Thursday, September 28, 2017

Situational Awareness Vs Narcisissm

People prefer to walk in straight lines. It irritates them to deviate. The problem is you can't have a world where everyone walks in straight lines. At least one person has to budge. I am that person.

Cars and Shopping Carts
Whether pointing a shopping cart, baby carriage, or Toyota Prius, people want to get to where they want to get to next. This of course leads to clashes, because often other people want to get there, too. This is an offshoot of the walk-in-straight-lines thing, and, again, the world would not work if no one backed down. Someone needs to anticipate the clash, and willingly step aside. That person is me.

Stopping and Going
When halted, you expect others to go around you. When moving, go-arounders humiliate you. This becomes a problem when stoppers start going. At that moment, the sloppily-stopped (counting on the community to accommodate) instantly transform into proud individualists. But what about the people currently going around them?

Someone needs to endure the aggravation of starting to go around, then hitting brakes to gallantly allow a thoughtless impediment to blossom into a dynamic predator. That'd be me.

Emergency Vehicles
True fact: emergency vehicles originally were outfitted with lights and sirens for practical purposes beyond merely annoying everyone. In olden times, they reminded us of our obligation to move aside and let them pass. Nowadays, of course, we've all agreed that emergency vehicles can go fuck themselves, and their drivers have adapted by learning to weave through traffic.

Still, traffic lights are a problem. While permitted to pass red lights, emergency vehicles can't do so while other cars wait behind the intersection. Someone must be willing to undergo the contortions of working their budged car sufficiently aside to permit passage. Me.

Situational Awareness
I am, it appears, the only remaining human being with situational awareness. But the crux of the problem is not that others lack it. To accommodate other people, you first need to register their existence. Once you recognize that there are other human beings - and if that fact holds any interest for you - you may then, and only then, proceed down the path of developing situational awareness. You must 1. know, then 2. care, then 3. learn, then 4. apply. The problem lies at step one, not step four, for our sour-pussed, self-involved population of oblivious rich-world narcissists.

Yep, I just got back from Trader Joe's.

I lack situational awareness for the movement and needs of unicorns because I've never seen a unicorn. People lack situational awareness for the movement and needs of other people because they've never seen a person.


Unknown said...

If you care to broaden your scope of situational awareness to incorporate places other than NYC, in some places people gladly pull over for emergency vehicles, and visiting Trader Joe's can, in fact, be an enjoyable experience that does not involve elbowing your way through a sardine can of humanity.

Mr Taster

Jim Leff said...

I find that in most such situation, it flips too far the other way, and everyone is so hellbent on demonstrating their civility that their hesitance actually creates other logjams and aggravations.

The holy grail is everyone optimizing for overall flow. I've never seen that.

I don't mind sardine cans if the participants are as flowy as a school of actual sardines!

Unknown said...

You're describing Oregonians to a T.

I suspect that in the end, I'll have a net gain in healthy years from living amongst a less aggrieved population expressing aggressive courtesy, as contrasted with those years I've likely lost from the stress of the sardine can.

The biggest downside, as I see it, is the lack of great Chinese food. But I'm working on that.

Mr Taster
Portland, OR

Jim Leff said...

I'm afraid I need to completely reject your entire premise (except the Chinese food part, with which I sympathize). Excuse my rant! :)

When I approach a stop sign someone else is waiting at (so it's their right of way), and Driver #2, in service to his self image as a Super Nice Person, needs to make absolutely SURE I'm not going to go first, and then waits for me to go first, just in case, then, finally, when I don't budge, slowly and hesitantly and awkwardly moves on while I pinch the bridge of my nose, that's not consideration. That's the very opposite of consideration. Being forced to wait while he goes through this process of reinforcing his sanctimonious super-nice-person self-image is no better than held up by someone operating by childish id.

In fact, sanctimony is worse than id, because the latter is morality neutral, whereas the person engaged in cumbersome image-affirmation is not only disconnected from my reality as a fellow human, but consciously putting his needs first (while id is entirely unconscious). Really, it's WAY more narcissistic - literally so, given that it involves peering lovingly at your own display of civility. Virtue signaling for an audience of one. Yeech.

Society works best with people who just freaking GO when it's their turn. Not before, and not after. Driver #2 is not a nice person. Driver #2 is actually even more of a self-involved inconsiderate asshole.

But, more importantly, buy a wok! I got this:
and made this:
....and it was better - even the first time! - than any I've ever had (and Grace Young has several books full of great recipes, many of them discussed on Chowhound!).

Unknown said...

I reject your rejection of my premise. Your experience presupposes a kind of omnipresent "no please, you first" stasis which, granted, is way more likely to happen in a place like Oregon than in NYC. However, this is not what happens the majority of time.

What I have discovered while driving in Oregon (and I relate this story as someone who lived and drove in Los Angeles for 18 years) is that when you signal to change lanes, by and large Oregonians will let you ahead of them. It's true. It seems impossible, absurd, coming from a big city perspective. But it's the daily reality of living here. It's not sanctimonious, it's courtesy, and it's great.

What I've also discovered is that during jammed Portland rush hour traffic, which is much more analogous to what I experienced in daily LA driving, those rules of courtesy go away. We're back in the sardine can, elbowing our way to nowhere, those years of life melting away in a funky, fishy brine of desperation and frustration, metastasizing inevitably as foot cancer of the spleen. And then you're dead.

What this says to me is that the every-person-for-themselves narcissism of which you speak stems largely from the very human behavior of scrambling for limited resources in an overcrowded, desperate environment, albeit one with spectacular Chinese food.

With regard to said Chinese food, how do you manage any sort of decent wok cooking, assuming you have the same ridiculously underpowered, standard American flat top gas burner that I do? (My Taiwanese mother-in-law was shocked when I told her the gas already was on full power.) What advantages do you get from using a round-bottomed wok on a flat, underpowered burner? Without high powered flames licking up the sides, I'm not sure what the advantage is.

I've debated purchasing one of those outdoor Thai wok stands to get some serious BTU power, but without that it seems any attempt to use one would be pointless. One day I'll have a Wolf range with a concave burner and the proper BTUs and hood to vent every speck of oil away, but in the meantime I've been making do with a good quality heavy nonstick skillet that I replace every six months.

Mr Taster

Unknown said...

Anticipating that you'll respond that you use a wok ring on your range, doesn't that just lift the wok further away from the already underpowered flames?

I get that a real wok has a lot more real estate than a skillet, and that's certainly helpful. But to my mind, having a lot of real estate where most of it is underheated doesn't seem to make sense to me. I see more advantage in using a skillet whose surface will maximize the heat needed for high temp wok cooking.

Mr Taster

Jim Leff said...

I use a flat bottomed wok. No ring. That just lifts the wok further away from the already underpowered flames.

Preheat the bejesus out of it. And work on small amounts of food at a time. And get used to the move of letting stuff sit for 15-30 secs while the wok regains heat (the perpetual cacophony of busy implements is a restaurant thing; you don't need to fully emulate that). And don't expect to get restaurant-like scorch.

If you're willing to endure these small compromises, you can make some good stuff.

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