The Roots of Civility
In my review of the movie "Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room" (see below), I marvel at the courtesy of motorists in Southern California. In case you are having trouble reconciling that observation with the recent freeway shootings there, I offer the following, from Verlyn Klinkenborg in today's New York Times:
"These shootings change the very idea of the freeway ... I've been struck by the attentiveness and skill of the drivers around me, by the fact that nearly everyone signals a change of lane and tries to keep a reasonable distance between vehicles. In three months of freeway driving here, I can count on one hand the number of times I've heard a horn sounded in anger. And now I know why.
If nothing else, these good driving manners express the centrality of the freeway system in the consciousness of Southern California. I've begun to think of those lanes as a giant public square spreading all across the city, a square where most people try to contribute their mite of civility in hopes of keeping the overall experience as tolerable as possible. But there's another way to look at it. The civility on display may reflect nothing more than the profound hostility lying just below the surface.
As a friend from Fullerton puts it, you drive politely, without challenging other drivers even implicitly, because 'they're packing.' No one honks because no one wants a fight. People use their turn signals to say, as innocently as possible: 'Changing lanes now! Not cutting in! No disrespect intended!'"
Mr. Klinkenborg makes perfect sense. But my question is, why doesn't this work in Boston?