Neighbours used to be the people who live next door or down the hall from us. And we were nice to our neighbours because life is better when we get along with the people we are most likely to interact with.
Increased mobility has changed the concept of neighbours. Many of our closest links live crosstown. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be neighbourly to the people who remain in close proximity. And, for the most part, we do try to be nice to the folks we find living around us.
We often extend this courtesy to the people we share space with anywhere. The folks with whom we share a row in a movie theatre or in line at a grocery store become kind of instant neighbours and we try to be nice or at least get along with them for that brief time we share.
But something happens to the concept of being neighbourly when we find ourselves sharing our city streets. Perhaps it’s the fact we are insulated from each other by the steel and glass of our motor vehicles but the behaviour we display towards each other as we drive along side-by-side or lined up in traffic is often far from what you would call neighbourly.
If neighbours can share a city block or the floor of an apartment building in relative peace, why can’t they share our streets in the same way?
For example, how often do we see people move aside and even scrunch together to let a few extra people get on an elevator? Or push the "open door" button to hold that same elevator for somebody who might be struggling with some bags of groceries?
Now imagine a typical car trying to change lanes or enter a line of traffic. How many times do you see people speed up to block that car from entering any opening in their lane?
And we don’t rush to cut in line at the grocery store or movie theatre. So why do we cut people off in traffic just because we know that if they "rear end us" it’s more than likely they will have to pay both deductibles because they will be ruled "at fault."
We don’t stand there day dreaming when an elevator arrives and then jump in front of other people just as the door closes. So why do we wait until the blinking left turn signal turns to yellow before making our turn, leaving a trail of cars to wait for the next opportunity?
What I’m saying is that when we drive together we are neighbours sharing our streets. And we all know many ways we could be a lot nicer to each other when we drive.
Oh well, I guess we should be thankful we don’t see many people breaking into a road rage in the middle of an apartment hallway or across the backyard fence. Then again, perhaps the insulating value of an enclosed motor vehicle is most revealing about what kind of neighbours we really are.
Don Marks is a community correspondent for Osborne Village.