Seeing the Full Story

On a recent drive home from out of state, I happened to hit a stretch of road construction. The interstate was closed down to one lane, with two lanes as well as an entry ramp merging traffic into the single lane.

As my car slowly moved through the clutter, I came to the road crew... Milling around on the side of the road in between the orange barrels. One guy in an orange hat and vest was sitting on a guard rail, hunched over to see his phone in the sunlight. Clearly, they weren't doing what I thought they should be in repairing the road.

I bitched out load.


For a moment, I thought about pulling my car off to the side and getting out to confront the apparent non-working construction crew.

Then, I though about what I wasn't seeing. Maybe there was more to this story than I knew.

By chance, maybe the construction crew had faced a point in their roadwork when they weren't allowed to continue --- like a certain mile-marker where they had been instructed by the powers-to-be that they couldn't go past. So, they stopped. And the main guy sat on a nearby guard rail to send a message to his boss, who might allow them to continue on. He was waiting for a response at that particular moment when I saw him there, hunched over his phone.

Does that change my level of anger?

Or what if they had been working for several consecutive hours and just happened to be taking a break at that given moment when I was driving by? Maybe the guy hunched over his phone was at work doing this tough construction job, even though his wife was on the verge of giving birth to their first child -- and that was why he was checking an urgent message from her during a short break?

You never know.

I thought about this while exiting the interstate, realizing that I didn't know all the facts and maybe I was off-base for being so angry in the moment.

To me, I think this was a perfect example of all that goes on in today's ever-connected world of social media and never-ending cycle of news. Especially these days, we live in such a weird moment where everyone is so quick to get angry, too quick to judge without thinking through all the possibilities of what may be at play. 

Sometimes, people react to a piece of information that is taken out of context. At other times, a tone is implied when there wasn't any bad intention behind it. We make assumptions very quickly and take those to heart, raising our voices and beating a drum without fully understanding the big picture of what we're mad about. Thanks to technology and our immediate need for instant gratification, when everyone has a voice and every voice matters, it creates a lot of angry noise that is not always justified.

Of course, sometimes, the road construction crew is just being lazy on the job and could be doing more. That fact can't be ignored, either. It's just that sometimes, what is actually going on may not be as bad as it initially looks. Maybe it is, but maybe not.

Just possibly, the people who appear to be the villains are just human beings, trying their best in a messed up world.

Getting mad is easy, but stepping back and considering the full picture is not so simple. More of us need to think before reacting, accepting the possibility that maybe what we think we're seeing isn't the full story.


Anonymous said…
Always good to remember, thanks for the reminder Mike.
Rick Phillips said…
Half of what I see I know and one about 1/4 of it is true. Making my slice of truth a fraction of the whole pie. Its good to see the whole pie before we react to that one little piece we know about.
StephenS said…
I like your metaphor better than my metaphor. Big picture thinking and a real appreciation for the people working hard for our community are always in fashion. Thank you for your advocacy.
A very good blog, Mike. Thanks! Most people I know do not overreact to annoying situations, but some do. Road rage mentality can exist anywhere, even in our homes. Calming down, and reacting at a more appropriate time is wise.

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