Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Whose Shoulder IS This?

On Sunday, I worked at a Farmer's Market about an hour away, near D.C.

On our way home in the 100 degree heat, the highway was closed for over an hour.

This can bring out the best in people....or the worst.

Who is in charge of the road? This is a public space and our taxes pay for its upkeep.

What are the social norms? Rules?

About 30 minutes into our stalled trip, two cars decided to drive on the shoulder of the road so they wouldn't have to sit in the heat.

The pickup truck right in front of us decided that was NOT acceptable.  He pulled onto the shoulder and blocked them.  A woman in the car started to yell (and I laughed because I sensed drama was coming, and classical music was playing in our truck, and it was just a surreal moment).

The woman from the car got out and went up to the truck to convince him to let them by.  He refused.  So she got in front of his truck. They tried to drive around.  We actually tried to let them get by, but he slowed down so we couldn't do that.
(Contains profanity.)

So.  This is a public space.

Should folks follow social norms, such as not driving on the shoulder? If they don't, should citizens take it into their own hands to force them to?

In this day and age with the prevalence of handguns, I was actually worried that someone might get shot. Luckily, no one did.

What would you have done? 


  1. The guns scare me. We don't have permission to carry guns. If we did it would take the road rage I sometimes see to a different level.
    In terms of public spaces for transportation, we have suddenly an unprecedented increase in cyclists on our roads.My son is one of them and very active in trying to change the mindset of people whose roads have belonged to cars and trucks for so long. It's interesting what a short time frame people sometimes refer to when they insist that the roads have always belonged to cars, and that cyclists are encroaching on their territory.

    The fact that my son is a cyclist increases my awareness of the rights and safety of cyclists; it's shifted my perspective. It is challenging to drive when cyclists are added to the mix of traffic, especially when they don't have designated lanes (or if those lanes are also car park spaces), The battle for road ownership is a hot headed one. In terms of your scenario, I wouldn't have silently cursed the drivers on the shoulder but I definitely would not have done anything about it. People's tempers are sometimes out of control when road space is an issue.

  2. Since watching Nick's Google Hangout, I see everything as a Ken Burns pan from the focused area zooming out slowly to the "rest of the story" and side stories. We've got to take ourselves out of the center of attention, and think as much about others. It's something I try to focus on in my classroom -- the sense of community and caring for each other. How do we do that in public places? Maybe we need a civics class every year -- to discuss rights and responsibilities and caring communities. I would have waited. I would have shaken my head while the shoulder drivers passed, and then thought, "they must have a kid in the car who's sick, or a relative who needs help and they can't wait anymore." You know, thinking of the bigger possibility. It's something I learned from my mom.