A Need for Manners in the Modern Age
It happens almost daily during morning rush hour. A bicyclist zooms past on the sidewalk, a missing me by inches. “Is there a bell on that bike?” I call out, thinking that he might apologize for failing to warn me. No go. I’m just an obstacle on his way to cross at the green light ahead.
Of course, he has his rights - just like any other citizen hurrying off to work. It’s public space, after all - the same one claimed by electric scooter fans charging along so insouciantly that I wonder if they ever look for any defenseless pedestrians in their path. Such innocent names: Lime and Bird. The Washington Post recently nailed the issue on its health page, saying worldwide calls grow for bans.
But just where is this happening outside New York City, Paris and the United Kingdom, I would like to know. Nashville’s mayor at least gave scooter operators a month to “clean up their act,” the report says. What then?
Likewise, the compulsive smartphone user. Head down, oblivious to everything around and ahead. Never mind that green has turned red. The oft-proclaimed dangers of cell phone usage in public places is well documented, citing how presumably otherwise good citizens insist on their right to communicate no matter what. Has the rate of pedestrian deaths risen dramatically in part because drivers insist on their right to give and receive messages anywhere they please?
Speed is king these days in an urban milieu. Ambling is passe. The rules of the road are unspoken, even when they are - vaguely - written into law. Heaven help the denizens of Washington, DC, and other cities who face an invasion of even more wheeling wonders. The city has apparently given in to pressure from who-knows-where to allow several hundred more of these take-it-and-leave-it -where-you-will mobile devices.
Yes, they cut down on automobile usage, save on pollution, provide cheap and convenient transport. But what’s the limit, and why aren’t there more protests about the numbers and the dangers they invite both to themselves and others? Am I in a minority - a hapless two-footer who prefers to walk even when I can drive or ride?
Don’t even mention how few bikers or scooter users bother with helmets. Maybe in the future it will be up to the pedestrian to arm him or herself with some protection. Grouches like me are caught up in the quaint notion that everyday manners are at stake here. We see a need for new rules of civility in the age of hyper technology that go beyond (or maybe alongside) the current fixation on what constitutes privacy in a digital world.
Likewise, (a slight digression) consider what are ‘proper’ use of communication methods along the nearly unfathomable internet road. Who is to say what are the rules? To text or not to text versus overwhelm one another with emails that can pile up by the hundreds without blocking devices that may or may not be effective. Does the texting person expect an imminent response and how should the person on the other end react? Doesn’t this put unreal pressure on people to be constantly monitoring their phone for messages? Surely, many misunderstandings occur with the expectations assumed in the exchange.
Machines can help maketh the man ( literally so for Crisper technology and DNA manipulation or for procreation via In Vitro Fertilization) but they seem equally capable of killing him off. Robots and other AI devices, it’s surmised, promise to make many human activities (even some body parts) irrelevant.
If only that fast disappearing bicycle guy had thrown a ‘sorry’ in my direction, I probably would not be writing these words. I might instead be seeing fresh hope in the ability of a stranger to be sensitive to the needs of another and act accordingly.