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The Rules

Thursday, November 20, 2008
This post isn't about following the rules. I don't really consider myself a "rule" person. Instead, it's about systems, and why we have them.

don't pass on the right

I'm going to create a hypothetical situation. Let's consider the Salem YMCA. Let's imagine, for a second, that they have an indoor running track. Let's imagine a step further and picture a track that's roughly a 12th of a mile in circumference. Finally, let's imagine that there are myriad signs that say "on odd days of the month, run clockwise; on even days, clockwise."

Now, if you have one person wanting to use this narrow, indoor track, it really doesn't matter whether or not they follow the signs, because no one will know, care, or be inconvenienced. However, if you have two people who don't follow the sign, the odds are even that they'll end up heading toward each other and one person will likely have to move or be otherwise interrupted. If they were to follow the signs, though, and run the same direction, they might never even know the other person was there.

So what happens if there are 20 people using this small track? If they're not paying attention to any of the many signs, it becomes practically unusable. But if they work with the system set in place, everyone can use it and it works quite well. That's why there's a system; so everyone can utilize this track to its fullest extent.

Systems like this are everywhere. Stay to the right on the freeway unless passing - this way the freeway can accommodate everyone's choice of vehicular speed. It's a perfectly reasonable system. Yield seating near the doors on public transportation to the elderly and disabled; the bus will move faster and people will have to wait less. The systems work, they work well, and I support them.

Notice that I'm not saying "follow the rules". I don't care how fast you're driving, how many laps you want to run, or where you're headed on the city bus. Those rules and reasons don't concern me so much. It's simply when your inattention causes me inconvenience that I start to fume...

2 Comments:

Blogger Brian said...

I see what you did there...see, there IS a track at the Salem Y, and there is a sign regarding running directions, and there are several "special" folks in downtown Salem. They can't tell even from odd, much less clockwise versus clockwise...er...COUNTER-clockwise.

Just one of those daily peeves.

9:14 AM, November 23, 2008  
Blogger Kay said...

Ah, I suggest you apply for a high level position at the Y, Burton. Not only do you have the requisite degrees, but you understand that, like most societies, we have - we NEED - conventions. We are not
so inflexible to say that everyone must circumscribe the track in a particular direction, but that there be a direction that folks know and stick with. It becomes "convention." You and I do the Rosemont Ridge Track counter-clockwise, as does everyone we've encountered, n'est-ce pas? Yet there are no signs. With conventions in place, we have room for the more urgent vascillations that require our attention, such as I-5 as it bisects Seattle: isn't there an extra left lane sometimes goes north, and sometimes south. and it's okay, because (we hope) the rule considers the changing flow of traffic. But the Y, what could possibly be the rationale in changing the direction?

2:56 AM, November 24, 2008  

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