Have you ever wondered how big of a Jerk you are? Call it what you want, Tool, Douche, Dirt-bag, whatever. I now have a definitive measuring stick to figure it out. You're welcome. My theory evaluates the "Jerk-Meter-Levels" in your life based on Ambulances. It goes something like this: "Gauging how big of a jerk you are can be determined by evaluating how you handle interruptions to your life caused by things like Ambulances and the occasional Hearse."
Let me explain.
The other night I was driving to the grocery with my daughters (which, coincidentally is a lot like riding in an ambulance in that it's stressful and full of loud noises), when we heard a siren. At the screeching wail my youngest daughter said: "Daddy, someone's in trouble."
We were approaching a very busy intersection of two four-lane roads when the ambulance came into sight. I was in the right hand turn lane, and I completed the turn as it neared the intersection, and as is customary, I pulled to the side of the road and stopped. So did the car in front of me as well as a handful of others all around. The ambulance blew its horn over the cacophony of its siren and slowed to make a turn onto the street I was just leaving. It slowly weaved its way through the stopped vehicles before turning. As it did, the stop lights changed.
Most people would forego the traffic light, and allow the ambulance to pass. If they missed the light, so be it. The needs of whoever required the paramedics surely outweigh your need to get through the light. That's how most people see things anyway.
Most, but sadly not all.
Across the intersection, a sad-looking wreck of a van pulled around the stopped car in front of it, and went into the intersection, forcing the ambulance to stop and make way for this egotist. I stared in stunned disbelief at the self-centered arrogance of the man, who was clearly in such a rush to get to whatever critical event was happening in his life at that moment. (NOTE: I had many derogative, insulting and humorous guesses as to where he was going, but I deleted them all because, frankly, I'm a super nice guy.)
As the van passed and the ambulance made its way to whatever emergency it was responding to, my oldest daughter asked, "Daddy, why did you stop?"
"Because, Kiddo," I responded, "that's what you're supposed to do; let the ambulance through so they can get to the emergency quicker."
"Then why didn't that guy stop?" she asked.
"Because he's a terrible human being," I answered.
What else could I say?
How else do you describe someone like that? Don't get me wrong, I understand that it's 'possible' that this gentleman had a life or death situation he had to get to. However, at the risk of sounding overly judgmental, based on the signs of neglect, misuse and general disrepair of his van, I don't believe this guy was on his way to close some last-minute real estate deal or get to the hospital to perform emergency brain surgery. He was simply a selfish, self-centered person too rude and inconsiderate to wait to allow the paramedics through the intersection.
Isn't it already a hard enough job?
I don't envy the day-to-day job of your average paramedic. It seems like a pretty difficult and demanding vocation even without bone-heads nearly causing head-on collisions. Aside from the fact they drive around in a giant microwave on wheels that's screeching like fingernails across chalk boards with background vocals provided by a million screaming babies, their job seems rather stressful. I'm not talking about the good sort of stress like a crowded Bass Pro Shops on the first day of the Hunting Classic. I'm talking the bad sort of stress, like getting called into the Boss's office when the company announces layoffs, or your first check-up after you've turned forty and you're dreading the colon exam.
Oh and keep in mind when they do get into that top-heavy, screeching machine they are on their way to an EMERGENCY. It's not like they are driving to get ice cream.
After my revelatory pronouncement gauging this man's character, my daughter then asked: "Daddy, why did you have to wait, when he didn't?"
Well there's the rub isn't it? I tried to explain that he should have waited too, but it poses a powerful question when it comes to us and how we get along with others in our world. It's so easy to fall into the trap of deciding not to do what's right because someone else didn't. After all, why should you follow the rules if some other guy isn't going to? Not to mention, he's getting away with it.
The reality is, when we pick up the phone and call 9-1-1, we hope everyone yields to the ambulance when it's on the way to our house. My guess is, that whoever that guy was, if he were the one calling for the ambulance he too demand expediency. If it's us or our loved one in jeopardy, we share the common hope no hurdles impeded the medic's progress to get to us.
But what about when someone else's emergency gets in our way?
If everyone acted like this man and ignored the sirens and took it as just another excuse to get ahead, to push someone aside, to cut in line, where would we be? How long would that unknown person waiting on the ambulance have to wait while we all clawed through the intersection? Aren't we entitled to that? After all, who are the paramedics, the police, fire fighters or funeral processions to get in my way and slow me down?
Hopefully you see the flawed logic here.
It's only by each of us putting aside our own timelines and pressing demands and giving way to those emergency service vehicles, or even to wait out of respect for the recently deceased and those remaining in mourning, that we are guarantee the same actions in return. Sadly this sort of reciprocity is rare these days, and a culture that is becoming more and more selfish is making it even rarer.
So the next time your day is interrupted by a loud siren or a quiet Hearse, consider your actions and gauge the sort of character you display. Because it does prove what sort of person you are. When you groan at the inconvenience of possibly missing the light and having to wait longer, think of two things. First, consider if you really want to be that guy/girl who would shove aside the paramedics, police or funeral procession to get to your destination a few minutes earlier. Second, try being thankful you're not the one in the line of cars behind the Hearse mourning the loss of a loved one, or anxiously awaiting the emergency responders under that siren.
If nothing else be thankful you're not the one in the Hearse.
Because if we as a society don't get out of the way, we might just wind up there someday because some bonehead collided with the ambulance on its way to save our life.