Thursday, August 6, 2009


Something happened.

On Tuesday morning, shortly after nine, I was driving north on the causeway through Stanley Park.

An ambulance suddenly appeared travelling from the North Shore into town, sirens going, lights flashing.

What did I do?

I did what is required by law, what is common sense and common courtesy. What is the only reasonable thing. What you would do.

I pulled over onto the shoulder, putting on my right turn signal, and I stopped.

In under two seconds, the car behind me began furiously to honk its little horn.

Why do I say "furiously?"

Because I looked in my rear view mirror and saw three people in the car behind me, one of whom was a young woman of about 28 or 30 wildly, madly gesticulating at me with rage.

Her gesticulations translated as something like,


All of this happened in less than five seconds.

This passenger, this woman, this citizen, this human being is so important, so self-involved, so wound up for her day that someone impeding her progress sends her into The Red Zone in a flash.

How dare an ambulance interfere with her personal movie?

How dare I obey the law and pull over for a moment?

I was a terrible awful person who must be yelled at and called names because she had to pause for a few seconds.

Was she going to a conference on nuclear isotopes?

As George Constanza says in an early Seinfeld episode, "This is supposed to be a society here!"

I am obsessing on this incident, I know.

It speaks to me of the End of Decent Public Behaviour, which of course appears a hundred times a day in a thousand guises, each more offensive than the last.

I shared this little tale with a B.C. Ferries employing in the cafeteria of the boat about half an hour after it happened.

He said these acts of rudeness and indifference and boorishness and total self-interest occur so many times a day on his watch that he couldn't even start to list them.

I have a question.

How can you resent an ambulance?


Eleanor Gregory said...

My way of dealing with episodes like this is to make a point of doing something thoughtful for someone else. Let a car trying vainly to get into the lane of traffic into traffic (I know someone will honk from behind, but the driver you are helping out may wave a friendly hand). Hold a door open for someone. Say thank you to someone who does something thoughtful for you. There's lots of incivility out there, but there's also a lot of civility.

Pearl said...


I hope to God it wasn't someone she knows and loves in that ambulance...

It must be a full time job being her!

Gary L. said...

"I hope to God it wasn't someone she knows and loves in that ambulance..." That's absolutely hilarious! The exact OPPOSITE thought crossed my mind!
I deal with this miscreats on an almost daily basis. The best response I find is to just look DIRECTLY at them, try and lock eye contact, and laugh at them. Laughter appears to be something foreign in their miserable little existances............ they simply don't know how to respond.

Anonymous said...

A very similar incident happened to me on Hwy 10. Ambulance, police car and fire engine were racing down the highway with sirens blaring, I pulled over. The two idiots behind me just trundled along their merry way, oblivious to the cacophony of air horns and sirens.

Finally once passed me I continued behind with each emergency vehicles passing the cars now ahead of me along the narrow road, past the 99 interchange.

And there it was, a serious accident, with car on fire, a truck in the ditch and many dazed people huddled together.

With fire and ambulance crews dealing with the mayhem, the policeman tried to untangle the traffic chaos. To my surprise, he waved me through past the two 'idiot' drivers who were looking at what appeared as tickets.

As I passed him, he knocked at my window and said thank-you!

Evil Eye

Anonymous said...

Its like the
school zones on Curtis Street in Burnaby between Kensington and Holdom during school days. The passing on the right over the 30kpm is a regular on this street. It is not just the passing but the obsenities and fingers that one gets from the right passers that is unbelievable. And if one dares to make eye comment at the next red light Wow does the " me I'm the center of the UNIVERSE" ever kick in. Then the nasties set in with the car in front being used as a means to "punish" everyone behind for being so 'inconsiderate' to even make eye contact. The police response to complaints is " It is your word against their word." Civility for some is a concept they really don't understand.

Anonymous said...

I think people like that woman are so self-absorbed that they never read the news or listen to anything that would educate them as to how to react when an ambulance passes. Maybe it's time for a general "How to Function in Society" article to be published in a local paper. It would have all those important, common sense things that parents and schools are no longer teaching.