A sense of presence

They surround us, like zombies encircling a church. They walk slowly in the middle of corridors; they place seven large orders in the drive-thru; they dawdle five-abreast at the mall; they drive their minivans in inappropriate lanes; they go to the self-checkout even through they can’t quite grasp the concept.

They are The People With No Sense of Presence.

We are surrounded by the hopelessly oblivious. We curse them; we drive around them; we sigh loudly as they disrupt the flow of our lives. But I think we fail to appreciate just how dangerous they can be.

It rained this evening in West Michigan. The highways were, correspondingly, wet. And wouldn’t you know it? There were several elderly drivers in minivans who were driving considerably slower than the rest of traffic. This forced people who came upon the traffic knots to slow rapidly, and given the weather conditions, the opportunity for a collision increased.

When things flow well, we don’t notice the process. We are not distracted by kinks in the system, when the system moves as intended. It’s only when there is avoidable process failure — such as when the car ahead of you at McDonalds places an order for the whole office when all you want is a diet Coke — that our irritation rises. This is not without consequence, either. My own driving gets much worse, for example, when I am angered by drivers who don’t seem to be aware of the traffic flowing (or attempting to flow) around them.

But it’s not just the slow-pokes who are the problem. The surest way to incite my innate sense of road rage is to watch “surgers” — those who refuse to merge at a lane narrowing until the last possible moment, often trying to leapfrog against those who merged at an appropriate time.

It’s said that ignorance is bliss. Given the utter lack of self-awareness evidenced by so many of our fellow citizens, it’s amazing that people feel the need to resort to recreational drug use.

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