Without Being Told (or Forced)

I drove up to the boonies to help a friend move today.  Actually, I drove up through hell Gatlinburg to get to his new place on top of the mountain.  On the way back I took the backroads in order to avoid the traffic and enjoy the scenic drive.  Something really cool happened on the way back, and it didn’t really strike me as strange until a half hour or so afterwards.

A large tree had fallen across Highway 416, blocking the road in both directions.  I was about 5 or 6 cars deep in one of the stuck lanes, but several of us got out of our cars and started disassembling the tree and moving the branches out of the way.  Then a couple of guys (presumably locals) pulled up with their chainsaws and started cutting pieces for us to drag off.  We had the road cleared in less than 10 minutes, jumped in our cars, and kept going.

This is a great example of why people work and government doesn’t.  Sure, there were some people who sat in their cars and watched as everyone else cleared the road for them (“It’s not my job” types).  But there were plenty of people who would rather roll up their sleeves and do some work to get where they want to go instead of waiting around on someone else.  The guys who had chainsaws did the cutting.  The rest of us did the moving.  We didn’t have to have someone coordinate it, and we didn’t have to be forced into doing the work.

How long would it have taken for the road to be cleared if we’d all sat in our cars and waited for some gov’ment agency to take care of something we were perfectly able to handle ourselves?

We all saw a benefit in cooperating and working together to achieve a goal.  Those of us who were moving limbs sure were happy some people had chainsaws, and I’m sure the guys with the chainsaws were happy they didn’t have to drag big pieces of tree–all they had to do was run the saw.

Notice how everyone, even the people who weren’t willing to help, benefited from the fact that each of us was acting out of 100% pure selfishness? We just wanted to get where we wanted to go.

One of the Coolest Things I’ve Seen

Not bragging (well maybe a little bit) but I’ve been very lucky to get to do a lot of really cool stuff in my time.  One of the coolest was a couple of years ago when I got to go to a shuttle launch.  That alone would be pretty cool, but my sister-in-law happens to be an engineer at NASA (yeah, I know, right?), so we got to go to the launch as her guest.

NASA employees and contractors enter a lottery of sorts for each launch, and the winners get to take a single carload of people into a viewing area that is really close to the launch pad. “Close” here means a couple of miles, but to give you an idea, the media was positioned directly behind us. If you’re familiar with Cape Canaveral, we were in an area roped off right next to the Vehicle Assembly Building. As you can see from this video, there are no people in front of the area where we were seated. This is as close as any civilian can get, and the non-civilians who can get closer can’t get much closer.

Although this was shot with a simple hand held video camera, I think it at least captures how loud the space shuttle is, and as you can see by the vertical line that is basically burned into the frame, it is insanely bright, even on a sunny Florida day.

The first day we went to see the launch it was scrapped about 20 minutes before liftoff, but we came back a few days later to get the best fireworks show in the country on July 4, 2006. So there you go…beat that for cool things!