Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Are We Nicer Yet?

That was the question posed by WaPo columnist John Kelly in his piece on the Choose Civility campaign recently (we've been on vaca so we're just catching up on things).

We're were drawn to this bit in his interview with Christie Lassen, director of PR for the HoCo Library system, the birthplace for the campaign:

But has any of it made people nicer to one another? The only way to know for sure is to have performed what's called a longitudinal study. Some benchmark should have been established before the campaign started and then a representative sampling of populace should have been surveyed regularly ever since. You could come up with a "civility quotient" and tracked it over time.

"We have not done any sort of studies like that," Christie said. "All we have right now are anecdotal stories."

Anecdotal stories are the bane of scientists but they still possess some value. Christie said people have reported being more understanding of other drivers when they spot a car magnet. Where most of the change seems to have occurred is in the behavior of the people with the magnets. No one wants to end up as the ironic punchline in another person's anecdote: "You'll never believe who cut me off on Route 29 today then flipped me the bird: a car with a 'Choose Civility' sticker!"

Alas, she coulda been describing us the other day, as we tooled about town in our sedan, proudly displaying our sticker even as we behaved very uncivilly to a fellow motorist who had just cut us off.

We felt silly afterward for getting in such a dither, and pledged to ignore such affronts in the future.

Were we embarrassed at becoming an ironic punchline? Maybe. Are we nicer? We're trying.


Kim said...

While I am all about being nice, I think it was after I'd been cut off in traffic for the third time by a motorist sporting one of these that I decided 1) I don't believe them and 2) why should we just be civil in Howard County? (This was before they made the print for "in Howard County" much smaller.)

So I was sorely tempted to emblazon my car with a "Choose Barbarism in Prince George's County" magnet. (Since I live in spitting distance of Howard, and have much PG pride.) But then I thought someone might take it the wrong way, as opposed to as a lighthearted joke.

Bowie Mike said...

Kim, Take the high road and get a "Be Gorgeous in Prince George’s" magnet.

Wendy said...

Sadly, it's clear to me that the "Choose Civility" campaign ended in the parking lot of the place where you pick up the magnets promoting civility. I'm speaking of the Central Library parking lot and two incidents where I was stalked by drivers who wanted to scream (I'm lucky they didn't want to do more) at me for stealing their parking spots. In the first incident I honestly didn't see the other car waiting on the other side while a car was backing out. When I beat the other driver to the spot, he pulled up perpendicular to my car, waited for me to get out and demanded to know why I stole his spot. I explained to him that I didn't see him behind the car the car that pulled out, let him know that I would pull out and he could have the spot (even though I was on my lunch hour, had driven around the parking lot and couldn't find a spot earlier, got lunch and came back). I got in my car and pulled out and he was gone.

The second time it happened I tried to prevent it by making sure no one was coming down the row of the car that was pulling out. Unfortunately, the car pulling out took a long time to pull out and another driver came down the other direction while I had been patiently waiting for the car to pull out. I beat the other guy to the spot and once again, this driver wasn't going stand for this. He pulled up perpendicular to my car and waited for me to exit. Knowing what was coming I simply said (and it was true), "I was here first." He said, "oh, you were?" and drove away. I have dubbed this new rage (an offshoot of road rage): Parking Lot Rage. Beware of it, especially at the Central Library and the Columbia Mall. If someone stealing your parking spot causes you to stalk that person in order to scream at them please take an anger management course or get some Prozac from your dr. Those are some "Choose Civility" solutions. Also, it would be smart to either go early or late to the Central Library or only park in spots that have been completely vacated, that is, if you can find one.