Friday, January 09, 2015

The World Is For Me

I imagine a spectrum in which each person's feeling of entitlement shows up as a different colour. On average, people feel entitled to somewhat more than the world can provide for them, leading to the phenomenon of the tragedy of the commons, a general dissatisfaction with one's lot, or the assumption that rules are for other people, and that whatever works best for me is the thing to do. So at one end of the spectrum we have Mother Teresa who sees that the world has problems, and that there is something she can do about some of them, so dedicates her life to helping people. At the other end we have extreme psychopaths who will kill someone for entertainment. Some people dump unwanted items and garbage in vacant lots or on the highway. Some people separate all their unwanted items into things that can be used again by others, various types of recyclables, and garbage, and then make the effort to get them all to the right places. Some people organize others in their community and go out to clean up garbage that has been dumped in vacant lots. I'm not saying that Mother Teresa never littered or that if you throw your trash in my backyard you're probably a psycho killer, but these are examples on the spectrum of how much a person feels entitled to inconvenience others.

I once expressed reluctance to be the first person to park in a curb lane after morning rush hour had ended, when it became legal. I said something like, "I hate to be that person who takes that lane out of service for everyone else." My friend thought that was bizarre. She said she loved to be the first person to park on a block, because it was so easy. Someone's going to be the first person to park there, so why not her? The effect one's actions will have on others affects different people's actions by different amounts. Intelligence and experience factor into it a little, but I have observed young children and those with intellectual disabilities make decisions for the good of the many. I'm not talking about decisions driven by ignorance or malice, just those made by assigning different weights to "this inconveniences me" and "this inconveniences someone I don't know." People's behaviour can be artificially bumped along these scales by laws and social norms. I want six cookies, I don't care if anyone else gets one, but I share them equally because it would be more inconvenient to me to have all these people annoyed at me and consider me rude, than it would for me to forego five of the cookies I want. It is a lot of bother to find a legal parking spot in rush hour, but my friend does so, because if she parks in the curb lane before nine am she'll be ticketed and towed, and that would be a lot more inconvenient than driving a few more blocks and walking back.

This spectrum of empathy and entitlement speaks to whether you crowd around the boarding lane at the gate before your row is called, recline your airline seat, put one of your carry-ons under the seat in front of you, and otherwise share the limited space on board a passenger airplane. And then there's this guy. I suppose it is possible that he was really as clueless as he claims, that he didn't figure out that others were queuing in the aisle because that's how one gets off an airplane. But I think he saw a special little door just for him, the way solo drivers in the HOV lanes "didn't see" the signs or the diamonds painted on the tarmac, just the opportunity for them to get where they are going more quickly. The bright side is that he showed that the emergency exits are obvious enough to use that a passenger who wasn't paying attention had no problem operating one. I wonder if he brought his carry on with him.

Secretly, don't we all want to go down the airplane slide? How much would you pay for a chance to do that? How much extra to be the one who pops the door and sets off the slide? At the $16,000 to reset, quoted in the article, I don't think it's a missed revenue stream for the airlines, especially as passengers often sustain minor injuries, such as broken ankles, during real evacuations, but wheeee! slide!

The aircraft I fly doesn't have an escape slide, but I require all crew members to practice opening and egressing through an emergency exit at annual training. It causes a little wear and tear on the aircraft and the crew members, but I flew so many airplanes myself without ever having actually operated their exits, that I wanted it done. It's hard to describe exactly how it opens until you do it, and this way we know for sure that they work.

Oh! Don't tell anyone, but I'm going to see if I can get a toy inflatable slide for this year's training.


Garrett said...

Here's another one, where a guy throws a tantrum because one lift accessing serious terrain at a ski area requires you to wear an avalanche transceiver, and suggests you have partner(s) and appropriate knowledge and tools. Totally sensible and understood by most everyone, except this guy. NSFW language. Guy goes nuts at Bridger Bowl

Colin said...

Mother Theresa is not a good example for the other end of your scale. She often figured weighed here own glory against the suffering of others and made the decision in a direction you would not expect. (An ambulance was donated to haul homeless people near death to her clinic, she used it to ferry her nurses to the hospice instead. Pain medication was donated and she sold it on the black market saying that the suffering of those in the hospice brought them closer to god. When she herself was ill, she accepted pain medication, presumably because she was already close enough to go. The list goes on, but she’s just not a good example.)

Richard G Rees-Williams said...

Well I don't understand the passengers that always seem to be in a huge rush to get off a plane when it has just got the gate and the door hasn't even been opened yet. Like sheep they all stand up and get in each others' way like a bunch of lemmings. Almost as if, should they stay seated any longer the plane will suddenly blow up and they will all die. Morons.