So, this afternoon I pull out of the Lifesource Natural Foods parking lot here in Salem, carrot juice ready to be consumed as a healthy mini-lunch, and find myself behind a guy in a car who's also trying to turn onto Commercial Street.
He pulls forward, seemingly having spotted a break in the traffic. I drive forward a bit also, figuring that if he's going to turn onto Commercial, perhaps it'll be possible for me to get onto the street, after he does.
But after pulling forward, he stops, having changed his mind about turning. No problem, I think. I stop too. However, he then backs up, apparently figuring that he's pulled too far forward into the nearest Commercial Street lane.
Which is a problem. Because my Mini Cooper and me are behind him. Bump. His rear bumper and my front one connect at a few miles an hour.
One of those awkward everybody out of the car moments ensues. He says, "I'm sorry." Then, "Doesn't look like the scratches on my bumper are very serious." I look at my Mini's bumper. "Same here," I say, "no big deal."
He looks relieved. Says something about no reason to get insurance companies involved for something so minor. I agree. He extends his hand. I shake it. We get in our cars and drive away.
I wish more problems between people could be resolved like this. Reasonably. Calmly.
We could have argued about the micro-accident. There could have been some accusations exchanged. One of the other of us could have gotten excited about a few blemishes on our car. My car was much newer than his, so I suppose I had more reason to do this. Plus, he backed into me while I was stopped.
However, my attitude was life happens. A little touch-up paint, and both of our cars are going to be essentially back to normal.
Driving off after our friendly handshake I thought about the two times a deer has run into one of our cars while I was driving it. Once a deer started to run across Liberty Road, hit its head on the right door panel, then stumbled off into a field, seemingly not seriously injured.
Another time, a deer ran into the left rearview mirror, knocking it mostly off -- aside from some wires that held it on. I didn't blame either deer.
There's a Zen story, or Taoist, can't remember which, about a man in a rowboat paddling along in the fog who suddenly feels a jolt. Damn! Another boat has run into me! He's pissed off. Then he sees that no one is in the other boat. It was just drifting all by itself. His anger fades away.
Being an avid reader of neuroscience books, including Sam Harris' on this subject, I don't believe in free will. As strange as it may sound, we're all driverless boats, just doing what we're doing.
Stuff happens for cause and effect reasons, free will not being one of them. Everything the guy in the other car did made sense to him at the time. There were reasonable reasons for him pulling forward, then stopping, then backing up. Ditto for me doing what I did.
Result: a few blemishes on our bumpers. Also the result of non-freely willed causes and effects.
(Extraneous observation: it sure seems to me like back in the old days, 50's, 60's, 70's, cars had bumpers which actually protected against bumps with no discernible damage; but maybe I'm wrong about this -- could be that the cars I drove back then were so funky, another scratch or dent didn't stand out.)
Anyway, I kind of enjoyed this episode today. It was pleasing to find the other guy and me handling what could have been an unpleasant moment so pleasantly.
Wish this could happen all the time, both in politics and in "real life."