Sheep Mentality

OK, this has been getting on my nerves for a few days so I’ve given in and I’m going to blog it. My decision to blog this down is two fold really. Firstly, it is part of my journey to and from work every day and secondly at work today something happened which made me question the “sheep” mentality.

I’m sure you’ve all seen something like this happen on planes. One person decides they should stand up and try to get their bags even though the plane hasn’t fully stopped, then suddenly everyone is doing it, all pushing against the door even though the plane hasn’t reached the airport. Comedians tend to talk about this a lot – noteably Lee Evans – and call it the “sheep syndrome”, where one person loses the ability to make their own mind up and simply follow what others are doing.

On the M6, which I tend to travel on every day, there’s currently some roadworks happening between junction 12 and 13. They’re pulling up the section of concrete motorway, which was put down around 30 years ago, and sticking tarmac down as the tyres on the noisy concrete annoy the local residents and.. err.. umm.. Yup.. that’s pretty much the only reason. Most of the houses were built after the motorway, but … (Edit – Just been sent this link and yes, it seems that it’s just to reduce noise pollution) … anyhow, I’ll try and keep on-topic… This is about as interesting as my work-day gets, so bear with me… :)

While the roadworks are going on they’ve put a 40mph speed restriction in place. There’s several lanes closed off and cones everywhere making the remaining lanes quite narrow. To ensure people stick to the speed limit they’ve stuck these cameras up. They’re not your usual speed camera, which you’ll notice as you approach the roadworks and see these signs..

This is where problems start. Now at school I wasn’t the best at mathematics or english, however I do know what the term “average” means, and I can probably work out that these things, which are mounted every half-mile or so, are calculating an average speed

There’s no painted lines on the road because – even without me reading up on them – I can presume that these cameras simply take a photo of your number-plate, then when you pass the next camera another shot is taken and some computer somewhere simply calculates your average time between the two cameras. So, we can assume that if you’ve travelled a set distance in 30 seconds instead of 2 minutes you’re probably going a little bit too fast.

Fairly logical yeah? Show any one a sign saying, “Average Speed Check” with yellow cameras above your head taking photos every half-mile and they’d probably come to the same conclusion yes?

Err.. no.

The reality is that every morning (when people are rushing to get to work), one person will fly up the outside lane, slam on his brakes at the camera, then accelerate away again with the tarmac flapping up behind them.

Hmm.. is that going to work? Sure, it works for “regular” speed cameras, but not these. In fact, if you do decide to slow down, then speed up in between you’re only going to be increasing your average speed. How do people end up driving such huge, powerful, expensive cars and yet they’re so utterly thick ? Are they managers? :)

Best of all is that, once someone sees this happening, they do the same too. They’ll pull out of their lane, where they’ve been happily doing exactly 40mph, then pull out and floor it too. It’s almost as if there’s an unwritten rule that says…

“Do 40mph, else you’ll get a speeding ticket, but if that guy in the BMW 7-series zooms past you doing 80mph, just follow him and you won’t get done.”

It seems to happen too if one person decides to go ever-so-slightly faster and creeps down the outside lane doing 50mph or 55mph. All of a sudden people pull out and follow, thinking that surely that one guy must know something they don’t.

At work today something else happened which proved the “sheep” theory. The fire alarms went off. It wasn’t the “ignore it, they’re testing the alarms” day, it was a real fire. Everyone went out onto the car-park, where we all stood, apart from one company… The one company – who’d caused the fire alarms to go off thanks to one very dead toaster – decided to go about their business as usual, even though the alarms were emitting possibly the loudest, most ear-splitting noise you’ve ever heard. Now, because no-one from that company decided to leave, they all stayed in the office until a fire-engine appeared. In fact, when the security dudes turned up, people from other offices decided to go back into the building and continue on with their work, even though the sound from the alarms made their work fairly difficult and there were guys with helmets on going into the building.

Maybe it’s just me. Perhaps I’m a little mad, but the way I see it I’m getting a well deserved break in the fresh air. You could call it boring perhaps … I’m conforming to the rules, yes? True, true. But I don’t want to go inside while the alarms are ringing and get that noise in my head again from falling asleeep drunk in a nightclub. Also, I figure if I go a bit faster in the 40mph zone I’d end up with a fine and that’d mean less money for beer… not an option I’m afraid..