In our little town, we drive slowly. You can’t go very far without having to stop at a stop sign. The speed limit is only 30 mph. This time of year, you have to watch for children outside at play. But mostly, you have to make sure to wave. Waving is very important in our town. I never, ever leave my house without waving at least one time during the trip. No matter if I am crossing to the next street, or driving ALL THE WAY across town (one mile) I will end up waving at someone.
There is no such thing as road rage in my town. There is no anonymity. People know my car. I know what cars or trucks other people drive. Not only that, but I know many of their license plates. Case in point: Once I was driving from my parents’ home to my house, and a friend later called to apologize for not waving at me. She wasn’t feeling well, and was rushing to get home to use the bathroom. Yes, she told me that, and yes, she actually called to apologize for NOT WAVING.
I have written before about how it hurts me to see how the anonymity of cars turns people into uncaring bastards. People can be mean or harassing to those around them, and as long as there isn’t a cop nearby to catch them, they can speed along their way without repercussions or accountability.
Today I received an email from a citizen calling me a communist and a socialist. Not only that, but he said that I “help people get pets intoxicated.” WTF??? Yes, my friends, I serve liquor to dogs and cats!! But first, I oppress them with my communist dogma. This was the result of a marketing piece I did promoting a local business that produces a bloody mary mix (no alcohol in the mix!) A portion of all sales go to a pet rescue organization. I was promoting the locally owned business, not intoxication of pets, although I will admit that the thought makes me laugh!
This crazy man was insulated in his “car” of email. Just as road rage is easy to perpetrate, so is email criticism. If he had a problem with me, would he have been able to say those things to my face? Of course not. Frankly, I am astonished at the number of hateful, critical emails I see floating around. People have an easy, unseen, soapbox in popping off a critical email, and boy, do they love to get up on that safe soapbox.
Cars, phone calls, text messaging, and the internet has in many cases eliminated the need for face to face human contact. Sure, sometimes this is great. I love to blog, and here I am hidden behind my blog, Pam’s Planet. I love to talk on the phone. I am able to stay in touch with friends and family in far off places. The internet and email have brought me great joy and great friends. But there is a downside. While these advances in convenience have made our lives more fun and productive, it’s also easier to waste time and to hide behind technology in our dealings with those around us. We are insulated by technology. Sure, we get things done faster. Our lives are more organized, but I am beginning to see the downside of not being forced to interact with those around us in a transparent, accountable manner. I miss eye contact and body language. I miss the give and take of real conversation, even when those interactions aren’t always pleasant. I miss holding a piece of paper in my hand and looking at the handwriting of someone special to me. Oh, I how I once loved to get a real letter from my grandma! I could see HER. I could see where she had sat to write the letter at her cherry desk with the black dial phone. I could see her head bent and the wrinkles on her hand. That letter contained a little piece of Grandma. It was written with care and love.
I am as guilty as the next person of hiding in my own little cyberworld. I text, email, and I’m a Facebook junkie. I am as guilty of the behavior I criticize as those I condemn. It’s time for that to stop. It’s time for me to step out of my car occasionally and actually speak to real people, shake a few hands, hug a few friends, and wave at the people I see passing by.