Why can’t you follow simple directions?

I’ve posted repeatedly about folks’ general lack of common sense. There was the lady who decided to follow behind me, unbeknownst to me, while I searched her house for possible intruders. There was the man that did the same thing just a couple of weeks ago. The common theme in those two instances was the possibility of both of them having a sense of victimization (one in her head, the other in reality).

This post, although it has a similar theme, is different because the incident doesn’t involve anyone I was directing, well, directly.
Toward the end of my shift a couple weeks ago, there was a major collision. Like Dukes of Hazzard major. I can’t post pics because the investigation is on-going (and I’m not involved, thank you, God!) but I can tell you it was the second most destroyed car I’ve ever seen in person. The engine block was outside the car. Awesome in the truest sense of the word. At any rate, all the excitement is over. All the involved parties are on their ways to various medical-type facilities. Now, we’re waiting on tow trucks and clean up.
Myself and a partner were directing traffic. For the sake of discussion, I’ll describe the intersection as a freeway onramp/offramp access north/south and a less than major, but more than minor, east/west city street. There is a big ass Fire Truck (Note: Truck, not Engine, HM) blocking just about the entire east/west bound street. The signal lights are still functioning, but it’s the middle of the afternoon and there are two uniformed officers in the intersection in full view directing traffic.
My main question is this…why the fuck do everyday, mostly intelligent, normal people, turn into drooling, slack-jawed, dipshits if someone directs them to a different direction than they originally wanted to go? Example:
MC (repeatedly waving/pointing westbound): Keep moving!
Slack Jawed Yokel: But I’s a wanna go right!
MC: Well, you can’t.
SJY: But I’s live up thar.
MC: Interesting, but see that big shiny red truck that is COMPLETELY BLOCKING YOUR RIGHT TURN ACCESS??!?!?! That means you can’t go that way, good sir.
SJY (spits chaw): How’re I gunna git to m’house?
MC (cracks tooth from clenching jaw): I’m terribly sorry, sir, but there was a major injury collision in that intersection. Thank you ever so much for your expressed sympathy for the involved parties, by the way, awfully thoughtful of you. However, I’m going to have to humbly request one last time, that you TURN LEFT NOW!
My other favorite (read: irritating) habit of directing traffic is the rubber-necker. You know, the moron that has to crane his/her head at some heinous angle to get even a smidge of a glimpse at what they secretly hope is some carnage. This buffoon drives forward, kind of in the direction I indicate, with absolutely no attention paid to that direction.
I actually lost my voice yelling at people. Now, I know some of you will say, “You should get a whistle, MC.” There are those that have them, but I like the yelling. Exorcises me demons and makes me feel alive. :p

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

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21 thoughts on “Why can’t you follow simple directions?

  1. Meh, I am somewhat guilty of rubbernecking too. I figure if I had to spend an extra 15+ minutes in traffic, I'll at least have a story to tell if I see any body parts scattered around.

    What really chaps my ass is when I get stuck in traffic just to find that the whole slowdown was caused by rubberneckers ogling at a stalled/broken down vehicle IN THE ON-FUCKING-COMING LANE OVER A CONCRETE DIVIDER!!!

    -Drey

  2. Ummm one of the reasons we all subconciously got into the police/fire/medic field was to BE at that scene of carnage instead of driving by it. =)

    *please note I said subconciously.

  3. Or when you wait 30 minutes for rubberneckers to get their fill, just to find out that the "accident" was nothing more than some dude getting a ticket or a stalled car on the side of the road. Please, people, get a life!

  4. I have a theory about this "slack jawed yokel" phenomenon, and someday I'm going to devise a test to determine how accurate it is.

    MC, your post said this accident happened in the afternoon, but didn't mention whether it was closer to noon, or 5:00 PM. So I'm going to go out on a limb and speculate it was closer to 1700 hrs, putting it close to the afternoon rush hour.

    My theory goes that at the end of the day, when people begin their sojourn home, a process of mental dis-attenuation occurs whereby they begin a huge cognitive purge of the experiences, stresses and random thoughts of the day. It isn't so much they fall asleep as it is they go into an auto-pilot mode. They're still aware of their surroundings, but they're in the comfort zone of their car, and they're heading for the safe harbor of home.

