Bellowing in the bleachers, and who appointed YOU road monitor?
Q: Now that the weather is nice, my family and I like going to the beach. Unfortunately, so do many other people. This makes for long lines of traffic both going and coming. I am content to keep my place in line and do not attempt any daredevil passes. However, when we get to a passing lane many other drivers try to cut in front of me. This means I have to speed up just to keep my place. This doesn’t seem right. What are the ethics here?
A: You are correct, this doesn’t seem right. Ahhh, let me count the ways. But first, let me recount a little story from years past about camping in the mountains.
My wife and I were in a line of traffic going up switchbacks. A large older model recreational vehicle was setting a snail’s pace. We had a toddler in a car seat who was sick and tired of being in that seat. She would wind up to wail like an air raid siren, ending on a note that reverberated through the car on a frequency that seemed like it would explode our heads. This caused me to successfully undertake several daredevil passes with, unusually, my wife’s support.
After we got to the campground I saw the parked RV and decided to find out what the owner had been thinking. He was a friendly looking retired gentleman. “Yeah, I brought ‘em up nice and slow,” he said, with a note of pride in his voice. “People need to learn to relax and not be in such a hurry all the time.”
The moral of the story: People are very good at deciding that what is best for them is best for everyone else, too, and that’s a recipe for disaster on a crowded two-lane highway.
When we get in our cars or on our bikes and go out in traffic, we are engaging in a complex, interdependent dance that depends on close attention and cooperation in order make the enterprise work. This means being sensitive to the needs of your partners in whatever situation you find yourself in.
I believe I have seen you on many of my trips to the beach. Are you the one who drives 45 or 50 miles per hour with cars lined up behind them, and then speeds up to 70 or 75 in the passing area so no one will get around you? And then slows down to 45 or 50 again as soon as the passing lane ends?
I thought so. You need a dance class. And a wag of the finger. Some would advocate a smack on the side of the head for good measure.
Q At our small town team’s home baseball games, one regular fan with a reserved seat loudly and steadily bellows “helpful” advice at the players and critical, belligerent (but not profane) remarks at the umpires. Many fans seated around him find it annoying but suffer in silence. What ethical remedies can you suggest?
Many — dare I say true — baseball fans come to games to savor the play, the players, the athletic striving, the competitive strategy, the color, the ballpark, the summer outdoors and the companionable shared experience inherent in this quintessentially American pastime.
A small number of others come to indulge in varying degrees their loud and aggressive side. In Chicago’s Wrigley field of the 1960s they were called the Bleacher Bums. I would not want to repeat what they called and did to Lou Brock. I suspect your nemesis, if questioned, would reason that (a) he is entitled to be exuberant at a baseball game, (b) he is helping his team in the time-honored sports tradition of rooting and psychological warfare, and (c) he paid for his seat so he gets to do whatever he wants.
Perhaps you could take him kindly aside after one of the games and let him know that you understand this is how he enjoys himself, and also the specific impacts his conduct has on you. You have the right to request him to change his repetitive behavior, and he should listen, because your way of enjoying the game does not affect him, but his way of enjoying the game drastically affects you. Perhaps he does not realize the impact of his actions. Perhaps he does, and would be willing to sit in a special seat or section for the rowdier. Perhaps team management does not find his comments helpful and would be willing to let him know.
Failing steps like these, perhaps a chorus of air horns going off around him during every transgression would cause a change.
Rick Pope is a Portland trial lawyer with Kirklin Thompson & Pope LLP, at www.ktp-law.com. He regularly represents plaintiffs as well as defendants, although not generally in the same case.