Perspective Matters

120. 130. 140. We were now at 150km/h and cruising past traffic on our left, traffic already exceeding the official speed limit.

Let’s be clear: I wasn’t the driver (let’s call him Mr. X) In another world, the world before the one I had just entered, I would have been one of those on the left, cursing the reckless driving of an imbecile speed demon.

An accident waiting to happen, I would have thought. Who are these people?

But I was in the car now. In the back passenger eat of Mr. X, one of these “imbecile speed demons”. One of these people whom I was sure I’d dislike if I ever saw them outside the context of the road.

It hit me then and there that this wasn’t a person I disliked. This wasn’t a person I’d not hang out with. This wasn’t a person whom I’d have thought of as an “imbecile speed demon.” I knew the driver. I knew him to be rather nice. I knew him to be rather thoughtful.

It was interesting to watch his behaviour on the road. Despite the excessive speed and tailgating, he  signaled when switching lanes; had no malice whatsoever when he gangstered cars out of the way (in a very interesting “it’s not personal; it’s purely business” type of way); and knew his place in the driving pecking order (“if a car can go faster than mine, I’d tend to leave it alone.”)

I also loved the fact that if another car cut him off at even insaner speeds, he’d just let it go. Despite my not being quite the speed demon, if another car cut me off I’d feel pretty pissed, and I’d throw a little tailgating fit. Who’d be the imbecile here?

Soon after the car ride I realised something: that having just had the experience I had, I’d never look at a speeding car the same way. Each time I saw one, I’d be reminded of “Mr. X”; a very decent human being who just had a  thing for fast cars, and give that car an imaginary tip of my imaginary hat.

As an analyst I have a thing for data; for numbers. It is my world. I use data and numbers to describe THE world in the best way I can. Despite my belief that numbers can often describe a world better than its inhabitants can, it is to my consternation that this belief isn’t very popular with the people who’s worlds I describe.

But like how the change in  perspective on those driving on the overtaking lane, going at what I’d describe as insane speeds, I’d thought I’d understood, but never really did. Maybe the numbers do tell a story. But it’s not the only one.

How vital it is for us to step into one another’s shoes every once in a while. To experience another world; to broaden our perspective — a perspective that even for the most open-minded of us is probably smaller than we  think it is.

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