The inspiration for this post is a website (which I won’t link to because it angers me) of a webcam aimed at a particular low overpass where, several times a year, some hapless soul drives into it with his too-tall truck. To much dust, noise, and crashing. And amusement for web surfers. Schadenfreude = joy in the misery of others.
Now, I agree that a professional, OTR trucker should have precise training and knowledge of the height of his semi and how to watch for warning signs, but many of the hapless truckers caught in low-overpass-bedlam are folks like you and me: a harried, non-professional, who has rented a moving van for the day, and is just trying to find his/her destination, get unloaded, and return the truck before another day’s charges. I have self-moved across country twice in my life, and I can tell you that navigating strange new cities in a strange new moving van, whilst worrying about a new job, new apartment, and new life leaves little brain-space left for worrying about POOR ENGINEERING.
[Because of the frequency of accidents, the overpass is heavily signed and outfitted with warning lights, essentially saying, “The bridge you are about to pass under is wayyyy too low, and we, the uncaring government, have decided to never build a reasonable underpass, but instead have decided to ignore 100 years of psychological science, and simply install distracting flashing lights and let you crash full tilt into truck-frame-shattering spectacle!” ]
I think the webcam is indicative of a larger problem – a gamelike worldview where there are rules, winners, and losers. The winners feel like understanding the rules puts them in first place, while the losers are folks who had the same opportunity to abide by the rules, but didn’t, and now in a festival of Schadenfreude, the winners lord it over the losers. I see this all the time online, in forums about unfair cell phone contracts or outrageous credit card fees. There is always some troll who blames the person for not reading the mouse print and falling into a well-crafted money trap. It’s a game and I played by the rules, and I didn’t fall into the trap, and therefore you suck for having the temerity to complain about it. I see it in the corporations who craft these game rules, luncheon the senators for favorable regulations, and mistreat workers in favor of CEO pay. I see it in academia where PhDs study the move towards mandatory arbitration, and byzantine loan economics and come away bewildered.
Everything is become a strategic game, and we are required to be on alert 24/7 or become violated and laughed at.
I recall the halcyon days of my youth (I know. There’s no such thing as a “golden age,” and no time was halcyon. But indulge me for a moment…) where it seemed like what interested mankind was defeating raw mother nature: folks were interested in how to be a mountain man or how to soup up cars, you delighted in receiving the Fox Fire book series for your birthday. Now we’ve had a sweeping technological revolution and everything is this new “game paradigm.” An unheard of number of twenty-somethings now have no driver’s license, and the only Fire Fox they know is a web browser. And I weep for them, because I am no smarter than they are, but when I was twenty-something and I fucked up I didn’t sext pictures of my crotch to the whole college. I didn’t pay $35 dollar bank fees because the bank decided to deposit my paycheck after they cleared all my debit card charges and ran the account negative.
And there wasn’t an online troll to tell me it is my fault and I should’ve known better. The signs were all there!