To Avoid the “Stranger=Asshole” View

I was 18 when I began to learn how to drive for the first time. I was very nervous behind the wheel, and I kept asking my driving instructor stupid questions, such as “what if that guy does not stop at the red light?” or “what should I do if I am on the right lane and someone rushes into me head on?” The biggest fear for my young, naive self then was that I could be hurt because the other dude did something stupid. To allay my fear, my instructor told me, “you should know that as you follow traffic rules, so do the other drivers. You should trust people who share the road with you.” I remember I was almost floored by this answer.

Today, I remembered this excellent piece of advice from my driving instructor, because of two small incidents that happened yesterday and this evening. Yesterday, I was checking my Facebook, and I saw a video clip that showed a young couple having sex at an airport lounge.Apparently, preoccupied by their sadness, the couple did not know that their private activity was videotaped. They assumed – wrongly – the opaque lounge walls gave them complete privacy. But the lounge was on the second floor, and people on the first floor could look up and see the young couple in the room. I was extremely annoyed, not so much by the young couple as by the person who videotaped it and posted it on Facebook. What is this person up to, I thought.

I totally forgot about this post until this evening, when I was changing in my gym’s locker room and noticed that the lady behind me was using her cell phone. All of a sudden, I became uncomfortable. “What if she takes a picture of me and posts it online?” Not that this particular lady looked crazy enough to do such a crass thing, but that you never know. I was debating between talking to her and not talking to her, secretly hoping that she remembered that it is the gym’s rule not to use cell phones in the locker room and noticed that I kept looking back at her. But she didn’t notice anything. Finally, I asked her if she could use her cell phone outside the locker room. Thankfully, she accepted my request and left the locker room.

At home, I am thinking about these two episodes in relation to my driving instructor’s advice. He taught me the important lesson on trust. It is so easy to question and suspect strangers. After all, we don’t know them, and life experience teaches us that it takes just one crazy person for a bad thing to happen. Nevertheless, I think it is important to trust other people. I think the foundation of a healthy, strong society is laid on the constituents’ trust and respect of each other. So,let’s avoid any action that leads the other person into asking, “what if that stranger is a wacko?” When you do so, chances are you will be the first beneficiary of such trust of strangers, just as I became immediately comfortable driving, as soon as I began to trust other drivers as law-abiding citizens.

So, let’s not use cell phones in locker rooms.

One thought on “To Avoid the “Stranger=Asshole” View

  1. Like your article. It IS a “fine line” between being over-cautious with being oblivious.
    I personally try to feel comfortable (as you suggest here) about 90% of the time. I read a great book by a neuroscientist on the concept of fear: he recommended listening to your body. Apparently throughout the development of humankind we have evolved some unconscious skills for discerning danger. Ergo, what you did this AM in the locker room was SMART. You felt concern, what the woman was doing was NOT okay and actually forbidden. So your actions are to be commended. If you went around feeling on the verge of being attacked constantly (and you are NOT walking in the Southside of Chicago!) — then it could be considered “paranoid”. Love, Maggie

    Like

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