This is about expectations, and about stereotypes. It is also about the pleasant surprises.

There’s one road I ride on that is my least favorite. The drivers are rude. The drivers engage in risky behavior to save 3.5 seconds, only to be caught at the next light, and repeat the process.

That road is also one of my favorites, at least one small portion of it. And it is a favorite because of how nice and considerate at least one driver is every day I’ve ridden it. It is bizarre, really, the way the entire atmosphere on the road changes within 100 yards.

Since it seems unreasonable to think that the change could be attributed to all the rude and risky drivers turning at one particular light, I am starting to wonder if the drivers relax and stop driving recklessly purely because they can’t see the next light and have nothing to race towards. Just a theory.

The nice and considerate factor comes in because I have to get into the middle turn lane to make a left turn at one point, and to do so I almost always have to essentially request that a driver in the left lane slow down to let me through.

I broadcast my intentions. I sit up a little more, I look over my shoulder, I signal for the left turn. Usually one or two cars whiz by, not interested in letting me in. Yet every single day there has been one car that slows down to give me the space I need.

I don’t think I cost them even 3.5 seconds. Yet what they give me is a gift that is hard to quantify.

They are helping me get to where I am going. They are boosting my confidence in city riding, in negotiating with drivers. They make me smile because people doing something nice make me smile. They give me a small feeling of community, which is not an easy thing to do between a biker and someone encaged in walls of glass and metal.

Such a small thing, them letting me in. And such a huge thing.

Interestingly, at least to me, a lot of the times the vehicle that has let me in is a SUV or a huge truck (like a dualy, that big) or a delivery van. I almost expect them to be the ones to be nice, now.

Just as a mere half mile previous, those are the types of vehicles I expect the worst behavior from.

It isn’t the vehicles, it is the people in control of them, making the decisions on how to drive. Yet the indentifying factor is the vehicle itself, and we seem to automatically categorize drivers by the types of vehicles they drive. In other words, we stereotype. We do it unconsciously most of the time, for both positive and negative stereotypes.

Maybe it helps us make some sense of the world, or maybe it helps us feel like we can predict certain unpredictable aspects.

It is an interesting thought-experiment, to try to be conscious of the myriad of stereotypes we make in any given day. The stereotypes drive the expectations we have, which impacts our attitude, and that can actually impact the reaction we get from others.

I mean, maybe the reason the cars let me in on the people-are-nice section of that road is simply because I expect that kind of nice and considerate behavior from them. And maybe they’re rude on the other section because I expect it and somehow broadcast that.

Impossible to know, but interesting to consider.

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