Road Rage Running over Common Courtesy

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), May 10, 1998 | Go to article overview

Road Rage Running over Common Courtesy


Byline: Fred Norris

How does "road rage" happen? Why all the human suffering and humiliation spilling out on the Jerry Springer "Pugilistic" Show? Do people crave the attention they get from being crude, tasteless and vulgar? We live in a crazy world today! Is it the "I, Me or My" or "Me First" generation? What happened? Have you been experiencing the anger to assertiveness that I have while trying to travel at the speed limit on local roads? It seems to be more prevalent today; more people seem to be inconsiderate, indifferent and ill mannered; or are they just in a big hurry to get to the next stop light before you? Rules of the road are designed by highway experts in the interest of safety, but they also are related to good manners. Maybe it's simplistic on my part, but I think we lost sight of what was once basic common courtesy in our daily lives. Good manners are the necessary guards of the decency and peace in society. Yet we hear and read less about the cultivation of courtesy than we do about dieting or exercising and all sorts of things to preserve and enhance physical beauty.

Our state and local laws list many punishable offenses against public order, against the person but there is no entry in its index under the heading "courtesy." Courtesy is unenforceable. Courtesy is in the arena we call freedom of choice. We use to assume everyone would be courteous and kind and act properly, and only the few or the depraved wouldn't exercise common courtesy.

Courtesy isn't a whimsical invention of our ancestors. Politeness should be the medium of social exchange, just as money is the medium of an economic exchange. Courtesy is like an air cushion ... there might be nothing in it but it eases the jolt. A "please" and a "thank you" may seem trivial, but they are agreeable and gratifying exchanges between civil people.

Today it is said, of course, times have changed, that meekness has not inherited the earth, and the competitiveness of everyday life leaves no time for the frills or time to be nice. Let's hope that's not true. There is more informality in life today, in conduct, in clothes particularly among young people. Maybe that's not all bad, but what is disturbing is good manners and living by the rules of our society also seem to have evaporated as we loosen up. …

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