at stop 7777 at 7:56am. I was at stop 7777 at 7:54am, a full two minutes before either of said buses were due. I honored my part of the contract by being at my stop on time. 7:56 comes and goes with no sign of either bus. Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick… A full 480 ticks – that’s 8 minutes in layperson’s terms – goes by before bus #10 decides to grace us with its presence. Where was bus #187…? Who knows? Point being, contract broken. You wouldn’t mind if this was a once in a blue moon occurrence. But it seems as though it is happening with ever greater frequency.

Crossing the street to get to the bus stop, I stopped at the crosswalk and checked the road. No one coming from the west, so I start crossing. I have honored my part of the contract by arriving at the appointed crossing point and checking first to see that it is safe to cross. There are cars coming from the east, but they are far enough away that I am sure they will see me in the intersection and slow down and stop as I get to the island in the middle of the road. One driver and car does exactly that. Another car, following behind the first car but in a different lane, does not. He blows past me standing in the middle of the road, doing a good 10-20 miles per hour above the speed limit. Frickken asswipe! We are not talking a missed bus here, people, but a 4000 pound projectile hurtling down the road at 50 miles an hour. Ever seen what’s left of a crash test dummy after one of those things has done its dirty work…? Uh huh.

Again this is not an isolated incident: it happens more times than I care to think about in the course of a week.

It appears that some folks view scheduled bus stops, speed limits, and crosswalks, as “mere suggestions” of proper behavior and treatment of their fellow man/woman.  Excuse me? I didn’t see any memo on this… When did society decide it was going to change the terms of its contracts with me, John Q. Citizen…?  What if all of a sudden the rest of us decide that laws and promises are  just “mere suggestions” of acceptable behavior and not really hard and fast rules and expectations that we have to abide by? It would be utter chaos and mayhem, it would. We would be surrounding buses anywhere, forcing them to stop so we could get on. We would be jaywalking in the middle of the road, testing the arcade skills of drivers to the limits. And we would be competing against each other to create the most carnage and bloodshed in a real life version of “Need For Speed”. And this is just the relatively benign behavior of the non-sociopaths walking among us…                                                                                                                                                                    

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