A revealing post over at the NY Times freakonomics blog, where Stephen Dubner writes (ht JD):

“The same person who might flip you off while ensconced in his or her car would almost certainly never do the same while passing you on a sidewalk. A parallel observation: I’ve often found that people who can be exceedingly nasty via e-mail or blog are often fairly civil once you get together face-to-face.”

He then reprints a priceless letter from reader (and traffic cop) William Mack:

Over the years as a traffic officer and police officer, I have developed several theories on humanity. I have no statistical data to base this on, for this is just one man’s opinion. People, in general, are selfish. I think that, more often than not, people act based on how they are affected. I know that is very generalized and probably a little mean, but I think that people act based upon how they are directly affected. If they are, they care, sometimes too much. If not, they don’t [care], sometimes not at all. For example, during one particularly hot day in July in the early morning hours, an elderly female wandered onto the freeway and was struck by a vehicle traveling over 60 miles per hour.

As you can imagine, she was killed instantly. The freeway was quickly shut down (at 6 a.m.) and the accident reconstruction began (which is procedural and not my nor my supervisor’s decision). This usually takes between two and four hours. You would not believe the number of people, who, because they were forced to exit the freeway after hours in gridlock, felt it prudent and necessary to yell obscenities at the lowly police officer. As if it was my fault. All this while he is standing next to a blood-soaked white sheet. Those particular individuals had absolutely no remorse for the person lying dead on the freeway, nor for any of the other people stuck in traffic, nor for the poor cops who were out there in 110-degree weather!

Mack concludes by asking, “what is it with people and driving that makes them show their true nature?” I couldn’t help but chuckle when some commenter wisely (but let’s face it – kind of obnoxiously) offered, “Romans 3:10; 5:12”.