People are more aggressive lately

It surprises me how impatient and aggressive people are these days. I noticed several incidents in the past few weeks and wanted to talk about them.

The most notable difference is on the road: other drivers. The past year and a half, I daily drove about 50km from my home to work. To get there, I had to cross one of the bussiest thoroughfares of Belgium: the Brussels ring. Every day there are accidents causing traffic jams and delays in general. When I did this route 5 or 6 years ago, traffic was busy, but more civil. There was the occassional idiot driver, but not the amount I see today.

The way I drive, I leave some space between my front and the trunk of the car in front of me. Every day, I see cars tailgating, overtake me (or others) by using the right lane. Sometimes they want to go back to the left lane so urgently, they almost cause accidents. The aggressive car would almost just turn their wheel, most often not using indicators. All this to gain about one or two car lengths. Congratulations, you just saved yourself about 10 seconds of travel time, gave yourself and the person you cut off a spike in adrenaline and stress and wasted a lot of gasoline with that inane maneuver.

Those are the ones on the highway. In Brussels, when two roads or lanes merge it’s compulsory to let one car in front of you. A lot of people either don’t make room for the merging cars or merging cars force their way into the line after a car has already let another car in the line.

A third problem I see is a lot of people ignoring red lights. With, I think, a mindset of I can still make it, they try to pass through the intersection with an orange light. They fail and run a red light.

Besides those issues on the road, I see a lot more impatient people that try to skip lines or cut in front. In October me and my wife took a flight to Crete. When we were at the Cretan airport, checking in to fly back, a couple tried to cut in line by placing themselves next to the line about 5 metres ahead of us. It didn’t work, somebody got angry and told them to get to the back of the line just like everybody else. They reluctantly complied.

Another problem I’ve seen a number of times is when instead of one line, they form two lines, a little later there are three. Suddenly there’s just a heap of people trying to get to the front of wherever we’re trying to get. You’re not going anywhere without cutting in line of somebody else. When you finally want to get out, you have to clear a path out because everybody is trying to get to the front. I’m not talking about a counter in a bar, where I expect such behaviour, but I mean in lines at a convention, leaving a plane or when entering a venue.

The last few weeks, I kept wondering where this impatient and aggressive attitude is coming from. Is it from an internet culture where everything is near instantaneous and we’ve forgotten how to wait? Is it because work is placing ever increasing amounts of tasks on downsized departments and people? Is it that I notice this behaviour more because it vexes me?

What I do know is that I try to counter this behaviour as much as I can. I brake when a light turns orange, I use blinkers and I let another car in front when two lanes merge. But sometimes I get fed up and I force my way into a lane and piss somebody off. Stranger, I’m sorry. Today I had a bad day and I didn’t mean to make yours worse.

The point I’m trying to make is that a lot of people are so focussed on themselves, that they don’t see how their actions affect others. This is not just a reminder for myself, but also a call to action to all who read my blog to think before you act or say something. Think about how you would want to be treated in such situations.