4/3/2019 08:59

Upsetting the Expected Social Order Yet Again

Yesterday I was riding my bike along a quiet residential street when I noticed a man ahead of me who was preparing to back his car out of his driveway into the street. People who live on quiet residential streets often learn that they can be fairly oblivious to their surroundings without dying or mutilating themselves and so I was immediately on guard.

I could see the driver's head, so I knew that he could see me. I could see that he turned his head, but I couldn't tell whether he had looked at anything. So I remained on guard.

Just as I was reaching the driveway, the man determined that he was ready to go, put the car in gear, and backed into the street ahead of me. And then he saw me and stopped directly in front of my bicycle. I was forced to slow nearly to a stop before he moved the car forward and to the curb.

I pulled left and began to pass. The man rolled down his window and said, "I'm sorry. I didn't see you." I doubted his sincerity but I wholeheartedly supported what he actually said.

"I'm sorry that you didn't see me, too," I agreed.

"Well, I DID (missing word) stop, you (two missing words)," the man shouted after me. Apparently being agreeable with a person who by his ineptitude has just threatened your life and well-being does not comport with his understanding of how one ought to play the actual reality game.

I wonder whether perhaps there was a better play for me to make. My natural inclination was to ride off without further interaction but I suspect the driver would have perceived me as "a (missing word) ingrate" had I done so. After all, he did not in actual reality run his car over my bicycle, break any of my limbs, or even drive away without acknowledging my existence, for each of which I imagine he might believe I should be grateful to him.

Alternatively, perhaps he would have preferred that I lie and say, "It's alright! I don't mind that you violated state law and your moral obligation by assuming that you and you alone were the only traffic in the shared space of a public street. All that matters is that you remain deluded about your own goodness!" Yet even in that verbose form I suspect that the man might have been able to detect the insincerity and correctly infer a judgement against his behavior.

My best guess, however, is that the driver expected me to stop, express a lack of animosity, and by my words reestablish bonds of humanity which he himself by his distraction had sundered. In retrospect, the formulaic apology which he had spoken seems like an invitation to a similarly formulaic response. The result he expected might be a reknitting of the torn fabric of society.

Achieving such an outcome would seem to be a better play, but in my view the thread proposed for the repair was so thing and the stitches so weak that the fabric would not actually be repaired. Hiding the existence of a rip in the fabric is not the same repairing it.