Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Civility Is Easier to Achieve at the Local Level: Face-to-Face Contact Leads to Local Government Success

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Civility Is Easier to Achieve at the Local Level: Face-to-Face Contact Leads to Local Government Success

Article excerpt

Reprinted with permission from the April issue of Cityscape, official publication of the Iowa League of Cities

Several weeks ago I was approaching an elevator the same time as two other individuals.

Each of us gave the others the chance to enter the elevator first, virtually to the point when the elevator door would close if someone did not enter.

Someone finally went first, and we all arrived safely at our desired floor.

Later that day I was driving home, taking my normal route on the freeway.

As I came down the ramp, I looked for an opportunity to merge safely into the closest lane.

I could not help but notice that the driver of the automobile in that lane saw me on the ramp and sped up to block my path.

The driver in the automobile behind him followed so closely that I could not merge.

I slowed down, nearly stopped, and finally merged onto the road when a gap in traffic appeared.

As I continued driving home I was struck by the contrast in the two situations--politeness at the elevator, but rudeness on the highway.

I wondered, what would happen if we walked like we drove?

Would an individual almost knock another down to be first on the elevator? Would sidewalk rage replace road rage?

It occurred to me that a key difference in the two scenarios is personal contact.

Even in the relative anonymity of an elevator, one sees the other person directly.

In the safety of one's automobile, the other driver seems more distant.

That greater impersonality seems to give us license to bully. …

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