Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I've been really post-happy lately, I know...

But this one is important: Dude follows satnav, takes wrong entrance to Yellowstone, gets his rental car stuck, hikes for seven hours in 11-degree weather to the nearest lodge wearing very little in the way of winter clothing, is lucky to be alive.

What's really interesting about it to me is that some of the locals went so far out of their way to help the guy out. They bought him a plane ticket to Denver, are covering the costs of repair to the building he broke into, are trying to find a way to cover other costs he's incurred. I don't think that would happen in the city. I'm trying to think of a similar blunder that a visitor to Chicago might make, but I'm coming up blank. It's hard to go seven hours in the city with your life in danger before finding another person. It's also pretty hard to make a serious driving mistake that only puts yourself in danger, and so I'd really consider a hostile attitude towards people that commit driving mistakes in the city justified (and if that kind of attitude keeps unsure drivers off of city roads, all the better). I guess here in the city we don't have to worry so much about harsh nature, but we act more harshly. We have to worry about the effects of actions on others! We have to worry about our safety! We think we can't possibly deal with all of the tragedy we see every day.

Driving mistakes aren't the only kind of mistakes people make, of course. A while ago Dan told me about a guy he saw on the El, looked like he was really messed up on drugs. Dan tried to see if he was OK or needed some help, but he was unresponsive. None of the other passengers came near the guy. Honestly, I probably wouldn't have gone near him, either. The CTA must see that kind of thing all the time; an official will walk through the cars before parking the train up at Howard Yard and get the police to take him. They might be able to find his family or where he lives. That's my justification but it feels inhuman, really. I don't have to worry about the welfare of this man, and the police don't have to worry about bugs in their computer software. Except that his welfare probably isn't taken care of, especially in the long run. And the police (along with the rest of you) really do have to worry about bugs in their software, because we programmers aren't good enough at our jobs yet.

Some people say that we just have to try to do our best and things will be fine, but usually in practice that becomes a justification to put forth minimal effort for anyone but ourselves. It's just how we reassure ourselves and get back to our little functions. It's the way we often deal with environmental issues on a personal level. Global Warming Is Coming, Global Warming Is Coming, I guess I should make sure to separate my recyclables, 'eh? Now I've "done my best" and I can get on to leaving my computer running all day so people can read my away message on AIM. And if global warming really is coming, I've just participated in the attitude that will cause the downfall of life on earth. And it sort of looks like it is. And similarly peak oil, eventually, for all the times it's failed to turn up. When it does we'll almost certainly be less prepared than ever before, and more sure that it never will, since it hasn't for so long.

So. The people living around Yellowstone helped a guy recover from a big and nearly-fatal mistake? Would this happen, could it happen, in the city? Thoughts?


Danielle in Iowa said...

Uh, probably not.

My house is on an alley off a main street and the city always plows the main street making this huge snowbank I have to go through to get anywhere and I pretty much get stuck in it most days (until a week later when they plow the alley). One such day when I was stuck, a nice man in a pickup truck with Wyoming plates pulled over and towed me out of the snowbank. And he said to me "This city supposedly has one of the highest percentages of people with graduate degrees in the country and I don't see any of those folks pulling over to help out."

So pretty much, people from Wyoming are freakishly helpful.

Aaron Sheldon said...

I'm more interested in the comment about AIM and computers always on for it.

It bothers me that it's necessary. I should be able to mark myself as "away" and have myself remain that, with my messages queuing up on AIM's servers for me, until I return to the web. Perhaps with some restrictions, such as no more than 2 days or something, but I've reached the point I'm looking into one of those hacked Linux routers to see if I can run a headless AIM client on it while it directs all my web traffic.