SIZE MATTERS: A PARABLE OF CARS, BICYCLES, ELEPHANTS AND ANTS

Gather round, kids. Park your bicycles here in this specified lot set well off from the road, and take off your bike helmets and other bike-safety equipment. Today’s story is called “On the Jungle Path, Size Does Matter.”

By the law of the jungle, both the ants and the elephants have the legal right to travel along the jungle paths. To facilitate this travel, a whole framework of guidelines was established specifically geared toward keeping the path traffic flowing smoothly. Collectively called The Rules of the Path, these guidelines laid out an easy-to-follow system setting up how both parties could most efficiently, uniformly and safely get around.

As important as The Rules of the Path are in keeping traffic flowing, there was something else even more so responsible for maintaining the system. This something else was the simple acknowledgment of the gross disparity between the size of the ants and the size of the elephants. Because of this disparity, some common-sense considerations came into play during everyday navigation of the paths.

The legislature of the jungle certainly showed common sense in understanding the size difference. Acting accordingly, the lawmakers set aside special lanes of the jungle paths for use by the ants only. Specialized training was introduced into path school and ant-safety courses. Visibility and awareness became second nature to any and all path users, and the size-does-matter sensibility ruled as the law of the land.

For example, at a busy jungle path intersection, both the elephants and the ants that are turning left have the right to use the left turn lane. While the letter of the law does maintain that right, the spirit of the law shows that it may not be the safest or most sensible situation for the ants to be in the left turn lane among their much larger co-travelers.

This is not due to some elitist elephant attitude but rather the obvious fact that the mass of the elephant is thousands of times greater than that of the ant. For this reason, common sense dictates that a better plan would be for the ants to stay to the right until they come to the jungle path crosswalk and then move perpendicular to the jungle traffic when they have the right of way.

While such smoothly flowing situations became de rigueur on the paths, simply from the sheer amount of ant and elephant traffic, the occasional accident did happen. Perhaps an ant would swerve unexpectedly to the left in order to avoid a bump in the path, or an elephant would take a right turn just a hair too wide. Time of day, weather conditions, road construction — all could play some role in a collision between ant and elephant.

Whatever the reason, the surety is that because of the aforementioned size difference, when elephant and ant collide, it is always the ant that suffers the most damage. This truth was more often than not heartbreaking to the elephants, who of course had no control over being born their size. Most sensible ants realized that, too, and felt compassion toward all involved in these mishaps.

There were, however, parties on both sides who did not take the truisms as level-headedly. There were those ants that took umbrage at what they felt was victimization, and felt that size was simply an excuse that the elephants were hiding behind. And there were those elephants that felt that the ants were using the flipside of the size issue to garner sympathy and special privileges.

This unrest did not bode well for safety on the jungle paths, and when it went proactive, it got much worse. Some self-righteous zealots expressed their disenchantment by taking it even further, committing, if not acts of civil disobedience, then at least action in violation of both the Rules of the Path and common everyday decency.

Instead of traveling single-file in the ant lane as most law-abiding ants do, rogue packs of ants began traveling side-by-side, pushing far past the designated ant lanes and into the areas of elephant movement. Certain ants took to nimbly weaving in and out of traffic, taunting the elephants, whose size precluded such maneuverability.

In response, there were those elephants that had no problem with throwing things at ants on the path. There were those that used their size to spook the ants by suddenly swerving into the ant lanes, or that purposefully cut off ants at intersections just because they could.

As these abhorrent actions continued and tensions rose, the number of accidents climbed as well. This did nothing but clog up the courts, take up valuable police and traffic resources, raise overall insurance rates, and waste valuable civil service time, which could have been spent dealing with more important issues. Most distressing of all, this unrest made traveling the jungle paths an experience of anxiety, fear and anger — for both ant and elephant.

It took a horrific ant and elephant dual fatality directly linked to this unrest for both sides to finally say enough is enough. It took nothing less than two meaningless deaths for the ants and elephants to collectively agree that travel on the jungle paths was not a matter of rights and rules. It wasn’t about legislation and regulation. It most certainly wasn’t a matter of “us against them.”

Both parties acknowledged that sometimes the elephants did something stupid, whether on purpose or not, and when they did, the ants knew to just step back and let the elephants rumble on by, knowing that in any way trying to respond to an elephant transgression could only result in tragedy. In the same way, when the ants slipped up, the elephants knew that absolutely no good could come from acting rashly in response to some perceived slight.

Kids, the jungle paths are there for everyone’s use. The right to travel on these paths should be seen as a privilege, and as such should be treated with the utmost respect for the rules both written and unwritten. Safety is a given when there is mutual recognition of the uniqueness of each species, especially as that uniqueness pertains to mass and velocity.

It’s even perfectly OK if the elephants are seen as lumbering Fatty-McFat-Fats and the ants as self-righteous DooDooBags. These iniquities will cancel each other out as long as we do everything we can to maintain the mindset that no matter what the laws, no matter what the rules, on the jungle paths — say it with me, kids — size does matter.

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