One of the things which regularly helps to restore my faith in human nature, after it has taken a kicking: the way even the most aggressive and selfish car driver usually pulls over immediately to make way for an ambulance or fire appliance running blues and twos.
Continued, three days later...
Ray Girvan's comment to this post seemed important enough to justify promotion into the body of this post – especially as I've been thinking about it seriously since he left it.
“Well, maybe. My feeling is that the selfish and aggressive are very quick to obey when it comes to overt appearance of authority, such as fire / police / ambulance. That evaporates when no such authority is in sight - and that's the true test of positive human qualities: when you're not being watched.”
I have to say that I agree with most of that – especially the last bit.
The submission to visible authority factor was, in fact, the reason that I referred to “an ambulance or fire appliance” and left out police vehicles which are indisputably symbols of coercive authority. I'm not convinced that most aggressive/selfish drivers would be cowed by ambulance or fire appliance.
But ... it may well be, I concede, that the selfish and aggressive driver who pulls over may be responding at a gut level. The sound of a siren and the flashing of blue lights in her/his mirror, may well be readi instinctively as potential police signals before conscious identification.
It could well be that how one weighs this depends on one's exact location (at any given moment) on the cynical/credulous spectrum.
Being a fundamentally optimistic (or credulous) soul I cling to memory of an incident on a bus, some years ago. The passengers on the bus ranged from elderly pink rinsed matriarchs through young mothers to two known low level drug dealing thugs who would happily have broken my legs if I'd looked at them the wrong way.
On a fairly narrow estate road, where he could easily have pulled over but passing was impossible otherwise, the driver (an exception to my observation) steadfastly held his position on the road and blocked an braying ambulance for about wo hundred metres. Without exception, the reaction of all the passengers was outrage: the driver was subjected to a barrage of entreaties and abuse aimed at getting him to pull over and clear the road.
Perhaps, again, though, finer feelings are not the most likely reason for this. Perhaps, rather, each passenger selfishly imagined her/himself, at some future time, in that ambulance. Perhaps that, too, applies to car drivers. When it comes down to it, all I have in support of my original warm glow is the fact that I prefer to be warmed by one interpretation rather than chilled by the other. As a scientist, I have to confess that Ray's view of things has the balance of probabilities more on its side.