    The result is that they drive home almost by a sensory memory: step on the gas for this long, flip on turn signal and execute right turn. Accelerate for this long, merge, and at significant regularly encountered landmark, step on brake and activate turn signal again. Mentally, they're going over the results of that budget meeting they had, and what it portends for them next quarter.

    It's a sort of multi-tasking: drive by rote memory while cognitively decompressing. Stupid thing to do, I know, but I'd bet if one randomly stopped a dozen drivers on their way home during any afternoon commute, less than half would be so aware of their surroundings that they could name the last three songs to play on the radio.

    So now you introduce into this mental decompression an accident which has blocked lanes of traffic, and these folks are now required to wake up and determine an alternate route home. Hence, their confusion and "slack jawed" reactions when their normal, by rote, route is interrupted.

    As I said, I'd love to test that theory sometime to see how accurate it is.

  5. Great site you've got here – I'll be following! Stop over at mine if you get a chance and check it out.

    As to this specific article – I feel your pain with the rubber neckers, especially late at night, when they almost run you down 'cuz their not paying attention. ugh.

  6. The first two folks probably figured they'd be safer WITH YOU, than outside by themselves….what with you having the gun and all:).

  7. i will admit to being guilty of rubbernecking, I agree totally with Anon/drey 9:45. I have to be able to tell the wife why exactly I was 30 min late.

    they no longer teach following directions. it happens everywhere. It really pisses those of us who actually DO follow them.

  8. Idiot gawkers worry me because I'm afraid either the officers I know or The Husband will be injured while they aren't paying attention. I know I've been a dispatcher too long because if you catch me gawking at an accident (a big "if" in the first place, I usually don't look) it's to see if I know any of the emergency personnel. Do they owe me ice cream if I see them in person on the scene rather than on the highlights at 2200?

    Congrats on baby #2! My own #2 was born three months ago. It's been hard and fun, and definitely worth it. Being outnumbered when The Husband is gone was also surreal.

  9. My favorites are the morons who drive all the way up to the street you have CLOSED past all the flares/cones, and turn on the Magic Turn Signal, because "obviously the motorcop will see my all-powerful Magic Turn Signal and let me turn onto that closed street, because the MTS makes me more special than the previous 200 drivers that he waved on".

  10. I'm an officer and my hubby is a firefighter – a major pet peeve for bothof us is the rubber neckers who stop to survey accidents/stalls/police incidents and tie up traffic for hours.

    Great post, by the way…love the humour!

  11. New reader coming from the MSN article. I read your post about people/idiots without common sense. I saw something similar today that I'd like your advice on.

    Would it have done any good if I reported to my local police department (I'm also in California) the license plate number of a vehicle that drove into an intersection RIGHT IN FRONT OF an ambulance that had been approaching for at least a minute, lights flashing, siren blaring, i.e., would she have received a ticket, or at least a warning? She almost caused a collision with the ambulance. I wanted to smack the crap out of her.

    I mean, Helen Keller would have known this ambulance was approaching. So, I'm wondering what I should do the next time I should witness idiocy such as I did today.

    Congratulations on the baby, too.

  12. Patty,

    Since MC is busy with the new baby girl, I'll take the liberty to answer your Q. Bottom line is, no it wouldn't do any good. We have to witness infractions to cite for them. The best thing to do is just shake your head at the idiot.

    The ambulance driver, if s/he has any experience whatsoever, just like cops and firefighters, are used to this behavior by drivers when we are going code 3. We expect the unexpected. People panic at the sound of lights and siren and act as if they have no brains and not the slightest clue what to do. I've learned not to get mad at them when I'm code 3 behind them, just to pity them.

  13. I have yet another theory as to why people seem clueless when a road is closed. Quite simply it doesn't happen that often, and the most common type of road closure people (me) encounter is construction closures. Lots of times during these closures the place people are turned away is not where the road is actually closed. In those cases a lot of people are used to being able to get past the sign/person if the destination is actually before the point the road is closed at. That combined with what Patrick M said above would be my best guess.

    When I worked traffic control on road construction, my biggest issue was with the people who mistook my outstretched palm as a friendly greeting. "No, I'm not waving at you, while standing next to the portable STOP sign, there is a five foot wide, seven foot deep trench crossing the entire road ahead…see you back here in a sec."

  14. I wonder if people spaz when a road is closed because they really don't know their town and neighborhood that well and they're afraid of getting lost two blocks from their own house.

    Congrats on the new arrival!