My wife and I had lunch yesterday at an outdoor, patio-type restaurant. We were with some members of our family, including my in-laws, who had come all the way from Denmark just to visit us. The patio was on the street in a popular shopping district and we were enjoying the near-perfect weather.
Among the cars passing by on the street was one with sort of loud exhaust. It wasn’t really that bad, but we could sort of feel the vibration of the engine as it went by. But on the other side of the street, and unbeknownst to us as we were seated, a crime had been committed – a heinous crime. It was the dreaded overly sensitive car alarm… my arch-nemesis.
The alarm wasn’t one of those that goes off for a few seconds, either. It kept going for a few minutes. Then, when it finally stopped, everybody sighed in relief. But I knew that it would go off again when another, slightly loud car went by. And sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
I don’t know how many times that alarm had gone off before we had arrived, but the last time that it did, the owner of the car actually came out and turned it off. How considerate!
I’ve written before about the way that individuals and corporations sometimes behave in ways that get them what they want, in essence profiting from their actions (whether in real or imagined ways) while forcing others to bear the costs. That’s basically why we have annoying things like laws and government. If everybody were to behave themselves and act in ways that were considerate of others, (and not just their friends, etc.) we wouldn’t need laws, or police, nor things like environmental protection agencies.
But many people are not considerate of others. They are self-centered and self-focused. They either don’t know that they’re waking up (or whatever) the whole neighborhood or they just don’t care. So many times I’ve been walking past a person just leaving their car after parking, and they hit their little remote-control button, and their car honks it’s horn, loudly, to let them know that the alarm is set. That CAN be adjusted, you know!
As I’m always ready to admit, I’m far from perfect. I’m sure that I, at times, annoy people who really haven’t done anything to deserve it. But the alarm on my car doesn’t go off unless someone tries to jimmy the door open, or actually smacks the window with a knuckle or something. I think this makes me more considerate than those people who are either so paranoid that they want their alarm to go off if a hummingbird flies by, so incompetent that they can’t figure out how to adjust the sensitivity of their alarm to a reasonable level, or so lazy and indifferent to the nuisance they cause that they just never even consider doing anything about it.
Do people have the freedom to annoy others? Sure they do. But I would very much like to be “free” of the annoyances. I’m not asking people to give up their freedoms, just to give a thought to their neighbors, or the people in the general vicinity of wherever they happen to be. Then, we all might get some sleep, or be able to enjoy a nice meal.
And to those who think it’s a good thing that their stupid alarms get so much attention I say this: If your alarm is one of those that keeps annoying me and everyone in the neighborhood, and I see someone in the process of stealing your car, I will walk up to them and say, “The quickest way to the freeway is if you turn left a block up this street. Have a nice day… and thanks.”
Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.