This item first ran four years ago on Writing Boots. It is immaculately conceived, sanely argued and perfectly written. Yet judging by the irregularity by which people are getting out of my way—as I rush around town getting ready for yet another trip—some people didn't get the message. One more try, slightly updated for the current circumstances. —DM
I'm-a be facilitating Leadership Communication Days in Montreal next week, and from there embarking on a two-week family ramble down the east coast. I'm rushing around on a hundred errands.
But rushing around in America isn't easy.
Dear Shambling, Too Cool for School, Passive-Aggressive American:
Here's why you ought to hustle across the pedestrian walkway to get out of my way (as I would do, to get out of yours): because human beings ought to assume that the other humans at intersections are headed in the right direction—on their way to apply for college, to visit a sick uncle, to pick up their child early for an ice cream, to find a piece of paper to write down an idea that might lead to a cure for breast cancer—and we ought to get the fuck out of their way.
Now, it's true that the person who's waiting for you to move your dawdling derriere across the intersection might be going nowhere in particular. She might in fact be completely lost. It's also possible the person is going nowhere good. Maybe he's hustling, hot-faced, to meet a 13-year-old he met online.
Most likely, though, the person is doing something morally neutral, like getting ready to go on a business trip. You know, to make a living?
We can't assume either purposelessness or malicious intent of the rushing stranger into whom we bump. We must assume—as ants do, I imagine, inside their bustling hill cities—that the other fellow is out to do some good for himself, and thus for his family, and thus for his nation, and thus for the world community and all of humanity.
Intentionally shambling across the crosswalk is a declaration of war on your fellow citizen and on all peoples of the world. And a pretty cowardly declaration at that.
So if you've ever asked yourself, "Why should I hurry across the intersection to let you get through?"—have answered your question?